Toby at the Queensland Theatre Company QTC

QTC was my family, the SGIO Theatre my sanctuary

For the first time in my life, working at the QTC, I felt normal, wanted and loved. The physical SGIO Theatre (State Government Insurance Office) became my personal temple.  I had the utter joy of working on an array of productions with tremendously creative and loving people. When I wasn’t paid to work on a particular show, I volunteered in the offices, or assisted stage management. I worked on 26 shows and saw another 20 or so. I could not get enough of learning and devouring every aspect of the theatre, I could not get enough of the feeling of warmth and creativity.

Heres why:
Toby at Brisbane Grammar School (1979) with drama awards
In 1976 after returning from Washington D.C., I was sent to Brisbane Grammar School where I skipped a year of school – my older brother was captain of the rugby team at the school. My parents then went through a messy divorce (I found my Dad in bed with our neighbors’ wife).

At school, I was bullied badly by another student for being a year younger, not into sports and for topping highest grades in Australia in the new ‘drama’ subject which at the time automatically made me a “poofta“.

I got involved in the school drama programs, and found myself hiding within them, since I could not live up to my sportsman brother, nor to my parents’ expectations.

Along with a smattering of other non-sports school friends, we collectively produced, directed, designed, stole the props, made the costumes, marketed, technically managed, found the sound effects, swept the floors, gestetner’d programs, sold tickets for and acted in various school productions including SWEENEY TODD; HOTEL PARADISO; CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA; TOAD OF TOAD HALL; DARK OF THE MOON; CHARLEY’S AUNT (I played Col. Sir Francis Chesney Bart) and THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND in the schools Centenary Hall. My first “resident” theatre.

My conundrum was the more successful at drama, and winning school awards for drama, made me a target for more bullying.  In a school solely focused on sport and manliness, I felt hopeless and worthless. Despite my protestations to the headmaster, I was sexually molested by the pedophile school counselor to whom I was sent to.

Starting in about 1978, every day at 3:15 pm, I would escape school and literally run away down the hill through the Brisbane city to volunteer at the Queensland Theatre Company Guild. Some days I would arrive in tears. The Guild’s Chairwomen, Magda Wollner, welcomed me with open arms, warm cuddles, fresh coffee & biscuits and gave me a sense of purpose working largely on handling subscription mailings and my helping support opening night and PR events.  I never told Magda the details of what I was enduring at the school, but she always sensed something was seriously wrong. She and my mum became lifelong friends as a result.

During my time at the QTC guild, I would support the QTC strategy of subscriber (season ticket buyers) engagement, where guild volunteers would stay in regular contact with season ticket subscribers (via telephone, hand written cards and letters) to subliminally keep them compelled to renew each year (although not a lot of effort needed, since patrons loved the QTC back then, so it was mainly listening to patron reviews on a particular show or actor). From a massive, sterile office space donated by a board member (I had the joy of decorating it with theatre posters and QTC props), we would also encourage happy subscribers to help put together subscription groups, or at least, convince neighbors to join them. The subscriber attrition rate was remarkably tiny. QTC patron loyalty was one of its secret strengths.

Additionally while with the QTC guild, I became a volunteer odd-job boy for the stage management and administration teams at the Queensland Theatre Company studying and taking in everything I could learn. I even loved watering the plants of Alan Edwards, the Artistic Director, at his home when he was on vacation. I considered it a high honor and serious responsibility since at the time, he was my god. Alan generously took me under his wing and often invited me to rehearsals and assist fellow creatives.

In my spare time, I acted in a couple of shows at the local amateur theatre, The Arts Theatre on Petrie Terrace, which was nearby the school, once in a leading role in a production of AND THE BIG MEN FLY.

Having just topped Australia with highest national grades in the new national school subject of drama, in October 1980, as a guest of presenter Clifford Hocking, I attended a performance Victor Borge at Brisbane City Hall, and his performance of ‘Phonetic Punctuation’.  When I met him backstage, in my mind I wanted to present him globally. To this day it is my absolute favorite memory of comedy brilliance, it further convinced me that theatre was the right place for me. My biggest career regret was not producing him.

