Museum of Brisbane

Folly Games: A Convict’s Hope

Immerse Yourself in the Game

Folly Games founder Tim Monley is taking theatre beyond the stage writes Samara Flynn.



Eerie music fills the gallery as we stand waiting in the dimmed light of Museum of Brisbane’s Dome Lounge. We have been promised a performance that will change the way we see Brisbane’s convict past. There are no chairs, no curtains, no spotlights and no stage. We are surrounded by rustic, worn and battered objects. Suddenly, from within the Museum’s exhibition Life in Irons: Brisbane’s Convict Stories we hear shouting and two actors burst into the room arguing comedically, their absurd appearance indicating they are not of this time, or perhaps even this world. The characters notice they are not alone and they stare at us with mock bewilderment. The game is afoot.



Earlier that day I sat with Folly Games founder Tim Monley in the charming Art Deco surrounds of Museum of Brisbane’s home, Brisbane City Hall. I want to know why this former clown, street performer, community artist and producer, is so passionate about engaging young people with live theatre, and why he thinks ‘gaming’ is the portal for success.

“It’s about taking this unique opportunity to transform educational experiences into fun playful experiences,” Tim explains.

He believes his comedic production A Convict’s Hope is guaranteed to bring joy into young people’s lives, transporting them from a ‘space of normalcy to somewhere more magical, playful and fun’.

As an everyday space, Tim describes Museum of Brisbane as ‘a wonderfully imaginative environment’, which is what permits his audience to be so effortlessly whisked away on this mysterious historical journey.

“When I was doing street theatre it was very much about breaking down the passivity of an audience,” he says. “It’s not so much about people sitting in the dark and being told a story, which is also great and fun, it’s more about getting people [to be] active participants of a story… and museums are a great place for that.”


“It’s not so much about people sitting in the dark and being told a story, which is also great and fun, it’s more about getting people [to be] active participants of a story… and museums are a great place for that.”


This drive to create an imaginative and interactive theatre was born from Tim’s philosophy to always act from a place of joy.

From his first clown show at Lismore’s town hall at age eight, to his training at France’s Ecole Philippe Gaulier later in life, his passion for entertaining and for making people laugh has never faded.

“I like making the world playful. I guess that’s what I finally came to when trying to grapple with what it is I like doing and want to do in life. And I think if we can make people play, then there’s so many good things about that,” he says.

It is from this philosophy that A Convict’s Hope has been imagined. As an immersive theatre performance that allows the audience to interact with characters and solve puzzles, Tim believes he is creating an experience that engages the audience on every level.

“It’s half way between playing a game and enjoying a theatre show,” he says. “It’s called gamified theatre. We have amazing characters and a story you can get involved in.


“You’re trying to help the characters by solving things and discovering information and that gives you the impetus to explore the Museum.”


“You’re trying to help the characters by solving things and discovering information and that gives you the impetus to explore the Museum.”

Because of the gamified nature of the show, Tim explains there is ‘always an element of surprise’ and ‘spontaneity’, which is what makes his productions feel alive. While A Convict’s Hope has more structure than Tim’s previous productions, he still expects the show to provide some opportunities for impromptu play.

For audiences who might feel intimidated by interactive theatre, I ask Tim how they might be persuaded to come along.

“When people hear ‘participatory’, they think they’re going to get put on stage, and that’s the furthest from what we do,” Tim says.

“It’s like playing a game with friends and a theatre show in one. When we do [get people involved] there are lots of ways of qualifying to make sure the people that do hop up are the ones that really want to.”


“We get to change the way people look at this period,”


Tim recognises that as gamified theatre is a relatively new concept and communicating the essence of the show has been a test.

“We’ve definitely had our challenges with making it an easy thing for people to understand and walk into.”

Part of Museum of Brisbane’s Learning and Engagement program, A Convict’s Hope has been scripted to appeal to ages eight to 18.

The dialogue, often guided by the interaction between actors and participants, must be carefully regulated so the story maintains its link to Brisbane’s convict past. Uniquely, Tim’s production allows participants who might not otherwise find history particularly interesting to engage with it in a playful and interactive way.

“We get to change the way people look at this period,” Tim says.

“We give them another avenue for engaging with the content … another lens to provide a richer experience.”

Images courtesy of David Kelly and Folly Games.

A Convict’s Hope shows at Museum of Brisbane Saturdays at 2pm and 4pm til 13 Oct. Book here.