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Katia Molino, Mohammed Ahmad, I’m Your Man, Roslyn Oades, Belvoir Katia Molino, Mohammed Ahmad, I’m Your Man, Roslyn Oades, Belvoir
photo Bill Reda, courtesy Sydney Festival
The major theatre companies have launched their programs for 2012. Year by year these become more and more fascinating indicators of the expanding parameters of theatricality in mainstage programs (dance, contemporary performance, puppetry, opera, physical theatre, Indigenous performance) and the collaborative interplay between companies, not merely cost sharing but exploratory, nor a closed circuit as large companies take on board the likes of Hayloft, version 1.0, My Darling Patricia, Urban Theatre Projects, Circa, Ilbijerri, Four Larks Theatre, The Black Lung Theatre, Post and others. While plays are still central to theatre company programs they have become part of the broader ambit of performance involving an expanded range of authorship. The following overview of 2012 programs will give you some idea of the extended range of performance and the interconnectedness that has come with a new generation of artistic directors.


With the Sydney Festival Belvoir premieres Urban Theatre Projects’ Buried City, written by Raimondo Cortese. It’s about immigration, development and who controls the future and made in consultation with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and their Retired Members Association, African Women Australia Inc and Gadigal Information Service Aboriginal Corporation. Also for the festival, Belvoir with CarriageWorks presents a version of Seneca’s Thyestes (a deposed king who unknowingly eats his sons) originally commissioned from Melbourne’s The Hayloft Project by Malthouse Theatre and directed by Belvoir’s Simon Stone. Another festival work is I’m Your Man, created and directed by Roslyn Oades (Stories of Love and Hate) which recreates verbatim the journey of an ambitious young Bankstown boxer on his way to a world title fight.

Also in the 2012 program there’s a version of Euripides’ Medea told, a la Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, from the point of view of the minor characters. Director Anne-Louise Sarks is the artistic director of Hayloft; co-writer is Kate Mulvany. Belvoir, version 1.0 and Ilbijerri Theatre Company unite for Beautiful One Day, created by Paul Dwyer, Eamon Flack, Rachael Maza and David Williams. This “theatrical documentary” focuses on troubled Palm Island, exploring similar territory to Chloe Hooper’s book and Tony Krawitz’s documentary, both titled The Tall Man, but with a very different approach. Leah Purcell will direct Don’t Take Your Love to Town, created with Belvoir’s Eamon Flack and based on the late Ruby Langford Ginibi’s book of the same name.

Simon Stone with actress Emily Barclay tackles a true rarity, Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude; actor Matthew Whittet’s play Old Man, about fathers and sons and Newtown, is premiered; Colin Friels and Genevieve Lemon star in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, directed by Stone. Belvoir’s Artistic Director Ralph Myers makes his directorial debut with Noel Coward’s Private Lives—that most sleek of 20th century comedies—with Eloise Mignon and Toby Schmitz in the lead roles. As John Lahr wrote in Coward the Playwright (1982): “Minimal as an art deco curve, Private Lives’ form matched its content; a plotless play for purposeless people”—and no less enjoyable for it.

With three actors and three dancers, choreographer and director Lucy Guerin has been commissioned by Belvoir to create Conversation Piece with Alison Bell, Megan Holloway, Alisdair Macindoe, Rennie McDougall, Harriet Ritchie and Matthew Whittet: “A group of actors and dancers meet on stage and begin the show with a short conversation about…Well, we don’t know yet. Each night it will be a different conversation” and this will “form the basis” of the performance. Actress Rita Kalnejais has written Babyteeth to be directed by Eamon Flack; another actor turned writer, Steve Rodgers, will have his play, Food, about a pair of feuding sisters, directed by Force Majeure’s Kate Champion. Benedict Andrews will direct his own play, Every Breath, about a threatened family who hire a security guard they are each attracted to (a hint of Pasolini’s Teorama?).

sydney theatre company

For the Sydney and Adelaide Festivals, STC presents Force Majeure’s dance theatre creation Never Did Me Any Harm, directed by Kate Champion, inspired by, although not based on, Christos Tsolkias’ The Slap and featuring a strong cast of actors and dancers that includes Heather Mitchell, Marta Dusseldorp, Kristina Chan and Kirstie McCracken.

Griffin’s Sam Strong will direct Hugo Weaving and Pamela Rabe in Christopher Hampton’s fine version of Choderlos de Laclos’ 1782 novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses, a complex tale of sexual intrigue. Co-artistic director Andrew Upton will direct Dylan Thomas’ intensely poetic, nostalgic and bittersweet Under Milk Wood with a cast that includes Jack Thompson and Sandy Gore. Upton and Belvoir’s Simon Stone have boldly adapted Ingmar Bergman’s journey into despair, Face to Face, for the stage with Stone directing the always impressive Kerry Fox, Wendy Hughes and John Gaden.

The Splinter, by Hilary Bell and directed by Sarah Goodes is described as “an emotional thriller.” An abducted child is returned to her parents (Erik Thomson and Helen Thomson), but is she theirs? The intriguing thing about The Splinter is that the child will be represented by a puppet. Alice Osborne is the puppetry and movement director. Bell is apparently “inspired by the Henry James novel The Turn of the Screw, the Hans Christian Andersen tale The Snow Queen and real life stories of abducted children.”

Melbourne’s Daniel Schlusser will direct Thomas Bernhard’s The Histrionic featuring Bille Brown (see Malthouse below) and Peter Evans will take on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion with Kym Gyngell and Andrea Demetriades.

