Staging a comeback

Renato Fabretti.

THE director of Fremantle’s newest theatre company will be hoping a little magic from his first time treading the boards at Victoria Hall will rub off on his new venture.

Renato Fabretti was a fresh-faced WA Academy of Performing Arts graduate in 2006 when he scored a role in Deckchair Theatre’s production Love; his performance earning him an Equity Guild Award for best supporting actor and nomination as best new talent.

Following turns on the big screen with parts in Two Fists One Heart and Director’s Cut, on telly where he was most memorably cast as Mark 

‘Chopper’ Read in Underbelly 2 (scoring a rare, decent review from the celebrity criminal), and touring with the likes of the Bell Shakespeare Company, his career took him towards directing and mentoring up-and-coming stars.

He had stints as artistic director at the WA Youth Theatre Company and Mosarts in Mosman Park, and is now living in Freo and planning to officially launch the Fremantle Theatre Company at Victoria Hall next year.

But the pandemic which has wrecked much of the state’s arts sector has delivered an opportunity too tempting to wait; it’s trapped Grey’s Anatomy star Kate Walsh in Perth, and Fabretti has signed her up for a whirlwind production opening this coming Saturday October 17.

He says the short timeframe putting playwright Sharr White’s The Other Place on stage has had some advantages.

“I liken it to that one-minute drawing that you do; sometimes they are better because the instinct of the artist comes through,” he said.

Wanting to lead a “small, smart and furious” company, Fabretti reckons The Other Place is a great start.

“This show will mess you up a little, leave you scared and make you cry – and I know that because four of our cast did cry during the reading.

“No-one left anything off the table.” Fabretti describes Walsh’s performance as “action in flight” and her stage presence – honed in off-Broadway productions – as a rare gift.

The cast also includes Fremantle residents Dalip Sondhi, Lucy Kate Westbrook and Mararo Wangai. 

“We just found the most appropriate and talented people; to me that is a lovely and accidental statement of all the talent we have here that we don’t celebrate enough,” Fabretti said.

He’s aware of the importance to the port city of a new artistic company, having watched much of the city’s cultural capital bleed away in the preceding decades.

“You have seen things like FotoFreo and Deckchair closing, so the traditional venues have been disappearing and nothing has stepped into fill the void.”

To avoid the debts that ultimately crippled Deckchair, he says they’ll auspice other companies, provide a venue for a variety of artforms and continue running education programs.

“The place should be open every day.”

He says WA hasn’t nurtured its talent well or invited it back; he worked with aspiring actor Katherine Langford. She couldn’t land a role locally, but went on to garner a Golden Globe nomination in 2018 after moving to the US and starring in the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.

“[FTC] is a chance for someone who can discover their talent before they go off to fame – and maybe anchor here when that fame is over,” Fabretti says.

With Victoria Quay still a front-runner for a film hub, his timing in setting up the company is also fortuitous.

“I think there is definitely going to be a cross-over between the talent on stage over there and here – and it’s not just the actors, think about the stage designers.”

Fabretti says he first spoke to Freo council about Victoria Hall eight years ago before heading off to run Mosarts. When Spacemarket took over its management last year, he booked an office.

“I said ‘do you mind me leaning in a bit more’ and when that went well with the education groups I said I had a little further to go.

“I love small spaces and we don’t have many that aren’t bars.

“And I also love spaces to be used for the purpose they were built for.”

The Other Place
October 17 – November 8
Victoria Hall, 179 High Street
Tickets va Ticketek

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