The business of show business: How Naomi Price built a Red-hot production house in Brisbane 

Naomi Price is one of the leading lights of Brisbane’s arts and culture scene – both on and off stage. 

As a performer, Naomi’s credentials are impeccable. Since making her professional debut in a 2008 La Boite production of ‘The Wishing Well’, she’s racked up a seemingly endless string of credits from Brisbane to Broadway, including a widely lauded role in Ladies in Black, the Tim Finn musical, that saw her win a Green Room Award and a Matilda Award. 

But it’s as the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of The Little Red Company that Naomi has really established herself as a creative force to be reckoned with. Since launching Little Red with her business partner Adam Brunes in 2012, the pair have created a catalogue of popular and critically acclaimed productions that have played to millions of audience members, both here and overseas.  

Oh, and she’s also the Executive Producer of the Lord Mayor’s Christmas Carols, broadcast nationally on Nine from Brisbane’s Riverstage every year. 

It’s all a far cry from when the UK expat first moved from Brighton to Brisbane to study drama at QUT two decades ago. She’s gone on a remarkable journey since then – one she reflected on when she recently appeared On The Couch at the Brisbane Business Hub. 

“When I first moved to Brisbane 20 years ago, the arts and culture industry was still developing,” Naomi said. “There were two main organisations. You could do a show with those people, and that was it. But since then, there have been all of these festivals and venues and independent companies that have come along, and the tapestry of Brisbane’s arts scene has become so much more detailed.  

“That tapestry is still being woven, and getting to be part of that process as an up-and-comer with a start-up business of my own has been really exciting.” 

From Little things…

“A career in the arts is somewhat of a calling, but it’s also an incredibly difficult thing to navigate,” Naomi said. “When you graduate, you don’t just walk into a job as a teacher or a nurse or a doctor or a lawyer. It’s an incredibly subjective industry, so I think you have moments of doubt along the way, and it’s inevitable to question whether or not it’s the right career path for you.”

While Naomi has had plenty of success performing in productions staged by the likes of La Boite, Queensland Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Opera Queensland, The Good Room and Michael Cassel Group, she’s found that the best way to guarantee yourself steady work in such a mercurial industry is to take matters into your own hands. 

“Running your own business is an incredible tool when it comes to providing work for yourself, as well as for your friends, your colleagues, and your peers,” she said. 

“Growing your own company and developing your own brand is vital to the ecology of the arts industry, because it’s about job creation. It’s about generating opportunities for incredible artists and creatives to stay on the tools year round.”

The Little Red Company actually started as something of a happy accident, with Naomi and Adam Brunes spitballing ideas for shows on the back deck and ultimately coming up with their first production, Rumour Has It. (Still touring today, it’s an evening of story and song that tells the life story of Adele.) 

“We workshopped the idea at an open mic night, and when we were asked to create the full-length version of the show, we thought, ‘Gosh, we better come up with a company name or nobody will take us seriously’,” Naomi laughed. “I don’t think we ever went into this thinking that we’d actually start a business, but I’m so glad that’s where it ended up.

“We have six people in the office now, including myself, but we work with 350 contractors and suppliers every year. It’s grown so much since it was just me and a guitarist and a pianist on stage, and I was always the product as well as the producer. 

“Now I don’t have to be in one of our shows for people to want to come and see it, which feels like real growth, because it means I can step back and be strategic. I can focus on trying to be a good team leader and a good boss, and thinking about where we’re heading in the future, which you can’t do when you’re solely focused on the day-to-day delivery of it all.” 

While Little Red’s shows receive rave reviews in their own right, Naomi is upfront about the fact that their familiar subject matter – whether it’s the oeuvre of superstars like Adele, John Farnham, The Beatles and Elton John, or popular films like Love Actually and Sister Act – has contributed to their commercial appeal. 

“When you’re making any kind of new work, you have to identify whether or not there’s an audience for it,” Naomi said. “How many people will actually want to watch this, or engage with it? If the answer is ‘not many’, then of course it’s still okay to make the work, but you have to go into it with the expectation that it’s not necessarily going to be commercially viable. 

