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Paint Your Wagon Director’s note by Gemma Bodinetz

Director Gemma Bodinetz. Paint Your Wagon in rehearsal. Photograph by Brian Roberts.
Director Gemma Bodinetz. Paint Your Wagon in rehearsal. Photograph by Brian Roberts.

Last year was our first year with a company and opened with a big musical - Fiddler on the Roof. We loved making this show and it seemed that audiences loved watching a musical done “the Everyman Company way”.

Therefore, looking for another musical that could be performed with minimal set, a cast of fourteen actors happy to double, swap genders and create an entire world, became my mission. Not every musical can or should be performed in this way but when reading Paint Your Wagon I became aware that just like Fiddler, this story revolved around a very particular society of ‘ordinary’ people in unusual circumstances. It had some great songs too and a lot of humour and heart.

I was struck too by three major themes that resonated with the world we live in now: the plunder of the earth with no thought for tomorrow, the subjugation of women, and the dispossession of rights and land from an indigenous population.

Occasionally the piece felt very much of its time, written as it was in the 1950s. Yet the more I delved into it the more it occurred to me that it was true to the spirit of the time it sought to recreate and by performing it with a cast prepared to play against type and gender, we could bring it back to a 21st century audience without endorsing sexual politics that, for the most part, have thankfully had their day.

Paint Your Wagon is about a world ruled by and for men. But it points to a world where women want learning and freedom and a chance to choose their own destiny.

Paint Your Wagon is about the pursuit of gold at all costs by lonely men with wanderlust but ends with a couple breaking all rules of racial integration, staying put to grow vegetables and start a family.

Paint Your Wagon is, of course, a famous film. I hope those of you that are here because of your love of that version, love this one just as much. I hope too that a new generation of theatregoers will come to love a stage musical rarely performed and distinctly different from its better known film incarnation.

More than anything I hope this production moves you, makes you smile and introduces you to a company of multi-talented actors who you’ll want to see transform and shine across the whole Company season.