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From its beginnings as a role playing game, Rockpocalypse has evolved into a place-based theatre work that, from the rubble of Rockhampton's final days, unearths fertile ground for the seeds of hope. 



Rockpocalypse, a new work of regional Australian theatre by playwright and researcher Jessica Lamb, explores place, belonging and sustainability through the lens of a dystopian future Rockhampton. 

Originating from Jessica's research for her Masters of Applied Theatre Studies (UNE), the work was developed using a unique community engagement method designed by the playwright. This method sought to actively engage community members in the creative development of narrative and characters using a place-based role-playing game.

Throughout this game, players were enrolled as members of an investigative team with new insights into the potentially doomed future of Rockhampton. Tasked with determining the cause of a mysterious, mass exodus, players created characters and situations to both explain and respond to the existential threat to their city.  

Capturing the discussion, themes and narratives that occurred across the game sessions, Jessica developed a playtext for Rockpocalypse.

Investment from the Queensland Arts Showcase Program (QASP) supported the final creative development, dramaturgy and presentation of the premiere season of Rockpocalypse by Arts Central Queensland Inc., a multi-arts umbrella organisation whose programs, projects and services are designed to support active participants across a range of creative disciplines throughout the Central Queensland region.

Rockpocalypse premiered at the Walter Reid Cultural Centre, Rockhampton, in November 2019.


When and where

July to November 2019, Rockhampton


Key stats

  • 1 new performance developed
  • 9 Queensland artists or artworkers employed
  • 149 attendees
  • 53 per cent of audience members were not regular attendees of theatre events
  • 91 per cent of attendees rated the work as good or excellent
  • 97 per cent indicated the locally generated narrative was of interest to them


Arts Queensland investment 

$37,050 through Queensland Arts Showcase Program (QASP) in July 2019 to support the creative development and production of the premiere season of Rockpocalypse at the Walter Reid Cultural Centre in Rockhampton. QASP provides funding to support the delivery of vibrant and accessible arts and cultural experiences for Queensland. 

Rockpocalypse also received funding from the Rockhampton Regional Council, Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF) to help address the cost of venue hire. RADF is a partnership between the Queensland Government and councils to support local arts and culture in regional Queensland. 




  • Created and presented a unique regional Queensland story by a regional playwright, developed through local community engagement
  • Attracted new audiences to the theatre and to the Walter Reid Cultural Centre, with more than half of audience members to Rockpocalypse surveyed indicating they were not regular attendees of theatre events.
  • Supported paid employment opportunities for local performers. Some performers reported this was their first paid experience.
  • Built capacity in the local theatre sector with the performers having access to intra-state theatre professionals’ knowledge and expertise during the creative process. This approach was welcomed as “it wasn't seen by locals as others blowing in to tell us what to do' but rather professionals here at our invitation”.
  • Provided mentorship opportunities and dramaturgy for Jessica, allowing her to further refine the scripted work.
  • Road tested a new methodology for ethical, place-based development of locally responsive stories.


Learnings and reflections

Arts Central Queensland commented on the new experience of developing Rockpocalypse and lessons learnt around marketing.

Having the playwright in the room was a new experience for nearly all the creative team. This worked extremely well. We will definitely repeat the process of creative development with the playwright for new works as this was invaluable to the whole team, both creative and production. The process educated the performers about the conceptual nature of the process of writing for theatre. 

Despite having a marketing professional onboard we need to run our marketing and publicity through the more traditional media and for about double the time, as audiences are fixed in their ways. For example a number of walkups turned up to the matinee at 2pm because 'that's when matinees usually are'.



Excellently directed. Good acting. Very contemporary topic! Amazingly believable and immersive. 

Outstanding work - deeply thought provoking, relevant to audience/ location/ current political climate, highly amusing. 

Great to see original/ innovative theatre coming out of Rocky.

Great story - would be good to take to a bigger stage to expose a larger audience. Cast was fantastic.



Tips for others

Hold regular production meetings, especially if the creative crew aren't all in the one locale.

Ensure the two processes (creative development and production) are clearly delineated and that expectations of the creative team are well articulated for each process.


What next?

Following its successful premiere season, Rockpocalypse was published by Playlab Theatre in July 2020. 

Members of the creative team have continued to engage in theatre making, both locally and further afield. Two early-career cast members have gone on to pursue tertiary training in the performing arts, and director Travis Hock will embark on a tour of his own show, Red Foot Cabaret, as part of the 2020 Queensland Cabaret Festival. 

Arts Central Queensland Inc. has continued to deliver engaging arts opportunities to the Central Queensland region, and has recently secured funding to develop a youth theatre training and creative development program in partnership with Headspace.

Jessica is continuing to explore novel approaches to theatre making with communities through her PhD studies. She hopes to work with rural communities in the Central Queensland region to create new works of locally responsive theatre.

Perhaps in the light of Covid-19 the Rockpocalypse process may be applied in affected communities?

To date, we can report that no mass-exodus event has as yet befallen Rockhampton!


Find out more

Chipping at Rockpocalypse: A short film showing the creative process of Rockpocalypse from script to performance

Rockpocalypse From role playing game to play: Interview with Jessica Lamb.

Rockpocalypse playtext: Playtext can be purchased through Playlab Theatre

Dramatic Encounters: Chapter 8:  A reflective chapter by Jessica Lamb detailing the roleplaying game community engagement process

Arts Central Queensland Inc.: Information about the organisation and their current projects