After seasons that have taken audiences across America and Europe, Sydney Theatre Company will bring things closer to home in 2012, with four new Australian plays and two adaptations in its new season.
For artistic directors Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett, the program also brings to fruition several commissions.
Oh, and lots of shagging.
Gender and power play are big themes for the season, which includes George Bernard Shaw’s classic Pygmalion, and the blogosphere inspired Sex With Strangers, a cross-generational trip into online fun-seeking (you’d hardly call it dating, would you?) which comes fresh from Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre.
The season’s hottest ticket, however, is set to be Les Liaisons Dangereuses, playing at the intimate Wharf 1 theatre from March 31 to June 9. It stars Pamela Rabe as Merteuil and Hugo Weaving, revisiting the role of Valmont.
Dance theatre fans are catered for, with Force Majeure’s Never Did Me Any Harm opening the season in partnership with the Sydney Festival. Drawing inspiration from Christos Tsiolkas’ best-seller The Slap, Majeure examines modern ideas about parenting in what Blanchett describes as ‘nightmare suburbia.’ Fans of last year’s much talked about Stockholm, take note!
Musical theatre lovers have been left wanting, at least in the conventional sense, but Upton hopes they may warm to Midsummer. A self-described ‘play with songs,’ it follows the lost weekend shared by a divorce lawyer and petty criminal who, if nothing else, can agree that ‘love is just another word for need.’ With its delicate balance of sweetness and toughness, Midsummer promises to serve romantic comedy with ‘a bit of Scottish grunt.’
The inimitable Sandy Gore will bring her voice to Under Milk Wood alongside Jack Thompson, surely a season highlight for lovers of language and modern classics alike. Tom Wright (Oresteia, Baal) will be bringing his adaptor’s pen to Thomas Bernhard’s The Histrionic, while Upton collaborates with Simon Stone on Ingmar Bergman’s Face to Face, with Stone also set to direct.
But it’s fans of Australian theatre who are in for their most promising STC season in years. Satirist, actor, director and Wharf Revue favourite Jonathan Biggins takes gleeful aim at the Australian national identity (whatever that is) with Australia Day. A wicked skewering of Aussie ‘tradition’ and cultural cringe, this collaboration with MTC will ask the big questions, like ‘Does a sausage sizzle code as monocultural? And should the special needs kids be forced to perform their dance routine on the national day?’ On a more serious note is Tim Winton’s Signs of Life, exploring Australian rural life through the eyes of the recently widowed Georgie, brought to STC in collaboration with WA’s Black Swan Theatre Co.
One of the season highlights however, will be The Splinter, an eerie tale of child abduction and dark fantasy, inspired by Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. Though Upton and Blanchett say the final work is wildly different from the original commission, they’re nonetheless thrilled with Hilary Bell’s play, to be brought to life by director Sarah Goodes and designer Renee Mulder, both fresh from one of this year’s best productions, Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness.
Of course, if you just like your theatre as camp as humanly possible, Sasha Regan’s all-male The Pirates of Penzance is the show for you. It plays outside the main stage season at the Sydney Theatre in November.
Hoorah for pirate queens?