State Theatre Company South Australia Drops 2020 Season
A provocative new festival piece, a premiere Australian work, reimagined international and Australian classics and a post-modern masterpiece that rocks the very foundations of theatre itself are just some of the highlights making up State Theatre Company South Australia's 2020 season, the first program from its new artistic director Mitchell Butel.
Announced at the Adelaide Convention Centre on Thursday (Oct 10), the eight-play season is a bumper ride of diverse, supercharged works sparked by the theme of power.
"Over the past six months I've been speaking with the local artistic community and audiences to learn about the works they want and need to see and what excites them. These conversations, and my great belief in theatre's ability to not only entertain but engender empathy, reflection and maybe even social change, have very much informed the works I've programmed," Butel says.
"A common theme that has seemed to emerge from the stories that have magnetised themselves towards us is the notion of power - what it is, who has it, who wants it, what it does. Power structures within families, within relationships, within broader social and political contexts. The notion of personal power. What power means to different age, racial and class groups.
"In the context of these theatrical tales about power, I'm thrilled to say we have gathered a number of diverse and powerhouse artists to create them."
Esteemed South Australian favourites such as Amber McMahon, Tim Overton, Nathan O'Keefe, Emily Steel, Elaine Crombie, Nescha Jelk, Ksenja Logos, James Smith and Catherine Fitzgerald and leading interstate artists and creatives such as Nancye Hayes, Toby Schmitz, Tara Morice, Emily Barclay, Jonathan Biggins, Jessica Arthur, Imara Savage and Shari Sebbens all feature in the 2020 season.
"My long association with the company has demonstrated to me that some of the world's best theatre artists reside in South Australia. To that end, I'm interested in them developing their work and practice for the benefit of audiences and in ensuring that I expose the rest of the country to their talent and skill. I'm thrilled two of our works will be touring interstate in co-productions with Sydney Theatre Company and Belvoir," the four-time Helpmann Award winner says. "I'm thrilled too that we're co-producing the premiere of a new Australian play with Country Arts SA, which will be performed in Adelaide before setting off on tour throughout regional South Australia."
Kicking off the season is the stinging satire of ambition, Dance Nation, which sees State Theatre Company South Australia back at the Scott Theatre for the first time in 10 years. Starring Strictly Ballroom's Tara Morice, Louisa Mignone, Chika Ikogwe, Amber McMahon and Butel himself, the co-production with Belvoir St Theatre - presented as part of Adelaide Festival - examines ambition, success and female desire from the perspective of a group of 13-year-old dancers competing for a national title.
Dubbed "blazingly original, glorious rough magic" by The New York Times, the 2018 off-Broadway hit by Brooklyn playwright Clare Barron was nominated for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, where it was described as "refreshingly unorthodox". Under the direction of Imara Savage (Mr Burns: A Post-Electric Play) and with design by the award-winning Jonathon Oxlade, Dance Nation is set to be one of the highlights of Adelaide Festival. Visceral, shocking and wildly funny, this is theatre at its most unhinged.
In March, beloved comedian Jonathan Biggins becomes Paul Keating in all of his sardonic glory in The Gospel According to Paul, a comedic ode to the man who forged the modern Labor party. Born out of Biggins' Wharf Revue performances as Keating, the one-man show chronicles the former Prime Minister's highs and lows, both personal and political, through a mix of song and story. The Soft Tread production comes to the Dunstan Playhouse following hit seasons in Sydney and Brisbane.
Michelle Law's riotous Chinese Australian comedy that has delighted audiences across the country, Single Asian Female, hits the playhouse in April. Exploring gender and race politics in contemporary Australia with heart, biting wit and a hefty dose of '90s karaoke, Law's triumphant 2016 debut for La Boite has been heralded a "necessary addition to the Australian theatrical canon" (Time Out) and sold out seasons nationwide.
State Theatre Company South Australia's 2020 education show, Euphoria, comes from the pen of Adelaide playwright Emily Steel, under the direction of RUMPUS co-founder Nescha Jelk (Jasper Jones, Terrestrial) and presented with Country Arts SA. Informed by conversations between Steel (Rabbits, 19 Weeks) and regional communities across South Australia, Euphoria brings an entire country town to life through two actors: James Smith (Jasper Jones, Vale) and Ashton Malcolm (Rumpelstiltskin). Commissioned and developed by Country Arts SA, Euphoria is a heart-warming tale of good days, bad days and everything in between. Steel's script is an achingly funny examination of the real issues and challenges faced by thousands of people in regional South Australia. Euphoria has a short season in the Space Theatre, bookended by an extensive tour throughout regional South Australia.
Deborah Mailman and Wesley Enoch's landmark work, The 7 Stages of Grieving, comes to the Space Theatre in June. Starring Helpmann Award-winning Elaine Crombie and directed by Shari Sebbens (The Sapphires, Black Is The New White), the 1995 play traces stories of love, loss and survival to create a portrait of modern Aboriginal life. The modern masterpiece gets a stunning update 25 years after it first brought audiences across Australia to their feet.
July brings Ella Hickson's mind-bending new play The Writer, presented with Sydney Theatre Company and starring Please Like Me's Emily Barclay and Toby Schmitz. One of the hottest British plays of the last decade, The Writer comes to Adelaide under the direction of emerging Australian talent Jessica Arthur. Barclay portrays a young playwright who wants a new form of theatre that overturns the patriarchy and dismantles capitalism, while her older male director seems more turned on by the commercial potential of her rage. An audacious showdown between male and female, young and old, actor and audience, The Writer is set to leave audiences reeling and walk away questioning the very foundations of theatre itself. Described as "unflaggingly provocative, meta-theatrical and inventive" when it premiered in London, the revolutionary production breaks the fourth wall and beyond, taking the theatrical form and turning it completely upside down.
In September, Adelaide director Catherine Fitzgerald brings Patrick Hamilton's Victorian thriller, Gaslight, roaring into 2020. On an elaborate set from Adelaide designer Ailsa Paterson, SA actors Ksenja Logos and Nathan O'Keefe bring to life the 1938 play that sparked the buzzword known today.
Australian legend Nancye Hayes returns to State Theatre Company South Australia in the uproarious comedy Ripcord, the final show of the season. Directed by Mitchell Butel and starring South Australian actors Jude Henshall and Carmel Johnson, the play sees two nursing home residents in an epic battle of wills. Written by Pulitzer Prize winning writer David Lindsay-Abaire, the viciously funny examination of friendship and fate is set to end the year on a stunning comic high.
The 2020 season also brings the launch of Stateside, a program supporting two small to medium local companies. As part of the program, State Theatre Company South Australia is supporting Brink Productions' The Bridge of San Luis Rey and Theatre Republic's The Bleeding Tree. Each company receives marketing and production support from the new scheme, allowing local artists to tap into the extensive networks and resources the company has to offer.
In summarising his first season, Butel says, "Ultimately, I want this company to be the centre for important stories about who we are and the world in which we find ourselves, told in the most captivating manner possible.
"This is a very special company filled with people onstage and behind the scenes who are in love with theatre and its ability to transform and transport audiences. Our audiences are very special creatures too - they have an equally large appetite for artistic risk and excellence.
"It's an immense privilege and joy to be in their midst."
In 2020 State Theatre Company South Australia also introduces Flexi Subscriptions, meaning subscribers can choose their plays now and dates later. Visit statetheatrecompany.com.au