I matriculated school and was full-time in the workforce at age 16.  “young, keen and green” as the QTC Production Manager, Arthur Frame described me.  Due to my hideous grammar school experience, I vowed never ever to go to any educational institution again. I had zero interest in any college or university, including NIDA.

Elizabeth Bequest Scholarship to Toby Simkin (The Courier Mail)With encouragement from many of the Queensland Theatre Company staff, I was awarded the 1981  ‘Elizabeth Bequest Scholarship’ which is essentially a paid hands-on mentorship with the best of the best. This led me to go on full time with both the T.N. Theatre Company and the Queensland Theatre Company thanks entirely to the mentorship of Bryan Nason (of T.N.) and Alan Edwards (of QTC) and his fabulous team of staff.

For the T.N. Theatre Company, I was an actor / designer / stage manager on productions including THE CHOIR; HAMLET; SKITZ N’ FRENZY and STARSTUD.

I also worked with the Queensland Marionette Theatre and Lyric Opera of Queensland, at a time when Brisbane Theatre was going through rather dramatic changes with the loss of major venues.

But it was the Queensland Theatre Company and the SGIO Theatre that was my safe haven and the fabulously creative people within it became my mentors and my chosen family, without many knowing it.

My QTC Shows

I primarily worked in stage management, and occasionally as an actor in many productions for several years:

The Queensland Theatre Company production of Much Ado About Nothing (QTC, Brisbane) The Queensland Theatre Company production of Beecham (QTC, Brisbane) The Queensland Theatre Company production of The Little Foxes (QTC, Brisbane) The Queensland Theatre Company production of Betrayal (QTC, Brisbane) The Queensland Theatre Company production of Applause (QTC, Brisbane) The Queensland Theatre Company production of The Front Page (QTC, Brisbane) FEATURED Project DemolitionJobQTC The Queensland Theatre Company production of The Tempest (QTC, Brisbane) FEATURED Project SaturdaySundayMondayQTC The Queensland Theatre Company production of Amadeus (QTC, Brisbane) The Queensland Theatre Company production of The Warhorse (QTC, Brisbane) The Queensland Theatre Company production of Long Days Journey Into Night (QTC, Brisbane) The Queensland Theatre Company production of Hello, Dolly (QTC, Brisbane) The Queensland Theatre Company production of On Our Selection (QTC, Brisbane) The Queensland Theatre Company production of As You Like It (QTC, Brisbane) The Queensland Theatre Company production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (QTC, Brisbane) The Queensland Theatre Company production of Annie (QTC, Brisbane) The Queensland Theatre Company production of Outside Edge (QTC, Brisbane) The Queensland Theatre Company production of Richard III (QTC, Brisbane) The Queensland Theatre Company production of Playboy of the Western World (QTC) The Queensland Theatre Company production of Gypsy (QTC, Brisbane) The Queensland Theatre Company production of The Man Who Came To Dinner (QTC, Brisbane) The Queensland Theatre Company production of A Midsummer Nights Dream (QTC, Brisbane) The Queensland Theatre Company production of A Streetcar Named Desire (QTC, Brisbane) The Queensland Theatre Company production of Hedda Gabler (QTC, Brisbane) FEATURED Project KingLearQTC

The QTC was my theatre education

My life finally had a purpose, and the community of actors, management, technicians and creative staff gave me family. For the first time, I felt a sense of accomplishment, and being proud of who I was.  QTC was my safe haven and the fabulously creative people within it, my mentors and my family. I was a teenager in thespian heaven.

QTC was my life’s education.

