Robert Street - a physio by day, ensemble and executive committee member for TheatreiNQ
by night - was always destined for the stage. I caught up with Robert about his path into the arts community, his professional career in dance and theatre while navigating tensions of two worlds - his ‘artistic’ brain and his ‘science’ brain.
Seven-year-old Robert started his journey in the arts as an Artistic Roller Skater and his passion for dance was soon ignited when he was told to join ballet to improve form. “[He] soon discovered [he] preferred it without the wheels”. He joined a FAME talent agency in Brisbane which led him to become a Little Westfield Superstar, performing in shows during the school holidays at every Westfield in Brisbane. He attended Macgregor High School, which was a short-lived Queensland Government program, fostering 4 categories of performing arts (music, dance, theatre and all three combined) into 4 different schools to which Robert attended the combined. When it was time to graduate high school, Robert had to decide between acting or dancing. Acting won, but little did he know he would also become a professional dancer.
As most actors do, he auditioned for anything and everything which led him to study a Bachelor of Drama at James Cook University where Robert was mentored by Jean-Pierre Voos and funnily enough, Brendan O’Connor was one of his tutors. They performed in The Cow Shed which was quite literally what is was, 4 walls and a tin roof, hanging lights fixed to the ceiling by coat hangers and a tape deck for sound. One of Robert’s greatest takeaways from university is what Jean-Pierre Voos preached: “you should be able to do the play without costumes, set and lighting and for it to still be able to work, or else it is not good acting”.
Brendan O'Connor and Robert Street in TheatreiNQ's production of THE RESISTIBLE RISE OF ARTURO UI (2022)
To this day, Robert believes he is fortunate to be working with so many people who were educated alongside him. Listening to Robert share his love for the people who work beside him highlights the special community and supportive culture TheatreiNQ has, and one I have experienced first-hand in my time as a ‘Bridgee’ and now a sessions kid. They learn, build and communicate with each other so effortlessly it really does make the ensemble a welcoming home. A deep connection and relationship Robert has experienced time and time again with TheatreiNQ. When you work with people for so long you can communicate without talking and that connection with someone is extremely special.
During Robert’s University experience, Dance North held a Residency week, which he was asked to join youth dance company, Extensions, and continued acting with Tropic Line Theatre Company. Eventually, he was invited to join Dancenorth as a full-time dancer. He was shocked when he was asked as he recalls saying “are you serious? As a dancer? Okay?”, as he never thought he would follow the pathway of professional dancing. After retiring from professional dance, Robert applied for to study Physiotherapy at James Cook University but got knocked back because he didn’t meet the senior science prerequisites. Robert didn’t give up, signed up for night school and studied year 11 and 12 biology and chemistry which proved to be “really hard”. After completing night school,
Robert reapplied and got accepted. He “was pleasantly surprised how much [he] enjoys [his] job”. He loves seeing people get better and the breakthroughs people have. “This year is my 14th year still going to work and I’m still excited about what’s going to happen, patients may come in worse or better and I can’t always stick to the plan because people are variable”.
Whilst Robert was at Uni finishing his physio degree, he needed to separate his “artistic brain” from his “science brain,” so for 4 years he purposely didn’t see any theatre/creative arts. In 2013, Terri Brabon invited Robert to join the cast of MACBETH to which he “stupidly said yes and [has] never looked back since”. Robert clearly remembers Terri asking him to play the “small” role of Seyton which in William Shakespeare’s version says only one or two lines. Robert thought “I can do that; it won’t be so time consuming”. Little did he know “young Terri Brabon’s mind was going to put [him] in almost every scene, leading to mega rehearsals way beyond what [he] thought [he] was originally asked to be a part of”. He is very grateful for that experience as he says, “I’m very fortunate with Terri that I trust her and I know the direction she will go in will be the right one”.
Robert Street and Terri Brabon in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (2020)
Robert counts Shakespeare Under the Stars as the highlight of his year because he gets to
reunite his old passion. He goes into every Shakespeare thinking it’s his last “because it very
well could be”. Something he loves challenging himself with every Shakespeare is trying to
confuse the audience by giving them something they haven’t seen from him before. And after ten years of back-to-back Shakespeare's, Robert certainly didn't disappoint as Mistress Overdone in 2023's MEASURE FOR MEASURE.
Lily Bartlett, Robert Street & Paris Walsh in MEASURE FOR MEASURE (2023)