Bille Brown AM

Bille Brown AM; 1952-2013

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Bille Brown AM, in the role of Falstaff.

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Falstaff addresses the audience from the front stairs of a Queenslander home.

The recent passing of Queensland born (Biloela) actor Bille Brown AM, brought with it a request from the Queensland Theatre Company seeking a photograph from the Geoffrey Rush directed 1987 production of The Merry Wives of Windsor.  Rush had innovatively reset the Shakespearean into the post-war Brisbane suburb of Windsor.  The production was staged on an outdoor stage in Brisbane’s Albert Park and featured Brown in the role of Falstaff and included iconic references to XXXX beer and Brisbane trams (we still had them then).

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Note the XXXX beer sign in the stage set.

As the Company photographer for the period 1981-91, I had a fairly accurate register of productions covered and their subsequent negatives; and was able to supply at short notice a print for the Brown Memorial Service.  This caused me to research some of the other shots taken at that particular performance.  Remember this was a time of analogue film and required the use of Kodak T-Max 400 film pushed from 400 to 800 ISO.  I had moved from the staple of Tri-X to its newer brother T-Max.  This film was developed in a JOBO motorized film processor – I had (have) a short attention span and could not be relied on to maintain a consistent regime of agitation.  Thank you JOBO!  The constraints of stage lit theatre was balanced by the freedom of finding shooting positions on the bank of the amphitheater surround the

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An iconic Brisbane tram.

outdoor stage.  In those days the bulk of the photographs were taken during the final dress rehearsal and following a hectic night of processing and printing, a set of 10×8” and 16×20” prints were delivered to the theatre company by 10:00am the next morning for press and foyer display

use. Usually without the interference or art direction of the client – such was the haste to get images made.  This was both a joy and a curse, as the post-production critique sometimes happened long after the rush of the rehearsal was over……

The negatives from this and other productions, indeed my entire commercial negative stock now reside in the John Oxley historical library – part of the State Library of Queensland.  Another story for another day.

2 thoughts on “Bille Brown AM

  1. Great to read about and see some photos of early Brisbane theatre, and of Billie Brown. Pity we dont use the Albert St ampitheatre more

    Like

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