These are just a few of my favorite, vivid and wonderful QTC moments:

  • Studying James Ridewood’s meticulous focus and steady hand using a scalpel to craft an exquisite set model in his natural light studio with every wall showcasing previous magnificent designs atop the SGIO Theatre.
  • Allowed to walk past gatekeeper Gillian Coar’s desk (Executive Officer and Alan’s secretary) into Alan Edwards windowless office with every inch of space piled high with scripts to hear him welcome me with “my boy” and a smile.
  • The first music rehearsal for APPLAUSE with Peter Casey on piano hearing Noeline Browns initial rendition of “Fasten Your Seat Belts”.
  • Walking chickens in the streets around the theatre, on string leashes, during ON OUR SELECTION.
  • The sense of excitement drawing nearer as I drove the QTC white van towards Arthur Frames’ workshop of creativity – the carpentry hall & props cage to the left, the furniture & costumes to the right, with his and Yvette O’Brien’s office smack dab in the centre of theatrical wonderland.  The entire workshop even maintained a uniquely theatrical smell which was like perfume to me.
  • Ken Kennett’s opening night, press and subscriber parties in the studio with cheap champers, and hundreds of glasses to wash in plastic tubs in a tiny butler’s pantry.
  • Shaving my head for a role in SATURDAY, SUNDAY, MONDAY at the request of a fabulously brilliant (& conniving) director John Krummel.
  • The absolute pride of walking down the ramp from the 2nd floor parking to enter the stage door from within the Turbot St. car park.
  • Climbing the scaffolding tower in Albert Park each night of THE TEMPEST & MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING to call the show.
  • Recording and working through the nights splicing sound effects obtained from the ABC radio station, onto reel-to-reel machines for various shows.
  • Watching Hugh Munro’s choreography coming together in the rehearsals of HELLO, DOLLY!
  • Finding a source for macrobiotic food items for the soft hearted and generous Keith Michell, starring in THE TEMPEST.
  • The darkness of stage left backstage at the SGIO, with Jamie Henson’s lighting shimmering over the faces of small groups of actors & technicians locked together watching magic onstage from the wings in nearly every show.
  • Driving (what seemed like monthly) the hilariously delightful David Clendinning to yet another costume fitting at the workshop in the Salisbury suburb.
  • Running the switchboard when the receptionist was on holidays, and feeling proud handling mundane administrative chores between calls.
  • Salivating the ear porn at the Sitzprobe led by Brian Stacey for ANNIE.
  • Purchasing stage makeup and pints of fake blood from Paul Wright’s dance supply shop in a dusty Brisbane Arcade a couple of blocks from the theatre.
  • Listening to the whispers in quadraphonic sound bouncing around the auditorium during the sound check of the opening scene of AMADEUS, and even hand mopping the shiny black stage floor in concentric circles outward with towels wrapped around my knees to protect James Ridewood’s design for that show.

During my time at QTC, I had the the joy of working with so many Australian legends such as Geoffrey Rush AC, Noeline Brown OAM, Andrew McFarlane, Geraldine Turner OAM, Mark Lee, Frank Thring, John Krummel OAM, Keith Michell, June Salter AM, Barry Creyton, Carol Burns, Gregory Gesch, Bille Brown AM, Scott McGregor, Warren Mitchell, Arthur Frame AM, James Ridewood, Brian Stacey, Ken Kennett OAM and Alan Edwards AM MBE.


Thank you dear QTC family.  Thank you, thanks and ta muchly for everything.

Queensland Theatre Company History

Royal Queensland Theatre Company Act of 1970The Queensland Theatre Company (now known just as “Queensland Theatre”) is the state theatre company of Queensland, established by statuteDownload PDF format on 8 April 1970, and the 3rd largest in Australia.  In 2020, virtually celebrated 50 years.

In the 1960’s, a quasi-professional performing arts group called the “College Players” led by director Bryan Nason at the University of Queensland, having no theatre of their own, led the charge to establish a fully professional state theatre company.

In the late ’60’s, the Australia Council had made a decision to fund a state company in every state. The Queensland government decided in February 1969 to appoint a board to establish a state theatre company.

