December 31, 2011
With choreographers and councillors, sailors and a salesman, theatre in the new year promises plenty of drama – and dragons. We reveal 2012’s must-have tickets.
WHAT George Bernard Shaw’s five-act play is seldom performed today, though we all know the story in bowdlerised form via the smash-hit stage and screen musical My Fair Lady.
WHO Peter Evans directs this Sydney Theatre Company production with Kym Gyngell as linguist Professor Henry Higgins and the raven-haired Andrea Demetriades stepping in for the STC’s pregnant poster girl Jessica Marais. Vanessa Downing, Wendy Hughes and Deborah Kennedy co-star.
WHY Anyone expecting an Edwardian costume parade of plummy toffs and gorblimey Cockneys may be surprised. Dramaturge Toby Schmitz could have a few twists in store.
WHEN & WHERE From January 31, Sydney Theatre, Walsh Bay.
THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO
WHAT Mozart’s masterpiece is staged in this all-new Opera Australia production as if Count Almaviva’s mansion is part of a luxury gated community. What better excuse for the deployment of one of director Benedict Andrews’s signature theatrical devices: the security camera.
WHO The young lions of the theatre scene – Andrews, designer Ralph Myers, costume designer Alice Babidge – mix it with the rising stars of the OA firmament including Taryn Fiebig (pictured) and Joshua Bloom.
WHY We’ve waited a long time for Figaro. The production was originally programmed for 2011 but budget constraints led to its postponement. Traditionalists, prepare your brickbats.
WHEN & WHERE From February 6, Sydney Opera House.
THE TABLE OF KNOWLEDGE
WHAT Performance group Version 1.0 turns the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s investigation into dodgy dealings and sexual feelings between developers and staff of the Wollongong City Council into compelling theatre. Who would have thought the workaday stuff of a council could be so mired in lust, greed and ambition?
WHY A sell-out hit in Wollongong, Herald critic John Shand wrote: ”The play is often wildly funny and yet every laugh is another nail in the coffin of the council’s probity.”
WHO The movers and shakers of the scandal cunningly brought to life by David Williams, Kym Vercoe, Arky Michael, Yana Taylor and Jane Phegan.
WHEN & WHERE March 13-24, Carriageworks.
DEATH OF A SALESMAN
WHAT Arthur Miller’s 1949 play is one of the cornerstones of 20th-century drama, a harrowing story of an over-the-hill salesman struggling to make the mortgage repayments and keep his car on the road. When his son, Biff, returns to the family home, the chasm separating a father’s dreams and a son’s ambitions becomes all too apparent.
WHO Colin Friels as salesman Willy Loman and Genevieve Lemon as his wife Linda.
WHY As Miller once said, Loman is struggling for the wrong thing. But the struggle itself is exemplary.
WHEN & WHERE From June 23, Belvoir St Theatre, Surry Hills.
WHAT Noel Coward’s lacerating comedy of manners focuses on divorced couple Elyot and Amanda, who discover they are honeymooning with their new spouses in adjacent hotel suites. It attracted the ire of the censors at first, which no doubt helped the original production – which starred Coward, Gertrude Lawrence, Adrianne Allen and Laurence Olivier – become a wild success in London in 1930.
WHO Director Ralph Myers wanted to direct a play he regarded as ”perfect”. Toby Schmitz is Elyot (the part Coward wrote for himself).
WHY A more youthful cast offers a break from the play’s usual middle-aged campery. Elyot’s view that ”certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs” will be a challenge even for the charming Mr Schmitz.
WHEN & WHERE From September 29, Belvoir St Theatre, Surry Hills.
WHAT Nurse Nellie Forbush is ”in love with a wonderful guy”, a French plantation owner. Meanwhile, clean-cut Lieutenant Cable has fallen hard for Bloody Mary’s daughter and, as the sailors and marines will tell you, there is ”nothing like a dame”. Opera Australia stages the Lincoln Centre’s Tony Award-winning production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic.
WHO Teddy Tahu Rhodes plays plantation owner Emile.
WHY South Pacific’s portrayal of Americans stationed in an alien culture in wartime thrilled audiences in 1949. This production, wrote New York Times critic Ben Brantley, ”recreates the unabashed, unquestioning romance that American theatregoers had with the American book musical in the mid-20th century, before the genre got all self-conscious about itself”.
WHEN & WHERE From August 11, Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House.
WHO Graeme Murphy, Stephen Page and Gideon Obarzanek, the leading lights of Australian choreography, come together for the first time to present a program of new works for the Australian Ballet in its 50th year.
WHAT Working with a commissioned score by Brett Dean, Murphy’s The Narrative of Nothing seeks inspiration from the basics: the body, the music. Page’s Warumuk –in the Dark Night features dancers from Bangarra and the Australian Ballet to tell the story of the night skies of Arnhem Land, beginning with the first evening star. Obarzanek, meanwhile, began his choreographic process with a question: ”What is ballet?” The answers, from a range of interviewees, form the basis of There’s Definitely a Prince Involved.
