When the COVID-19 pandemic brought the arts and entertainment industry to a complete stop, that’s when rising talent Mitchell Old decided it was time to start his own entertainment company.
The 19-year-old from Galston wanted to provide opportunities for artists and stage crew to work, practice their craft and shine on the big stage.
That’s why he started The Mitchell Old Company.
Mitchell’s debut show, The Last Five Years, is happening at the Pioneer Theatre, in Castle Hill, from February 11 to 14.
Mitchell’s show deconstructs a five-year marriage.
It follows Jamie Wellerstein, a young, talented and successful writer who falls in love with Cathy, a struggling actress.
Their story is told almost entirely through songs and using an interlaced time line; all of Cathy’s songs begin at the end of their marriage and move backwards in time, while Jamie’s songs start at the beginning of their relationship and move forward to the end of their marriage.
Ahead of his upcoming performance, FOCUS caught up with the young star.
This is what he had to say:
(Q) Why did you start your theatre company?
(A) 2020 has been a trying time for everyone.
The entertainment industry has been impacted most severely. Millions of artists around the world have been without work and stripped of performance opportunities. They’ve lost a creative outlet where they could express themselves and further develop their craft. Many are abandoning their future careers within the arts for other professions. Having seen this gap created by the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided it was time to fill it – at least for some young creatives within the Hills.
My hope is that by providing more opportunities to young talented artists, a career within the arts may not be as far-fetched as they once thought.
(Q) What do you hope to see achieved as part of launching your theatre company?
(A) The fundamental goals of The Mitchell Old Company is to deliver excellence, innovation and to provide a professional theatre experience to emerging creatives.
I want to push the limits in Sydney theatre by producing increasingly larger musicals in different spaces and in different ways.
I also want to create opportunities for emerging artists. There are a lot of opportunities within amateur community theatre productions which are absolutely critical for the development of these artists. The Mitchell Old Company hopes to identify and nurture these artists by providing them with the ability to work with both world class and established creatives, as well as other younger emerging artists.
The Mitchell Old Company also hopes to engage and enrich local communities with the joy of theatre. Musical theatre, unlike many other artforms has the intrinsic ability to bring communities together. The accessibility and diversity of musical theatre allows everyone within the community to engage with it, whether it be as an audience member or production member.
(Q) What will audiences love most about The Last Five Years?
(A) The Last Five Years, although a very popular musical, is not often performed in Sydney because of its size. The musical is incredibly intimate with a cast of only two actors and an orchestra, which include one to six musicians. The size of a production like this is usually not financially viable for many theatre companies, however we have found a way to make it work!
This incredibly intimate show chronicles a passionate romance from both perspectives: Jamie from the beginning with all the optimism of young love, looking to the future; and Cathy with the hurt and disappointment of its end, looking backwards. Although there are big musical numbers, this show, unlike a lot of other musicals is real. The musical is authentic and both characters are unapologetically human, with ups and downs like everyone. The passion and intensity of the performances from both the orchestra and our two phenomenal actors will be an experience not to be missed
(Q) Why should people attend?
(A) Audiences will be in for an incredibly intimate and enjoyable evening at the Pioneer Theatre with The Mitchell Old Company. We have sourced the most talented individuals within the Hills to create a musical experience like no other. We would love to see the vibrant Hills community come to support these emerging creatives as they propel themselves into professional creative careers.
(Q) The Last Five Years stars a real life couple. How did you find the couple who are staring in your latest show?
(A) During COVID, many people picked up new hobbies and I took to broaden my musical capabilities by having singing lessons at Dural Music Centre with Hannah Alexander. Studying at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and majoring in Classical Saxophone Performance and Music Education, had meant that I had not been able to focus on this skill as much as I would have liked to in previous years. So, I started lessons with Hannah. After a few weeks of lessons, I came to Hannah and told her of my crazy idea about putting on a ‘COVID-safe’ production with a small cast. She jumped on board immediately and then told me about her partner Andrew, who toured with her in different productions in American and Asia. Once I found the cast, we started planning and then we were off with three months to put together a professional production.
(Q) Is The Last Five Years your first-ever production?
(A) The Last Five Years will be the debut production for The Mitchell Old Company. Previously, I was the artistic director and producer of the 2019 Jazz Café which was a cabaret style night and gave professional performance opportunities to over 50 high school students within the Hills
(Q) What is your background in theatre?
(A) Throughout my time at Northholm Grammar School, I was fortunate enough to work on the school productions in a range of roles – most notably Macbeth in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Orlando in As You Like It. I was then also fortunate enough to secure a work placement on the Australian touring productions of Kinky Boots and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. From all of these experiences it became clear that it was the directing and producing aspects of theatre which I found both most interesting and the most rewarding.
To book your ticket to The Last Five Years at the Pioneer Theatre, visit www.pioneertheatre.com.au.