The board had to choose between the various options of promoting one of the local amateur companies to professional or starting a new company. The board failed to come to an agreement and the government intervened. The Queensland Theatre Company (“QTC”) was established as a new entity, and granted statutory recognition in 1970 was the first federally funded professional theatre company in Queensland. It is a non-profit statutory authority governed by a Board of Directors and its Patron, the Governor of Queensland.

Bryan Nason was not engaged as the founding artistic director in favor of English actor Alan Edwards, at the time a very active Sydney theatre actor/director and was considered (and proven to be) the most suitable. Alan Edwards regular performances were a feature of the QTC under his leadership.

The QTC moved into the 611 seat SGIO Theatre.

QTC royal hunt of the sunThe first production of the QTC, THE ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN opened on 1 October 1969 at the SGIO, Produced, Directed and Designed by Bryan Nason, with Reg Cameron, Jane Harders, Allen Lander, Peter Lavery and Rod Wissler.

QTC rum doThe first production Alan Edwards directed was the musical A RUM DO! which opened on April 10, 1970. A special performance April 13, 1970 was held in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II, The Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Anne.   A RUM DO! toured Queensland to Stanthorpe, Toowoomba, Roma, Longreach, Innisfail, Cairns, Ingham, Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton, Bundaberg and Nambour.

QTC oh what a lovely warQTC youre a good man charlie brown QTC godspell QTC gypsy QTC annie QTC hello dolly 1 QTC applause

For the first years the company began each season with a musical and these were its best attended productions, for example, early musicals OH, WHAT A LOVELY WAR; LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS; YOU’RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN; GODSPELL; GYPSY; ANNIE; HELLO, DOLLY! and APPLAUSE were some of the iconic QTC musicals.

As the company established itself the audience base grew, thanks additionally to a clever subscription program supported by large team of volunteers, and a gutsy programming model including both commercial lineup of annual musicals, Shakespeare, famous dramas, along with Australian plays and occasionally edgy (for it’s time and place) picks…

QTC equusQueensland Theatre Company opened its 1975 season with Peter Shaffer’s EQUUS, complete with an infamous 3-minute nude scene. Under Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s conservative reign, the idea of the state theatre company staging a scene with actors in the buff made most of Brisbane very nervous, but the controversy meant the city was buzzing too.  The young duo of David Waters and Gaye Poole would appear naked, and for whom the threat of arrest was very real.  The Company soothed any jitters by agreeing to cover their legal fees. In the end, tact, diplomacy and cool heads prevailed. Despite a police presence at the show at the SGIO Theatre, there were no pickets, and more than 20,000 audience members saw EQUUS during its smash hit run. There was not a single complaint.

The charity The Actors’ & Entertainers Benevolent Fund of Queensland was started by Alan Edwards in 1975 and he was the inaugural president of the organisation. Edwards served in that role until 1994.

QTC a midsummer nights dream QTC as you like it QTC the tempest QTC much ado QTC henry v

In 1979 the QTC opened its first outdoor play, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, in Albert Park which was so successful, the annual tradition of performing a Shakespeare play continued in the Albert Park Amphitheatre for many years, with AS YOU LIKE IT (1981), THE TEMPEST (1982), MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (1983), HENRY V (1984) and THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR (1987).

From the beginning, as part of its charter, the QTC reached out to the entire state.  Until 1981 when funding was cut, the QTC toured up to 3 productions annually throughout Queensland and regularly to rural NSW. They were also aware of the need to cater for young people with various schools programs, at one time the ensemble called the “Young Elizabethan Players” also toured 4 theatre-in-education programs all across Queensland. More than any other state company.

QTC Tangent Productions was formed in 1981 to mount experimental work in a converted office building on Edward Street.

During its golden period under Alan Edwards direction, Lewis Savage’s subscription management with the QTC guild support network, season ticket subscriptions reached 10,000 patrons, an incredible achievement.

QTC logo RQTC BlueThe company sought and received a royal charter, and was granted the prefix “Royal” in 1984 when renamed the Royal Queensland Theatre Company (“RQTC”).