WHY These works are ”a rocket into the future”, says the artistic director of the Australian Ballet, David McAllister. ”They will be tomorrow’s classics.”
WHEN & WHERE April 5-25, Sydney Opera House.
AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN: THE MUSICAL
WHAT The world-premiere stage musical version of the 1982 film responsible for making stars of Richard Gere and Debra Winger, and reviving Joe Cocker’s career.
WHO Jersey Boys veteran Ben Mingay plays marine pilot Zack Mayo, Amanda Harrison (Wicked) plays his blue-collar lady love, Paula (pictured). Simon Phillips (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – the Musical) directs and Douglas Day Stewart, one of the original movie’s screenwriters, is also on board.
WHY Because it’s a world premiere of a new musical made in Australia. If it becomes a hit on Broadway, you’ll want to say you saw it first in Sydney.
WHEN & WHERE May 12-June 3, Lyric Theatre, Star Casino.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE SPECTACULAR
WHAT The stadium spectacular version of the vikings v dragons adventure, featuring a youthful cast and stunning animatronic beasties designed by Sonny Tilders and his Melbourne-based Creature Technology Company.
WHO Nadder, Gronckle, Nightmare, Red Death and Toothless – the Night Fury will be on stage, large as life, with theatre director Nigel Jamieson (Honour Bound, Dead Man Walking) joining forces with designers Peter England and Dan Potra to bring all this high technology to life. The score features authentically Nordic input from Icelandic singer-songwriter Jonsi of Sigur Ros.
WHY Because the kids will never forgive you if you don’t.
WHEN & WHERE March 15-25, Acer Arena, Sydney Olympic Park.
LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES
WHAT Christopher Hampton’s peerless 1985 adaptation of the epistolary novel by 18th-century French writer Choderlos de Laclos.
WHO This Sydney Theatre Company production features Pamela Rabe and Hugo Weaving (pictured) as the Vicomte de Valmont. Rabe is the Vicomte’s partner-in-crime, the Marquise de Merteuil. Director Sam Strong’s mission? To “acid-wash” the play of the residue of all previous productions and the enduring influence of the film starring John Malkovich and Glenn Close.
WHY Interviewed in 1987, Weaving told the Herald, ”If I was 40, I would be doing it twice as well.” Now he’s 51. He should be at least a third as good again.
WHEN & WHERE From March 31, Sydney Theatre Company Wharf 1.
FINALLY: THE SYDNEY FESTIVAL FAVOURITES
Artistic director Lindy Hume’s Sydney Festival is as widespread geographically as it is artistically, with a new performance hub in Parramatta, complete with its own Speigeltent and stand-alone programming. Don’t miss the Czech pub circus La Putyka (Riverside Theatres, January 13-18), the great central Australian desert singer-songwriter Frank Yamma (January 15) or the Parra Opening Party (January 14) with Notting Hill Carnival DJ Norman Jay playing good-time soul and funk atop a double-decker bus.
The Seymour Centre and nearby Carriageworks host diverse and adventurous programming across the three weeks. Radio Muezzin (Seymour Centre, January 16-21) brings four Egyptian muezzins (men who lead the call to prayer) to the stage. L’Effet de Serge (Seymour, January 8-11) promises whimsy on a domestic scale as the eccentric Serge stages his low-tech micro-spectaculars.
The Seymour Centre also plays host to the National Theatre of Scotland’s boxing-themed Beautiful Burnout, (for more boxing – but with a local flavour – check out I’m Your Man, Belvoir Street Theatre, January 12-February 5). Carriageworks, meanwhile, becomes the hub for a celebration of indigenous art, politics and society, kicking off with the Black Capital Family & Culture Day (January 8) and the theatre-dance fusion work I Am Eora (January 8-14).
The festival’s theatrical highlight could well be British company Cheek By Jowl’s modern dress production of ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore (Sydney Theatre at Walsh Bay, January 17-21). According to British reviews, director Edward Dick brings the Jacobean horrors of the piece uncomfortably close to home (as does The Hayloft Project’s Thyestes, playing at Carriageworks, January 15-February 19). We can expect similar intensity in the intimate Griffin Theatre production of landmark Australian drama The Boys (SBW Stables Theatre, January 6-March 3).
Dance lovers are particularly well serviced this year. Chunky Move’s Assembly, devised with music director Richard Gill (City Recital Hall, January 11-14), explores the enigmatic motion of crowds with more than 60 performers on stage. At the other end of the scale is choreographer Martin del Amo’s Anatomy of an Afternoon (Sydney Opera House, January 9-16), a reimagining of Nijinsky’s ballet The Afternoon of a Faun, danced solo by Paul White. Kate Champion’s dance-theatre work Never Did Me Any Harm(Sydney Theatre Company Wharf 1 and 2, January 6-February 12) ponders the pressures of parenting in voice and movement, while the brilliant street ballet devised by Jerome Robbins for the movie West Side Story comes to life on the big screen with Leonard Bernstein’s score played live by the Sydney Symphony (Sydney Opera House, January 27-28).