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Meet the Bohemians: Bree & Jarrod

By Matty Mills | September 18, 2021

It is no coincidence that Palawa woman Bree Landridge and Wiradjuri man Jarrod Draper have found themselves in the world of Moulin Rouge, as they both share their experience of witnessing the push for more inclusivity and diversity within the industry.

It is truth, beauty, freedom and love that drives the storyline of Moulin Rouge! The Musical but it was tenacity, courage, discipline and talent that landed these two incredible artists within the spectacular, spectacular.

As we chat about the journey that led up to this moment, it is clear these two artists come from very different paths. Bree, with the title of dance captain of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, grew up honing her dance skills performing at Hobart Mall and recalls the birth of her dream to perform “I watched my dance teacher’s daughter do her solo, I would’ve been like 5 and I said to mum when I grow up, I want to be a dancer and there has never been any other thing.” From this moment Bree danced non-stop. “I kind of danced a lot and I would say I burnt out at 16 and was unsure what to do and I did a school play in year 11 and took a company bow,” this being the moment that Bree realised the power of a company and the birth of her desire to be a part of one.

At a similar age, Jarrod Draper fell into the trap of theatre due to his competitive nature when he went along to an audition for a local community production of A Boy from Oz in Orange NSW. When Draper landed the role of Young Peter Allen, his parents were surprised and answered the phone by saying “are you sure you’ve got the right kid?” but ever since that moment “they have never let me stop doing it and it’s been amazing.”

Both Bree and Jarrod grew up surrounded by culture and incredible support networks with both families sacrificing and cultivating a way to help them succeed in a field that is extremely competitive and required both performers to leave their communities for further opportunities. This was the first step in many firsts for both performers, with Jarrod being the first Indigenous student to graduate with a degree in Musical Theatre from the prestigious Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, which provided a number of challenges for Draper, “my experience was trying to navigate holding the flag and representing while trying to get the most out of my training and dealing with the micro aggressions of people not understanding my culture and where it comes from.” This experience was not too far from Bree’s journey at the Victorian College of the Arts, as she felt “I was a bit not from this scene,” yet she was able to connect with The Wilin Centre, a cultural centre within VCA – “It completely changed my life, gave me connection to community and helped me breathe amongst a bunch of other people who were training who had lots of money.” This inspired Landridge to “go out to country and help Aboriginal mobs recognise that they could study performing arts if they wanted to.”

Both left training and entered the industry with the same desire, to inspire and create opportunity for future First Nations performing artists and share in their delight to be performing alongside each other in the Australian classic, Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Landridge shares her unique experience of auditioning for the show, not long after giving birth, and it left her feeling extremely empowered, “In the audition room, I was celebrated and I remember thinking I am so proud to be a woman and if that’s what Moulin Rouge! has given me, I’m happy if I get the show or not.” It seems whether its celebration in the audition room or the collaboration effort that Draper speaks of “I was able to dig deep and ask questions and collaborate on the audition, which allowed me to understand the text… I was able to drop the walls and just work” there is truly a sense of art imitating life, with not only the characters in this epic story being celebrated for their uniqueness but also the performers that portray them.

The two performers are most excited for the audiences to step into the world of Harold Zidler and be transfixed by not only the story but also the talent on stage and agree that “no matter your desire, you are welcome here.” It is a proud moment for First Nations performers sharing what they believe. “It’s exciting and its new and its fresh and it’s what Australian audiences need at this time, it’s both escapism and representation at its finest.”

About Matty Mills: Proud Kamilaroi man Matty Mills is an Australian TV presenter and actor who first appeared in 2014 by covering The Star Observer Magazine with a bold statement; Gay, Black and Proud before cementing himself in the entertainment industry working for both Channel 9 and SBS/NITV.

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