In 1985 the RQTC opened the new Cremorne Theatre in the Queensland Performing Arts Complex (QPAC) with a production of Cheapside by David Allen.

After 17 years, Alan Edwards retired as artistic director in 1988, but continued to direct and act in many productions.

In 1997, the RQTC after complaining for serious need for a rehearsal space the State Government gave the QTC an old Brisbane building called “The Shed” so for the first time in its history the company now has its own rehearsal rooms, and a place in the arts precinct of South Bank.  This now gave the RQTC 2 places to perform…  The Shed and The South Bank Playhouse.

QTC marriage of figarroOn August 31, 1997 the RQTC production of Director Neil Armfield’s take on the 1778 play THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO — the basis for the Mozart opera starring Geoffrey Rush, Bille Brown, Robyn Nevin, Jennifer Flowers, Andrew Buchanan, Leah Purcell and Gerry Connolly, opened the new 850 seat South Bank Playhouse (then called “Optus Playhouse”) built within the QPAC complex.

The Royal prefix was dropped from the company’s name in 2001.

During rehearsals for THE TRAGEDY OF KING RICHARD THE SECOND in September 2001, Alan Edwards makes the painful decision to permanently retire from acting.

In 2002 the Queensland Theatre Company moved from its previous home in The Shed to a new purpose-built site on Montague Road. The building includes two performance spaces: Bille Brown Theatre and the Diane Cilento Studio,  The Bille Brown Theatre is a 351-seat theatre and the main venue for Queensland Theatre which reopened in October 2018 after a $5.5 million renovation which converted it from the former 228-seat Bille Brown Studio. The new site brought together all sections of the company under one roof. The three-storey building contains costume and props departments, administration offices, a box office and production facilities. It is also next door to the company’s set construction warehouse.

In January 2003, QTC Founding Artistic Director Alan Edwards passed away.

The QTC dropped the “Company” from its name in 2016, thereafter known only as “Queensland Theatre“.

In 2017 Queensland Theatre reached its largest audience in the 50-year history of the company when over 188,450 saw a Queensland Theatre show in 55 theatres around the world. The season included the highest grossing show ever in Queensland.

In 2018, the Queensland Theatre reached 81,388 theatre-goers, and all time high. In 2019, it maintained 6,869 season ticket holders, a 20 year high.

The QTC is principally supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland and the Major Performing Arts Board of the Australia Council.

QTC Artistic Directors:

  • Alan Edwards AM MBE

    Alan Edwards

    Alan Edwards AM MBE (from 1970 to 1988)

  • Aubrey Mellor (to 1993)
  • Chris Johnson (to 1996)
  • Robyn Nevin (to 1999)
  • Michael Gow (to 2010)
  • Wesley Enoch (to 2013)
  • Murray Foy (to 2015)
  • Sam Strong (to 2019)
  • Lee Lewis (from 2019)

QTC Book The Company We Keep Douglas HedgeQTC actor Douglas Hedge, whom I worked with, wrote a booklet The Company We Keep” – The First Ten Years of the Queensland Theatre Company.Download PDF format [58mb]

Great to see some history of one of the greatest Australian theatre companies preserved.

My lifetime archives were destroyed in 9/11 when I was living in New York. I’ve since been racing against the human aging clock to try and re-assemble, digitize and record my personal QTC history before it’s too late, since whatever is left of the physical historical archives are not accessible for the majority of us while locked away inside boxes of the Queensland Theatre (QT) or at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) archive, likely never to see the light of day in my lifetime.  I have had terrific help from other QTC’ers in obtaining program and photo scans, and will continue to try and assemble more.

I have now undertaken to expand this to all previous QTC shows throughout history, in an effort to preserve and showcase history of the one of the top 3 theatre companies in Australia, and to provide a place for my QTC colleagues from the time to share memories, enhancing history before it’s lost forever.

Queensland Theatre CompanyThe active Facebook group: QTC.Colleagues Facebook now shares thousands of programs, photos, press clips and memorabilia.

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