The Deep North – the first African-Australian musical

During September and October 2022, I had the pleasure of performing in a new musical called The Deep North, produced by South Australian Playwrights Theatre with book by Matthew Hawkins and music by James Bannah Jr. After three weeks of rehearsal at the Adelaide Festival Centre, we had a limited season in The Space Theatre. Following this, we took the show on the road to Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre – Mt Gambier, Chaffey Theatre – Renmark, Northern Festival Centre – Port Pirie, The Barracks – Port Augusta, and Middleback Arts Centre – Whyalla.

Image credit – Abby on Instagram @gailc.n

This was such a special project to be a part of and I had the chance to share the stage with some incredible artists in the African-Australian community including Elsy Wameyo (Jasmine), Stephen Tongun (Uncle Ebby), Vivana Luchozimana (Ananse), Tumelo Nthupi (Ben), and Prosper Hakizamana (A.J). Furthermore, we were supported by a great stage manager in Taia Doyle.

I played the role of Ms. Mendoza, Jasmine’s music teacher. The play was set in Port Augusta, which we had the chance to visit during our tour of Regional South Australia – that was a particularly special show and the Q and A at its conclusion was so memorable. Fun fact, I worked as a secondary school music teacher for many years so I felt very much at home in this role. I enjoyed the lengthy dialogue scenes in this musical and I’m grateful to writer/director Matt Hawkins for allowing me to inject some comedy and improvisation into these scenes. I will forever cherish singing the duet “Should I Sing This?” alongside the unstoppable Elsy Wameyo.

Having worked in theatre and with music for many years, I valued the opportunity to learn about African culture and have meaningful conversation with my fellow artists. Being on the road with an inspiring group of writers, musicians, poets, actors, and dancers has nourished my soul. So much so that I have begun writing content for my new show. I wrote a new song and a series of poems on the road which were largely inspired by my conversations with the cast and crew of The Deep North, and I’m so excited to piece this new work together and eventually stage it in the near future.

Opening Night, The Deep North cast – image credit – Luka Sandeo

Work like this reminds me of the power of human connection and how art is a beautiful way to explore the human condition. Thank you to all of our audiences, thank you to Matt Hawkins and Lucy Combe of SAPT, and deep gratitude to our funding bodies who’ve made it possible to be a working professional artist telling important culturally-diverse stories such as these.

You can read some of the reviews for The Deep North here: Glam Adelaide review; Theatre Travels review.

Published by Jennifer Trijo

Jennifer is the founder of The Serenade Files, a resource for creative entrepreneurs. Her published work has appeared in Limelight Magazine, AussieTheatre.com, Australian Teacher Magazine, and Social Alternatives Journal. She holds a Bachelor of Music/Bachelor of Education (UNSW), Certificate of Journalism, and a Diploma of Business Management via scholarship. She is a singing tutor for the Bachelor of Music Theatre course at the Elder Conservatorium of Music, an actor at ActNow Theatre, and a musician in the Nexus Arts Orchestra. Jennifer is a versatile performer with over 20 years of professional experience in the creative industries. She has recently toured as part of the cast of Once the musical, Australia, and has written and performed a critically-acclaimed original show for the Adelaide Fringe and Edinburgh Festival Fringe Online titled Someday - a Mindful Cabaret.

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