Catalpa image


by Donal O’Kelly

‘All heroes are not created equal’

A Hollywood blockbuster for the stage. The true story of the whaling ship Catalpa, and her astonishing captain George Anthony has been described as one of the most extraordinary prison escapes of all time. It was a mission that spanned the globe and culminated in the rescue of six Irish political prisoners from Fremantle Prison in 1876.

Performed by one actor. Catalpa is a stunningly innovative piece of theatre. A frustrated, insomniac screenwriter acts out his un-filmed masterpiece in his bedsit. A little known chapter of Australian convict history, this richly lyrical show builds into an astonishingly gripping tapestry, a ripping yarn brought to life by word and sound alone.


‘A solo triumph. When it soars it is quite remarkable theatre. Damn near irresistible.’
West Australian , March 2011
‘An extraordinary production. An exuberant, innovative piece of theatre.’
Radio Fremantle , March 2011
‘Des Fleming sustains a remarkable performance.’
Weekend Courier , March 2011
‘Exceptionally fine direction from Alice Bishop. A wonderful story, told perfectly in words and action.’
Theatre Australia , March 2011
‘The show demands immense range and virtuosity from actor Des Fleming, and exceptional detail from director Alice Bishop. The production achieves both.’
The Age , May 2008
‘Refreshing theatre in Melbourne is a rare bird these days and this production of Catalpa is just that.’
Arts Hub , May 2008
‘There are many young companies in Melbourne trying to establish their place by producing quality theatre, but it is rare to see one succeed to such a high standard as ITCH Productions has done in its first attempt.’
Australian Stage Online , May 2008


Production History

ITCH Productions debut show Catalpa received two Green Room Award nominations for Direction and Music Composition for its Melbourne season in 2008. Catalpa subsequently toured to Regional Victoria (2010) and to Subiaco Arts Centre (2011) for its West Australian premiere.

Cast & Creative Team


  • Des Fleming

Creative Team

  • Director Alice Bishop
  • Composer Wally Gunn
  • Lighting Design Bronwyn Pringle
  • Musician Wally Gunn (Melbourne/2008)
  • Musician Biddy Connor (Victorian Tour/2010)
  • Musician James Rushford (Perth/2011)
  • Set Design Alice Bishop & Des Fleming
  • Costume Design Alice Bishop
  • Set Construction Popcorn Logistics
  • Stage Manager Lucas Silva Miles (Melbourne)
  • Stage Manager Rosie Collins (Victorian Tour/2010 & Perth/2011)
  • Photography Ponch Hawkes
  • Producer Des Fleming