Perth’s Black Swan and STC will stage novelist-turned-playwright Tim Winton’s second play, Signs of Life: a lone woman on a farm, “contemplating her solitude”, is visited by strangers—an Aboriginal man and woman. Kate Cherry directs. Also in the 2012 STC program is Jonathan Biggins’ Australia Day, a timely satire given the increasing cultural complexity of our nation.


Belvoir’s impressive adaptation by Simon Stone and Chris Ryan of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck (RT102) kicks off Malthouse’s 2012 program. In a co-production with Sydney Theatre Company, Daniel Schlusser will direct Tom Wright’s translation of Thomas Bernhard’s The Histrionic (Der Theatermacher), described as a “rampage of satire on art, celebrity and the cult of personality” featuring Bille Brown as the egotist under scrutiny. Artistic director Marion Potts will take on Lorca’s Blood Wedding with music by Tim Rogers. With Perth Theatre Company, Malthouse will present On the Misconception of Oedipus, forensic theatre devised by Zoe Atkinson, Matthew Lutton (also directing) and Tom Wright that imagines the back story of the tragedy of Oedipus.

Resident company, Four LarksTheatre (see article), will create The Plague Dances, about massive, manic outbreaks of dancing across the centuries. From Brisbane, via the world, comes the physical theatre company Circa with their stripped back, highly intelligent circus. It’s good to see Indigenous choreographer Vicki Van Hout’s Briwyant in the program; as I wrote in RT103: “Vicki Van Hout’s choreography is some of the most idiosyncratic and inventive choreography seen in Australian dance for a long time and her team of dextrous dancers execute it with high precision, unbelievable energy, humour and attitude.”

Malthouse’s Opera XS features Chamber Made Opera partnering Rawcus in an improvisation based on the music of Henry Purcell; Short Black Opera Company’s Redfern; and Victoria Opera’s Victoria Shorts. Paul Capsis performs his autobiographical Angela’s Kitchen (see Griffin Theatre Company below); Jane Montgomery Griffiths, directed by Marion Potts performs the late Dorothy Porter’s verse novel Wild Surmise; Matthew Lutton directs Declan Greene’s apocalyptic take on LA culture; and Rosemary Myers directs Julianne O’Brien’s contemporary update of Pinocchio “as witty, gothic, rocking music theatre,” in a co-production with Windmill and the State Theatre Company of South Australia.

griffin theatre company

For the Sydney Festival, Griffin begins its year with Gordon Graham’s 1991 deeply disturbing classic about family, masculinity and murder, The Boys (later adapted by Stephen Sewell for Rowan Woods’ 1998 film), celebrating the play’s successful premiere at The Stables Theatre 21 years ago. Griffin’s artistic director Sam Strong will direct The Boys which will also play in the 2012 Merrigong Theatre season in Wollongong. The Story of Mary MacLane by Herself is adapted by Bojana Novakovic, from a century-old confessional work from a 19-year-old that scandalised American readers and sold copiously: “I should like a new man to come. A perfect villain to come and fascinate me. And I should ask him quite humbly to lead me to my ruin.” Novakovic and director Tanya Goldberg (Ride On Theatre) will stage MacLane’s provocative writing as a “monologue for two” with music by Tim Rogers. The production is presented in association with Malthouse Theatre, Merrigong Theatre Company and Performing Lines.

Paul Capsis’ Angela’s Kitchen, directed by Julian Meyrick and with Hilary Bell as associate writer, is singer Capsis’ autobiographical celebration of his mother, taking him back to Malta which she left in 1948 with five children to live in Sydney’s Surry Hills. This return season of a hit for Griffin in 2010 is a prelude to a tour to Canberra, Albury, Wollongong, Parramatta, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Playwright Rick Viede enjoyed success at Griffin with his first play, Whore, which won the 2008 Griffin Award and the 2010 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award. His new play, a co-production with Brisbane’s La Boite, is A Hoax, “a vicious satire on the politics of identity, modern celebrity and the peddling of abuse culture.” Ian Meadows’ Between Two Waves is one of a small number of plays that addresses environmental issues, focused here on prediction and responsibility: how can we live and procreate when it’s likely that coming generations will suffer from our neglect. Between Two Waves is the first play to be produced out of the Griffin Studio.

queensland theatre company

Wesley Enoch’s first season as artistic director of the QTC includes Belvoir’s acclaimed Neil Armfield production of The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll; Jennifer Flowers directing Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; Brisbane playwright Matthew Ryan’s Kelly, an account of Ned in his cell visited by brother Dan who is unexpectedly still alive; and the Sydney Theatre Company’s Bloodland (see article).

Enoch is directing four productions: Joanna Murray-Smith’s Bombshells, starring Christen O’Leary; Dario Fo’s Elizabeth, Almost by Chance a Woman, with Carol Burns; Sydney writer Alana Valentine’s Head Full of Love (Darwin Festival commission 2010) about the encounter between a Sydney runaway (Collette Mann) and an Alice Springs local, Napuljari (Roxanne McDonald), in the context of the Annual Alice Springs Beanie Festival; and David Williamson’s Managing Carmen about a cross-dressing footballer at the peak of his career who risks being outed.

zoe coombes marr wins award

Congratulations to writer-performer Zoe Coombs Marr (one of the talented trio comprising Post) who has won the 2011 Philip Parsons Young Playwrights’ Award for her one-woman show, And That Was the Summer That Changed My Life which premiered at Next Wave Festival in 2010. The Award is given annually to a NSW-based writer under the age of 35 for an outstanding work which has been performed. The award comes in the form of a writer’s commission supported by Belvoir to develop a new work.

RealTime issue #106 Dec-Jan 2011 pg. 35

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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