Theatre and musical presenters Torben and Richelle Brookman have returned to Adelaide to set up the Australian arm of the commercial touring and production house GWB Entertainment in their hometown.
The couple moved back to Adelaide from Sydney in July and have just opened their new office on Tynte Street in North Adelaide. Torben, who also works with his father Rob at the Adelaide Festival, was previously the Cabaret Festival’s producer. GWB, which also has an office in London, stands for Griffin, Williams and Brookman (the last names of the directors), and tours and presents shows in the UK and the Asia Pacific, with the Adelaide arm looking after the later region.
Recent shows GWB toured include 1984 and Ghost the Musical, which they also toured through Asia, and over New Year will present The Rocky Horror Show at the Festival Theatre. The couple has been presenting shows in Australia and Asia since 2001.
Torben tells The Adelaide Review from their brand new office in Tynte Street (the signage was put up the morning of this interview) that the return home was a combination of a few factors.
“We’ve got two young daughters and ultimately it was a lifestyle choice of going: ‘we’ve been doing this for a while now, we could probably do it from anywhere. Where would we like to be based?’ Adelaide was the choice, we’ve got family here; the quality of life is amazing. At the same time, the Adelaide Festival contacted me and we can do this [GWB] from anywhere really. Our other partners are in the UK, so between the two offices, we cover Australia, Asia and the UK.”
Torben works three days a week at the Festival and two days at GWB. They will keep the footprint of the company small and contract freelancers for different shows and events. Over the nearly two decades of presenting shows throughout Asia, they’ve seen the market develop, and can tour shows outside of major cities such as Shanghai and Beijing.
“It was a very conscious decision back when we started the company and started to work with our co-directors Paul [Griffin] and Gareth [Williams] in London, that Asia would be a focus,” Richelle says. “From our end what we were seeing is that there’s business here in Australia, but it would make complete sense to really start to develop a touring circuit that would involve Australian and Asian cities. As Torben was saying, it has built from those main cities [Shanghai and Beijing] into 18 or more cities where you can now take shows.”
“The shows that we generally produce are referred to as first-class productions,” Torben says. “They are replicas, so there is a requirement from a copyright perspective to reproduce them as they were done in Broadway, Australia or the West End as the original creators intended them to be performed.”
Then there is Adelaide. South Australia has missed out on high-profile musicals in the past due to a lack of suitable venues and a smaller market compared to the eastern states but there will be six major musicals, including The Rocky Horror Show, rolling though Adelaide in 2018.
“Adelaide is an interesting market in that respect,” Torben says. “It used to be a very strong musical theatre market; we used to regularly have big shows coming through. To a certain extent, it was somewhat neglected for a little while and that’s somewhat starting to change and be invigorated.
“Adelaide’s also a challenge to take big shows because the only venue that can accommodate them at the moment is the Festival Theatre, and there are so many competing demands on the Festival Theatre from the different stakeholders. To black out long periods of time for musicals is probably not the function of that venue. Now that Her Majesty’s is to be redeveloped into a 1400 to 1500-seat venue, that will change the landscape in terms of producing commercial musicals in Adelaide to a huge degree.”
The Rocky Horror Show
Thursday, December 28 to Saturday, January 13
Feature Image Photo: Sia Duff