Malthouse Theatre reveals 2017 program

MT The Elephant Man photo by Zan WimberleyThe 2017 Malthouse Theatre program is breaking all the rules to present an anarchic and ribald season of five new Australian plays, eight world premieres and a cohort of rebellious international guests.

“Malthouse Theatre aims to spark debate and interrogation with the theatre we create and 2017 will be no different,” said Artistic Director, Matthew Lutton. “The 2017 season presents new productions that revolt against the status quo, invite us to seek out empathy in unexpected places, and celebrate the matriarchy.”

The 2017 season sees the company work with some of Australia’s leading artists including Pamela Rabe, Aaron Pedersen, Paul Capsis, Meow Meow, Kanen Breen, Ursula Yovich, Mark Leonard Winter, Lee Lewis, Declan Greene, Zoe Coombs Marr, Nicola Gunn, Lachlan Philpott and Anouk Van Dijk alongside international artists Adrienne Truscott (US), Ursula Martinez (UK), Kim Noble (UK) Wang Chong (CHN) and Richard Katz (UK).

Following the success of Picnic at Hanging Rock in 2016, director Matthew Lutton and writer Tom Wright, reunite for a new adaptation of The Elephant Man, based on the real life story of Joseph Merrick. Starring Mark Leonard Winter (The Dressmaker, Birdland) as Joseph Merrick, this story has inspired multiple theatrical adaptations and novels as well as a film by David Lynch.

“The story of Joseph Merrick is deeply moving. It is the story of a young man who the world could not imagine a place for, and those who extended their empathy towards him. In a time when we need to be offering more compassion to those perceived as other, Joseph Merrick’s story is moving and urgent,” said Lutton.

Fresh from critically acclaimed performances at the Edinburgh International Festival, The Barbican and on Broadway, renowned UK theatre company Complicite will wire up audiences and plunge them into the humid depths of the Amazon with The Encounter.

“Richard Katz leads his audience into the Amazon using a state of the art ‘3D’ audio system. Every audience member wears a headset, and the experience completely fills you with adrenaline. You will believe you are being transported to the Amazon, and that this epic performance has been tailored specifically for you,” said Lutton.

Under the direction of Anne-Louise Sarks, one of Australia’s most loved screen and theatre actors, Pamela Rabe returns to Malthouse Theatre in Colm Tóibín’s The Testament Of Mary, a provocative depiction of one of the most beloved figures in history. Unrecognisable from the meek, obedient woman of scripture, she is angry, sharp-witted and dares to speak a dangerous truth.

On a ride like no other, Victorian Opera and Malthouse Theatre team up with Meow Meow, Paul Capsis and Kanen Breen for the Australian premiere of Black Rider: The Casting Of The Magic Bullets. Conceived in 1993 by musical genius Tom Waits and gritty beat poet William S. Burroughs, based on a 19th century German ghost story, this version will be a delirious journey through a vivid theatrical landscape that is part musical, part opera and all dance with the devil. A treat for Melbourne audiences, this rarely performed production will be directed by Matthew Lutton.

In an international collaboration between masters of hilarious, political and outrageous comedy, Zoe Coombs Marr (AUS), Ursula Martinez (UK) and Adrienne Truscott (US) are going, well, probably where they really shouldn’t in Wild Bore. Wrestling with the question of how reviewers write about live performance, they launch a sardonic attack on critics that refuse to understand the work they are critiquing.

In a new work from half of queer theatre outlaws Sisters Grimm, playwright Declan Greene (I Am A Miracle, Calpurnia Descending) The Homosexuals, or Faggots will delve into the absurdity of Australian politics, bi-partisan hypocrisy. A co-production with Griffin Theatre, this world premiere will be directed by Griffin Theatre’s artistic director Lee Lewis.

For Asia TOPA, Malthouse Theatre brings together one of Beijing’s most innovative directors Wang Chong and Australian playwright Lachlan Philpott for the world premiere of Little Emperors, a production that explores the struggles faced by children of China’s one child policy. Set in Melbourne and Beijing, and weaving between Mandarin and English, this is the story of a sister, her illegal brother and how a generation of children is shaping the culture of the world’s next superpower.

Recognised as one of Michael Gow’s most powerful works of art, Malthouse Theatre partners with Sydney Theatre Company to present a new production of Away. In a country recovering from the Vietnam War and wrestling with xenophobia, Matthew Lutton directs this extraordinary story about the fragility of human life and the brutal loneliness of grief.

“Michael Gow’s Away is an Australian classic because within it we can see all of our yearnings, loves and failings exposed without sentiment and with extraordinary insight. It is about children who die before their parents, mothers who lead and inspire, and a country wrestling with how to be compassionate to others. Plus, Michael tells the story using an epic and vast
theatrical palette,”said Lutton.

Heart Is A Wasteland from acclaimed Indigenous storytellers John and Margaret Harvey, is a world premiere combining the incredible talents of Ursula Yovich (Australia, The Sapphires) and Aaron Pedersen (Water Rats, Mystery Road, Goldstone). Against a backdrop of a burnt and bruised central Australian landscape, and to the sounds of a lonesome guitar, each portray two achingly beautiful characters, playing out a whiskey-fuelled battle of the egos.

Following a brief season in 2015, Melbourne audiences will have another chance to witness the eccentric world of Nicola Gunn in Piece For Person and Ghetto Blaster. Choreographed by Jo Lloyd, this is the story of a man, a woman and a duck. Inspired by Gunn’s own moral quandary, she explores the ethical dilemma of intervention – how far would you be willing to engage in conflict in order to change things for the better?

A hypnotic, bleak but funny and sometimes disturbing look at loneliness is the latest offering by UK artist, comedian and documentary theatre maker Kim Noble. You’re Not Alone is black comedy at its finest, using narration and video to take audiences through a series of hilarious and often excruciating social experiments.

Like a shot of adrenaline delivered straight into the arm, the Australian premiere of Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. by UK playwright Alice Birch is high octane feminist theatre, which captures the fury of modern women. Under the direction of Janice Muller and featuring Elizabeth Esguerra, Ming-Zhu Hii and Belinda McClory, this will be an assault on language and a volatile exploration of womanhood in the 21st century.

The world premiere of ANTI GRAVITY unites the highly physical choreography of Chunky Move’s artistic director Anouk van Dijk and the meticulous aesthetic of visual artist Ho Tzu Nyen. Performed by six dancers in various states of control and abandon, these gravity-bound bodies encounter the ephemeral, ever-changing cloud as they transform from heavenly creatures to terrestrial warriors.

Taking over the Malthouse forecourt, the season will also feature Caravan Of Love. An extra event written by Patricia Cornelius, Melissa Reeves, Angus Cerini and Wayne Macauley, featuring Susie Dee and Nicci Wilks, Caravan of Love is a darkly comic look at family, the modern world, and the universal need for love.

Of the Season, Lutton said, “We invite Melbournians in 2017 to debate their established views and how they could revolt against the status quo, and offer stories that inspire compassion and empathy amongst the murk of the 21st century.”

2017 Season Pass subscription packages are now on sale. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: The Elephant Man – photo by Zan Wimberley