It was a busy Saturday afternoon when Sally and I met at a cafe near TheatreiNQ. The juicer was roaring, the coffee machine whirring and plates clinking. I have had the pleasure of working with Sally McCutcheon before and was very excited when I was tasked with interviewing her. Many of us will have seen her appearances on stage, but might not have had a chance to see her work outside of the shows. And boy does she WORK.
What is your role at TheatreiNQ?
“So, I’m President of the Management Committee. We have general oversight over the whole company – so we’re not in the everyday operations of TheatreiNQ. That’s Terri, Brendan, Anne-Marie and Arminelle. We do more of the strategic, oversight, financial, and big-picture stuff. We meet a few times a year and people report on the different elements of running TheatreiNQ as a business. And I chair the meetings. But everyone has different parts to play. And then I’m part of the acting ensemble. But I do a maximum of one show a year, sometimes none at all.
Probably the biggest thing I do is parenting, I have two kids that I look after, but then I’m also a solicitor.
I had always loved drama but I didn’t have the Bridge Project - which I would have loved. When I first finished school, I did a drama degree at QUT. I stayed in Brisbane for a few years and worked as an actor. After I came back to Townsville, I did a law degree as a second qualification. So now I am a lawyer and I sit on a couple of boards of organisations and things like that.
I’d kind of stepped away from acting. I had moved back home and went ‘I’d like to have a go at doing something again.’ And that’s when I auditioned for TheatreiNQ.” In 2011 Sally auditioned for Cosi by Louis Nowra, directed by Terri Brabon. “Cosi was the first non-Shakespeare show that they did. I played Julie. It was a bit brave to cast me when they didn’t know me.”
Sally as Julie in COSI by Louis Nowra (2011)
Since then she has appeared in a total of 8 productions with the company including Giri in THE RESISTIBLE RISE OF ARTURO UI (2022), Elizabeth in BLOOD WILL HAVE BLOOD (2021), Verges in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (2020), Luciana in THE COMEDY OF ERRORS (2018), Egeus in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (2017), Sancia in WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH MARY-JANE? (2016), Gwendolen in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (2013) and Julie in COSI (2011).
Sally as Gwendolen in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST by Oscar Wilde (2013)
When did you become President?
“I became President of the Board in 2018. Lorna Hempstead had been there since TheatreiNQ started. She made the decision to move to France. It was a big shift in the makeup of the Board. I’d gotten to know TheatreiNQ over the years through my involvement in the shows as a performer and then they said can you please come and be the President!”
Sally, we’re dying here. People want to know! What is your favourite show?
“These are such hard questions because in every show I could say- this is why I love this one. It might be my favourite performance of a particular person or something. If we divide it into Shakespeare and non-Shakespeare. That makes it slightly easier.
I would say ‘When the Rain Stops Falling’ (by Andrew Bovell) is my favourite non-Shakespeare. I was not involved in that one at all. The lighting and sound created this atmosphere that was just amazing. It was really beautiful, the music and AV were incredible. And then it had a really strong cast. That play was really memorable.”
What was your favourite Shakespeare?
“I think I might say The Merry Wives of Windsor. It's one of those plays that you could still remember bits from, you know. I remember really enjoying it. It's memorable. There was this slow-motion fight scene that was - Yeah, it stands out.”
The Bridge Project
My first interaction with Sally was last year -my first year of the Bridge Project- when she came in to take us through the policies and procedures. Sounds boring right? It wasn’t! Sally’s talk was informative, witty, serious, and seriously funny in all the right ways.
“I do this session at the beginning of each year, around our workplace policies and our expectations around behaviour, bullying, and sexual harassment. Code of conduct stuff. I do that because that's the type of law that I do. So it sort of falls to me to do the training and I think it's kind of nice too that it's not Terri and Brendan doing that. That it’s seen as a part of the management of the company as opposed to the artistic side of things. But that’s the extent of my involvement with the Bridge Project. At the beginning of the Bridge Project, it was unknown. People didn’t know what to expect. Whereas now it’s much more established. Lots of people stay around for a few years, they might be an apprentice for a time, and they get to be involved in the shows. And then, this amazing group of people now have gone off into the world and went on to do more study or go into the industry and they’re doing really well. You can see that pathway whereas at the start that didn't exist. Which is amazing. I love it.”
Sally with the cast of WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH MARY-JANE? (2016)
What keeps you coming back?
“I love to perform. And I love getting the opportunity to do that even though we now have more regular jobs and kids and, you know, other commitments on my time.
And then, The people, I think. There's just an expectation of excellence from everyone. And I enjoy their company. I've gotten to know those people over the years and I like meeting the new people that come through. Getting to know them and then watching them go off into the world. Seeing what comes next for them. But then the ones, you know, the older ones, that are still here year after year, I love getting the opportunity to be on stage with them and play with them so I think… Yeah. Primarily it's the people.”
You can catch Sally in action with the team at this year's Shakespeare Under the Stars - MEASURE FOR MEASURE this September.
Sally pictured centre with the team of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (2020)