Magazine

Feature: Australian writers at STC in 2016

Date posted: 4 Dec 2015Author: STC Production: Golem, Machu Picchu, Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark, The Secret River, The Hanging, The Golden Age, Power Plays, A Flea in Her Ear, The Wharf Revue 2016: Back to Bite You

STC's 2016 season features a broad sweep of Australian writing. From the contemporary to the classic, from the silly to the moving, the productions are as varied as their creators. Here, we bring them all together in the one place to celebrate the distinctive voices that Australian theatre has to offer.

 

 

THE GOLDEN AGE

Each year, STC stages an Australian play from the past that deserves renewed attention. Recently, there has been David Williamson's Travelling North, Andrew Bovell's After Dinner and, now, it's Louis Nowra's turn with The Golden Age from 1985.

Louis is one of this country's great writers. With dozens of theatre, film, TV and radio credits alongside seven novels, six non-fiction works and two memoirs, he has been an integral and prolific part of Australian culture for decades.

A play of epic scope, The Golden Age begins in 1939 in Hobart, Tasmania. Taking in everything from the Australian wilderness to the wartorn remnants of Berlin in 1945, the play contrasts 'civilised' society with a fictional tribe of Europeans living in isolation in the Tasmanian wilderness. It asks the question: how can the 'civilised' world consider itself superior when it cannot even save itself from the most savage of wars?

Discover more:

The Golden Age, 14 Jan – 20 Feb 2016, Wharf 1 Theatre

 

 

THE SECRET RIVER

"I think many Australians feel a deep need to try to understand our past, especially the story of black/white interaction on the frontier. It's not an easy history to acknowledge, and a story that puts a human face to it opens the door to understanding. This is a story about people — black and white — making hard choices." – Kate Grenville

Kate Grenville's book The Secret River was a sensation when it was first published in 2005 and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. When Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton became Artistic Directors of STC a few years later, bringing it to the stage was their first commission. From the outset, renowned playwright Andrew Bovell, director Neil Armfield and artistic associate Stephen Page were involved.

Andrew's adaptation, which was honoured with 2013 Helpmann Awards for Best Play and Best New Australian Work, focused on the Australian locations (the book begins its story in England) and incorporated a greater part for the Indigenous people in the story, but in its tragic, moving finale it stayed true to Kate Grenville's gripping narrative.

Discover more:

The Secret River, 1 Feb – 20 Feb 2016, Roslyn Packer Theatre

 

 

MACHU PICCHU

Writer Sue Smith made her STC debut in 2014 with her play Kryptonitebut she has been one of Australia's foremost screenwriters since long before then. From the legendary Brides of Christ to recent hit Mabo, her work has been a mainstay on the small screen. Kryptonite, which explored Chinese-Australian relations through a complex love story, proved that she could deliver riveting drama onstage as well.

In Machu Picchu, a sudden accident leaves an apparently successful marriage hanging in the balance. And as Sue herself puts it:

"The story looks at Paul and Gabby, at their best friends, and at their daughter in a ‘before and after’ way … It’s about the sticky and viscous details of a long marriage – the misfires, the agony and wonder of childbirth, the hypochondria, the clashing career trajectories, the missed opportunities, the five days gaining a 'complete mind body spirit integration' at the ridiculously expensive health spa – the ordinary hilarity of being human. The love. Always the love. And the testing of that love. And, staring that test in the face, Paul and Gabby discover many things they never knew before."

Discover more:

Machu Picchu, 3 Mar – 9 Apr 2016, Wharf 1 Theatre

 

 

THE HANGING

As an STC Patrick White Playwrights’ Fellow, Angela Betzien spent a year in residency with the company. The Hanging, her first play to be staged here at STC, is the culmination of that time. 

Angela has been recognised with several awards for her works and STC Resident Director Sarah Goodes describes Angela's style as "almost Gothic. She likes to deal with mystery and unknown elements and the ways in which mystery can exist."

Taking its cues from crime thrillers, The Hanging is a tense three-hander between a police detective, a teenage school girl and her English teacher. A mystery is very much what the detective is trying to solve. Along the way, there are some darkly comic touches and an exploration of teenage girlhood. As Sarah Goodes says:

"There's something about that age for all girls (and boys); you disappear into a cocoon and emerge at the end an adult… it's a fascinating time, a fascinating place. But adults should really keep out, even though I think the temptation for some adults to enter into it is really strong. That's a captivating tension."

Discover more:

The Hanging, 28 Jul – 10 Sep 2016, Wharf 1 Theatre

 

 

POWER PLAYS

Five brilliant playwrights have written five distinct short plays, all to be performed in one night – that's Power Plays. STC's Literary Manager Polly Rowe and our Richard Wherrett Fellow Paige Rattray have assembled a crack team of playwrights: Melissa Bubnic, Michele Lee, Nakkiah Lui, Hannie Rayson and Debra Thomas.