“For me, I decided I wanted to build a business, and I wanted this to be my full-time job. And choosing commercially appealing bodies of work, and then reinventing or reimagining the way people experience that work, has been crucial to The Little Red Company growing and building a following. 

“As soon as you say you’re doing a show about Adele, there’s a built-in fan base. Now, the work doesn’t end there – the show still has to be good, and it has to be able to generate its own following. But I think being selective about the kind of material we tackle has been the key to our success.” 

Under the spotlight

In 2023, Naomi was recognised as one of The Weekend Edition and InQueensland’s inaugural 40 Under 40, celebrating Queensland’s finest young entrepreneurs and leaders under the age of 40.

She’s now firmly established as a Brisbane theatre mogul – but she wasn’t always so well-versed in the ‘business’ side of show business. 

“When Adam and I first started running The Little Red Company, I had very minimal business skills and a very limited understanding of that world. I knew how to do up a budget, and I knew how to balance a bottom line, but that was it. Things like registering a company name with ASIC, lodging your BAS, managing PAYG instalments… these concepts were all foreign to me when we started out. 

“But there are incredible resources you can access, and I’ve found that Brisbane people are very collegiate, and very willing to help you out with any knowledge they can share. Mentoring has played an incredible role for me, not just in terms of my personal development, but also my professional development and the growth of my business. 

“When I started thinking about becoming an artistic director, I sought out people who had held roles like that before, and asked for their advice and support. There was one particularly amazing lady, Libby Anstis, who very kindly had some coffee meetings with me, and was always so forthcoming with her advice. A lot of that advice was about the way I viewed myself, and the way I carried myself. 

“She really believed in me, and I think when you see yourself through somebody else’s eyes, it helps you build that same belief in yourself. That’s why I’m so grateful for Libby, and for all of the incredible women whose shoulders I stand on today as a leader.”

Naomi has certainly justified those people who believed in her early on – but there’s still plenty of room for The Little Red Company to grow. 

“For The Little Red Company to become ‘The Big Red Company’, we have to continue to swim into the blue ocean,” Naomi said. “And by that, I mean we need to continually attempt to do things that other people aren’t doing. Otherwise we’re just fighting over the same pieces of meat with everybody else. But if we can swim into waters that nobody’s charted before, then we can actually lead the way for others to follow. 

“Our new show, Fancy Long Legs, is a good example of this. It’s a fully accessible work, based on Rachel Burke’s children’s book, that takes an innovative and imaginative look at neurodivergence, and the different ways our brains filter the world around us. I think there’s been a gradual push towards making arts and cultural activities accessible and inclusive of everybody over the last few years, and I think that’s an area where we can lead the way. 

“I think it’s about setting your sights on big goals and not being scared of them. It doesn’t matter how big or ridiculous the idea is – as long as you’re constantly setting your goals above and beyond your current means, then I think you’re moving towards something. And even if those things don’t work out, you’ll find other moments of brilliance that fulfil you and enrich you along the way. 

“I came to Brisbane to study drama, but what keeps me in Brisbane is that everything feels achievable here. Everything feels like it’s just within arm’s reach. Nothing ever feels like, ‘Oh, that could never happen’. Instead, the feeling is, ‘Well, of course that could happen! Why not?’ It might take some hard work, but everything feels attainable, and I think it’s that belief that keeps me going.” 

The Little Red Company will present Fancy Long Legs, an adaptation of Brisbane craft icon Rachel Burke’s picture book, at La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre from September 12-22 as part of Brisbane Festival.

To ensure the theatre experience is welcoming, safe and inclusive for all, each performance will feature flexible venue access, ambient lighting, spoiler sheets, sensory warnings, a low-sensory space and accessible seating, with Auslan Interpretation, Audio Description and Tactile Tours available for select performances. Tickets are available now

Written By

Brisbane Business Hub

Share

Tags

Business in BrisbaneOn The Couch WithWomen in Business

Newsletter

Get our latest news and advice delivered straight to your inbox, once a month.

    Our Partner

    Community