September 24, 2011
Christopher Hamilton’s adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses and the Dylan Thomas classic Under Milk Wood will provide the centrepiece of Sydney Theatre Company’s 2012 season.
Revolutionary France and the Welsh seaside aside, next year’s program will span the West Australian outback in Tim Winton’s Signs Of Life and a fictional Aussie town in Jonathan Biggins’ Australian Day.
Both are part of the biggest commission of homegrown theatre by Sydney Theatre Company under the three-year artistic directorship of Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton, the pair announced on Thursday.
Eleven new main stage works have been created as the company seeks to broaden in 2012, including several international and local collaborations.
George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, currently being updated by director Peter Evans, is a rare classic but even its selection comes with risks.
“Bernard Shaw has become unfashionable so we’re excited to have another look at him,” says Upton.
Noting how Pygmalion has inspired the likes of My Fair Lady and Pretty Woman, Blanchett agrees.
“We wanted to blow the dust off it because when you look at what the play is you realise there’s so much there that is still relevant and enticing,” she says.
“It’s very funny.”
Romantic comedy has come to the fore. Midsummer (A Play With Songs), the story of a one night stand turned criminal splurge, comes fresh from the Edinburgh Festival where Scottish writer David Greig set the play.
Sex With Strangers by American author Laura Eason is an inter-generational look at sex and relationships over the internet. The contemporary tragi-comedy has won rave reviews since it premiered at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre earlier this year.
Biggins will back up his annual satire session The Wharf Review with a play of his own, Australia Day, which examines the essence of the national holiday from the point of view of a politically divided council committee. It boasts a stellar cast including Geoff Morrell and Alison Whyte.
On a darker note comes the psychologically challenging Face To Face, an adaptation of the obscure Ingmar Bergman film by Upton and Simon Stone. Another Australian production is The Splinter, in which Hilary Bell explores the subject of child abduction through the use of puppetry.
The tense thriller, inspired by the Henry James novel The Turn Of The Screw, is one of the works that Blanchett is most looking forward to – almost as exciting as next year’s calibre of actors.
Throughout all 11 plays, also including Never Did Me Any Harm by Force Majeure and The Histrionic (Der Theatermacher) by Thomas Bernhard, runs the theme of relationships and how they transform.
“It became a point of departure for us in talking about choosing the plays,” says Upton.
“That idea of relationships and people changing through a relationship, they became conversations we had in the program and I think that echoes throughout (the season).”
Hugo Weaving and Pamela Rabe will play the lead roles in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, their characters the Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Marteuil indulging in an elaborate game of revenge, seduction and cruelty from the pen of French novelist Pierre Choderlos De Laclos.
“Les Liaisons was the first big rock which fell in the pond,” says Upton.
“It sent ripples flowing through the rest.”