Some might recall that Melissa's no-holds-barred Boys will be boys hit the STC stage in 2015 and her deliciously risqué humour will be well at home in Wharf 2 Theatre. Melbourne-based Michele Lee is making her STC debut having made a name for herself with Talon Salon, a site-specific audio theatre work about Vietnamese-run nail salons. Nakkiah Lui is a writer, actor and young leader in the Australian Aboriginal community whose work has featured on ABC TV as well as at Belvoir and Malthouse Theatre. Hannie Rayson is no stranger to STC, with several of her plays having been performed here since the classic Hotel Sorrento back in 1991. Debra Thomas is another writer making her STC debut, having won the Patrick White Playwrights’ Award with her Julia Gillard-based play, The Man’s Bitch.

Discover more:

Power Plays, 17 Sep – 15 Oct 2016, Wharf 2 Theatre

 

 

A FLEA IN HER EAR

Our outgoing Artistic Director Andrew Upton is renowned both here and abroad for his stellar adaptations of French, Russian and Norwegian plays.

His first adaptation for STC was Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac in 1999 (reprised in 2014 with Richard Roxburgh), then there was Ibsen's Hedda Gabler and Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, both of which toured to the USA. More recently, there was Gorky's Children of the Sun, commissioned by the National Theatre of Great Britain and staged by STC in 2014. In 2015, Andrew adapted Chekhov's first play as The Present featuring Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh.

In 2016, Andrew turns his attention back to France with Georges Feydeau's classic 1907 farce A Flea in Her Ear. A sexually anxious husband inadvertently leads his wife to believe he's having an affair. To test his fidelity, she lures him to a notoriously seedy hotel. From there on, it's a cavalcade of mistaken identities, lusty looks, door slams and, crucially, a revolving bed (of course!).

Discover more:

A Flea in Her Ear, 31 Oct – 17 Dec 2016, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House

 

 

HAMLET: PRINCE OF SKIDMARK

With The Secret River, Andrew Bovell has adapted a moving novel into a deply affecting play. In A Flea in Her Ear, Andrew Upton is adapting a classic sex farce into a contemporary sex farce. In Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark, The Listies are taking one of Shakespeare's most revered tragedies and turning it into an utterly irreverent, interactive show full of fart jokes and zombies. Because hilarious.

This is a show for children and their adults. And after years of winning fans across the world with their pants-wetting humour and clowning, The Listies come to STC for the first time. They are joined in the creation of the show by Sisters Grimm director Declan Greene (known in Sydney for Little Mercy and Calpurnia Descending), along with regular STC designer Renée Mulder. As a recent review in The Age put it:

"What's unique about The Listies is the degree to which they work overtime to evince giggles from grown-ups and kids, at different levels, simultaneously."

Discover more:

Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark, 8 Nov – 10 Dec 2016, Roslyn Packer Theatre

 

 

THE WHARF REVUE 2016

Every year for the last 16 years, the team of Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott have produced a new Australian theatre work for STC on their own very tight schedule. As Scott says of The Wharf Revue:

"We start actually writing the show only about two months before we begin rehearsals. Any earlier and it goes out of date too much. Then we work on it right up to the last minute and change things around in the rehearsal room. Then it's quite fluid, even when we're on the road [touring the show]. It's really a work in progress the whole time."

Taking apart the Australian political scene and mining it for satirical gems, they have built up a loyal following all around Sydney, as well as in Canberra and Wollongong, and their seasons at The Wharf regularly sell out. From complex literary pastiches to sketches, cabaret songs, monologues, raps, TV ads, music videos and arias, there aren't many artistic genres they haven't tapped for their comic potential. With a federal election inevitable in 2016, there promises to be no end of material this time round.

Discover more:

The Wharf Revue 2016, 19 Oct – 23 Dec 2016, Wharf 1 Theatre

 

 

The Golden Age, 14 Jan – 20 Feb 2016, Wharf 1 Theatre

The Secret River, 1 Feb – 20 Feb 2016, Roslyn Packer Theatre

Machu Picchu, 3 Mar – 9 Apr 2016, Wharf 1 Theatre

The Hanging, 28 Jul – 10 Sep 2016, Wharf 1 Theatre

Power Plays, 17 Sep – 15 Oct 2016, Wharf 2 Theatre

A Flea in Her Ear, 31 Oct – 17 Dec 2016, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House

Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark, 8 Nov – 10 Dec 2016, Roslyn Packer Theatre

The Wharf Revue 2016, 19 Oct – 23 Dec 2016, Wharf 1 Theatre

 

Our 2016 SeasonExplore the 2016 plays