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UQ 2019 Performance

In July 2019, a staged reading of Purely Academic was performed in the Auditorium of the Advanced Engineering Building at the University of Queensland, Australia.  The performance was directed by Cienda McNamara. See Contact Magazine for more details.

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Photo credits: Nick Hamilton


  • Prof. Jane Holywell – Peta Ashworth
  • Charles Mittleman – Stephen Viller
  • Prof. Martin Godson – Peter Greste
  • Prof. Mary Long – Joanne Wright
  • Dr Joanne Cook – Marie Boden
  • Anthony White – David Lavel
  • Dr Mark Collins – Alastair McEwan
  • Robin – Guru Siddeswara
  • Prof. Max Williams – Stephan Riek
  • Student – Alastair McEwan

David Lavell is a budding actor with credits to his name such as one of the bunch that ran onto the stage in year 7 in Toowoomba and got more laughs for falling over than for what they were supposed to be doing.  His passion has always been the stage, however having not returned to it since year 7 in Toowoomba he himself is wondering where all the good scripts have gone.  He once coveted a leading role in the acclaimed story “Storm Boy” however when the role of Mr Percival was filled, his dreams of stage glory all but vanished.  When he’s not dreaming of Shakespearian performances David manages the University’s Integrity and Investigations Unit, coincidentally.

Joanne Wright has never acted in anything.  However, the fact that she is the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic clearly demonstrates that she has the potential to convince people that she has skills which, in fact, she does not.  Joanne demanded to be in the play.  She grew up in Belfast and attended an all-girls school where the subjects taught were cooking, typing, hairdressing and bomb-making.  She has mastered two of these and the reason that her demands were acceded to is that no-one knows which two.  She has held various positions at Universities in Australia and the UK and was once sacked by Christopher Pyne .

Peter Greste came to the stage late in his career, with a striking debut performance in Cairo in 2014. There, he co-starred as one of three Al Jazeera journalists on terrorism charges, in an epic tale of the struggle between state authority and press freedom. (The Guardian called it “shocking”, and The Australian said it was “outrageous”, though the Egyptian reviews were less than flattering.) Their performances were so compelling that the panel of judges convicted the trio, and sentenced them to seven years of hard labour. Prior to that, Greste learned his stage-craft as a journalist with the BBC, shadowing some of the world’s most accomplished baddies in places as diverse as Afghanistan, Iraq, Mexico and Somalia. He began his professional life less than auspiciously though, in regional television news, once covering a story about the fruit season in Darwin by hanging upside down out of a mango tree. Together, that background of foolish youthful exploits and a more serious apprenticeship with dodgy politicians, warlords and rebels has equipped him perfectly in his current role at the School of Communication and Arts where he is UNESCO Chair in Journalism and Communication, teaching the next generation of journalists how to get up the noses of the powerful, and then get out of prison.

Stephan Riek has a long and distinguished acting career and as all great thespians and renowned method actors, he embraces each new role to the point where it may seem as though he is unable to distinguish between his character and reality. He has appeared in several off, off, off (I mean way off) Broadway plays and musicals including Cats where he played the lesser known Deputy Cat to the lead role of Gus, The Theatre Cat and his perhaps most memorable role as the tree in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. When he’s not fending off calls from Broadway producers, he is quietly working away in disguise as Deputy Dean of the Graduate School.

Marie Bodén, has been recruited from Scandinavia where she started her acting career in Olsson’s basement. All kids in the neighbourhood witnessed Marie and her friends miming to Abba songs. Continuing her acting through primary school and high school, Marie was particularly active in musicals. At the highlight of her acting career she played a mano-depressive news reader in year 9. The reviews were cracking and Marie escaped down-under to focus on a different career in interaction design and robots. After a long break in acting, Marie has lately been seen on TV with her Robots and Design Thinking classes where she is the Director of External Engagement, Research and Outreach, in the School of IT & Electrical Engineering.

Siddeswara Guru is an insanely good actor in real life juggling two positions in the University, namely working for both the Research Computing Centre and the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network, while keeping both of his bosses happy. He wants to take this to the next level and make his debut in a stage play to know what stage acting is all about. Even though he attended drama classes and performed a couple of plays in his school days, he didn’t pursue further due to lack of good scripts and a committed crew. He now wants to explore this in a different country and bring some diversity in the crew cast to make it bit more attractive and exciting to the audience.

Peta Ashworth was born and raised in a small town in rural Western Australia, she has had a dramatic flair for as long as she can remember. Her first audiences consisted of the sheep on her family farm, a surprisingly tough crowd who on many occasion left the young actress feeling a bit sheepish. As the years progressed though, Peta pushed her acting aside deciding instead to pursue a career in the vastly different field of sustainable energy. She is currently the Chair in Sustainable Energy Futures in the School of Chemical Engineering. Looking at the theatrical portrayal of climate change by politicians today, perhaps it was not such a stray from her dramatic past. Nevertheless, as Peta’s endeavours in research continued and brought her to the University of Queensland, her acting was reduced to little more than a side hobby. In 2019 though, Ms Ashworth’s acting skills finally got the spotlight they deserved when she scored a role in the highly anticipated ground breaking production of Purely Academic.

Alastair McEwan returns to play reading for the first time since his sensational performance in Form 5A’s reading of ‘The Tempest’ in 1974. He’s thrilled at this new opportunity and believes that his stints as Designated Person in Relation to Research Misconduct at UQ have provided him with real-life insights into the subject matter of ‘Purely Academic’. For obvious reasons he is not available for interview in relation to those experiences. He is currently the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research Training) and Dean of the UQ Graduate School.

Stephen Viller is a latecomer to acting, having previously avoided the spotlight by volunteering to operate one rather than appear on the stage in his high school’s 1979 production of Oh, What a Lovely War! More recently you might remember him from UQ’s 2016 TV advert on creating change through digital innovation. A Lancashire lad, growing up in the East of England near the ivory towers of Cambridge University, he rapidly developed a healthy disregard for academia and all it stood for. After declaring his relationship with education over at 18, he spent a few years working as an electronics technician in Cambridge, which only served to reinforce his prejudices about academics (the irony of his current position at a top 50 university is not lost on him.) When he finally heeded advice and went to university, the call of the North drew him to Manchester and then Lancaster, where he studied Computing, then Cognitive Science, ultimately focusing on human factors in the design of safety critical systems. On arriving at UQ, Stephen joined and now leads human-centred design research and teaching in the School of IT & Electrical Engineering. Stephen has recently stepped down as Director of Coursework Studies in the school of ITEE, and is now looking forward to furthering his academic career, with possible hints from Charles…


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