Intimate love stories; an epic tale of female rebellion; confronting examinations of sexuality and obsession; the satirical dissection of Hollywood double-standards, rock-stardom and small-town politics, Sydney’s New Theatre has announced its 2017 season.
“We’re presenting seven extraordinary plays spanning comedy and drama, contemporary and classic, revivals and premieres, examining the many ways in which people deal with secrets and lies,” says Artistic Director Louise Fischer. “These plays will present creative teams and actors with enormous challenges and exciting opportunities and audiences with some of the best theatrical writing around.”
New Theatre kicks off the year with Douglas Carter Beane’s The Little Dog Laughed for Mardi Gras, followed by the Australian premiere of Consensual by Canadian-British writer Evan Placey, long-overdue revivals of classics from Australia (The Chapel Perilous by Dorothy Hewett) and England (After The Dance by Terence Rattigan).
The season also includes Sydney premieres of The Clean House by American playwright Sarah Ruhl (In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play) and Birdland by acclaimed UK writer Simon Stephens (Punk Rock), with the comic shenanigans of Jonathan Biggins’ Australia Day rounding out the year.
“We’re fulfilling our brief to give both emerging and established artists – actors, directors, designers and technical crew – the chance to display their work, stretch their skills and have their talents seen and appreciated, priding ourselves on being a stepping-stone to working on the broader independent scene and the professional stages of Sydney,” says Fischer.
The directorial team for 2017 includes four women: Artistic Director Louise Fisher (House of Games, Mother Clap’s Molly House, Harvest, Enron), Fiona Hallenan-Barker (Piranha Heights), Alice Livingstone (The Heidi Chronicles, The Real Thing, Privates on Parade, Top Girls) and new NIDA MFA in Directing graduate Carissa Licciardello.
New Theatre welcomes back Johann Walraven (The Chekhov Term), Giles Gartrell-Mills (Sweeney Todd) and one of Sydney’s finest, Anthony Skuse (Julius Caesar, Medea) who is a bit of a Simon Stephens specialist, having previously directed Punk Rock and On The Shore of the Wide World. With something for everyone and all ages, it’s going to be a stellar year!
The Little Dog Laughed
7 February – 4 March 2017
Douglas Carter Beane’s tale of sexual ambiguity and immoral values, this modern comedy of manners is both a scathing attack on Hollywood stereotypes and double standards and a bitingly funny yet moving portrayal of people yearning to connect. Mitchell is an actor, a rising star and firmly in the closet. Diane is his wildly ambitious, take-no-prisoners agent and awards-night beard. Alex and his girlfriend Ellen are two young hustlers on the make.
Late one night, on a business trip to New York, Mitch calls for a rent boy and Alex turns up. Two worlds and four lives collide. Within days, Mitch is declaring he’s in love and planning to ‘come out’ while Diane is desperately trying to prevent him committing what she sees as career suicide. Presented in association with the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras – directed by Alice Livingstone.
14 March – 15 April 2017
An explosive and thought-provoking play from one of Britain’s most exciting new voices, Evan Placey – exploring what happens when buried secrets catch up with you. As Head of Year 11, Diane is meant to be implementing the new ‘Healthy Relationships’ curriculum. She’s responsible for guiding these impressionable teenagers through the minefield that is ‘sex education’.
Then Freddie arrives. She hasn’t seen him since that night six years earlier when he was fifteen. She thinks he took advantage of her. He thinks that she groomed him for months. Neither is sure. But when it comes to sex and consent, how far can you blur the lines? Australian Premiere – directed by Johann Walraven.
The Chapel Perilous
25 April – 27 May 2017
Dorothy Hewett’s iconic masterpiece of Australian theatre charts the painful and sometimes farcical life of a defiant young poet, Sally Banner, as she searches for love, sex, adoration and artistic freedom. Set against a background of Australia’s changing social and cultural landscape, we follow Sally’s coming-of-age and subsequent brutal disillusionment as a communist, feminist, bohemian, wife, mother and writer.
At the heart of the play is Sally’s journey from rebellious schoolgirl to independent adult, whilst battling the conservative forces that want to stifle her ambitions. Hewett’s semi-autobiographical play is an exhilarating mix of poetry, vaudeville, musical theatre and panoramic social realism: ground-breaking, gutsy, confronting and hugely entertaining. Directed by Carissa Licciardello.
The Clean House
6 June – 8 July
Lane values order in every aspect of her life. Her live-in maid Matilde hates cleaning and yearns to be a stand-up comedian. Lane’s depressed sister Virginia finds solace in cleaning and secretly takes over Matilde’s duties. When Lane’s husband, a surgeon, falls in love with a terminally-ill patient, everything that was clean and tidy for Lane – her house, her emotions, her relationships – is thrown into disarray, and Matilde must come to her rescue.
Blending magic-realism and oddball humour with wisdom and compassion, Sarah Ruhl’s romantic comedy about sex, death and dusting proves that the best things in life are infinitely worth waiting for and that shared laughter can heal almost anything. Ultimately it is a celebration of the solidarity, practicality and emotional resilience of women. Sydney Premiere – directed by Fiona Hallenan-Barker.
After the Dance
8 August – 9 September 2017
David Scott-Fowler is a would-be historian, suffering writer’s block and mired in an alcoholic haze, his self-destructive lifestyle ruining his marriage. When he falls into a relationship with the much-younger Helen, an idealist who is determined to ‘save’ him, events take on a tragic turn.
A searing study of a lost generation, Terence Rattigan’s play, written in 1939, investigates the young people who survived World War One, lived life to the full in the hedonistic 1920s, only to find themselves in middle-age, disillusioned and on the brink of another war. Directed by Giles Gartrell-Mills.
3 October – 4 November 2017
Paul is a rock god. Everybody knows his face, his name. He can have whatever he wants. He can fuck whoever he wants. Buy anything. Eat anything. Drink anything. Smoke anything. Go anywhere. But as his latest European tour grinds to its end, the mega-fame and limitless money that go hand-in-hand with rock stardom are messing with his head, the pressure is starting to get to him and Paul is set to implode at any moment.
From the award-winning author of Punk Rock and the stage adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, New Theatre presents the Sydney premiere of Simon Stephens’ Birdland – a sexy and revealing exploration of fame and celebrity. Directed by Anthony Skuse.
14 November – 16 December 2017
In the fictional NSW town of Coriole, preparations are underway for the annual Australia Day celebrations and the organising committee are hashing out the details amidst disagreements over politics, patriotism and progress. Whether it’s angst over a new development, the best snags to serve at a multicultural barbie, or the looming spectre of racism, throughout runs the theme of self-censorship: at what point do you abandon the politically-correct stance and say what you really think.
Jonathan Biggins (The Wharf Revue) is one of Australia’s sharpest satirists and he zooms in on the dynamics of small-town society with ruthless verve and an unerring eye and ear for the humour embedded in everyday life. Directed by Louise Fischer.
Tickets are now on sale for all shows. For more information, visit: www.newtheatre.org.au for details.
Image: New Theatre’s shows for 2017