Artsplorers Meet Monkey Baa Theatre: A Conversation With Creative Director Tim McGarry

Tim McGarry is one of the Creative Directors and founders of Monkey Baa Theatre, a Sydney-based theatre producing shows for young people, ages 3 – 18. The company operates in residence at the Lendlease Darling Quarter Theatre, and tours productions across Australia.
Monkey Baa’s next production is Diary of a Wombat. , which runs from 18 – 24 April & 27 May, at the Darling Quarter, as well as a national tour all around Australia from April – November. I spoke to Tim McGarry about that production, Monkey Baa’s ideas about creating theatre for young people, and why we should take our kids to the theatre. 
Monkey Baa Theatre

Thank you so much for talking to Artsplorers, Tim.
First, can you tell me, what’s in a name … what is the story behind Monkey Baa Theatre’s unique name?


Oh yes, when Eva Sandie and I first banded together to create The Bugalugs Bum Thief we really hadn’t considered the need for a company name. When we applied for a grant the then theatre person at Arts NSW, Campion Decent, asked me what our company name was. We had a think and then we chose Monkey Bar, based on a piece of equipment used in children’s playgrounds as, for us, theatre is about play. When we went to register the name we came up against a famous wine bar in Balmain of the same name and the lady behind the counter at Fair Trading suggested we just change the last letter from Bar to Baa. So we did, and that’s how we got the name Monkey Baa.
The Bugalugs Bum Thief
What are the main principles that guide Monkey Baa’s work?


Our main principle is to create exhilarating theatre based on Australian stories, with young people at the heart of everything we create.
Some of the most inventive and interesting theatre I’ve seen has been that which is created for youth and family audiences. What has creating theatre for young audiences taught you, as an artist, about telling stories and making theatre?


I guess the one thing that rings in my ear constantly is to just make good theatre, regardless of the age and the demographic. If we believe in the story, and the narrative, and we feel it is entertaining and informative as a piece of theatre, then it has the potential, if all the ingredients are right, for a worthwhile, and sometimes great theatre experience for all our audiences.
The Peasant Prince
I’m sure there are many, but would you tell me a story that comes to mind about a particularly funny or honest reaction a child had to one of your productions that perhaps made you think, “only with children!”?


There have been so many experiences, so much amazing feedback, but the most recent was last Saturday when we held a dress rehearsal of Diary of a Wombat for participants of our Clever Young Monkeys program, and a young lad in the audience yelled out halfway through the run – “This is the best day ever“.
Diary of a Wombat
Would you tell me a bit about the adaptation process from story to stage? Perhaps your upcoming production of Diary of a Wombat would be a good example. I love reading the book with my young daughter, but I’m not sure if I would have thought of it as theatrical. What was the adaptation process like?


Every adaptation process is different, depending on the story. With Diary of a Wombat the creative team spent a lot of time in classrooms working with young people in the actual making of the piece – the set and costume design, the musical score and the puppetry. They worked tirelessly with young people to glean from them what would make the most stimulating and exciting piece of theatre for them based on this story. Working with young people is at the centre of everything we create.
Diary of a Wombat
Here in Sydney, I find that there are so many options for activities to do with children. To a parent who may not have thought about taking their child to live theatre before, what do you think they’ll find special about attending one of your performances?


It would be the experience of a lifetime – just an extraordinary gift to take a young person to their first theatrical experience at Monkey Baa to see Diary of a Wombat , opening up a world of infinite possibilities, allowing their imaginations to fly, and hopefully help them understand a little bit more about themselves today than what they knew yesterday.
Diary of a Wombat
What initiatives or upcoming projects at Monkey Baa are you particularly excited about?


We are incredibly excited about the development of an epic theatre event for 10+ based on Morris Gleitzman’s Once Then Now series. And of course we are currently working on a new work based on Jackie French’s Josephine Wants to Dance, another delightful tale.
Thank you so much for your time, Tim. We look forward to seeing you at the theatre!

You can follow Monkey Baa on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and find more information about their shows and tickets online


Monkey Baa Theatre