Reaching beyond boundaries to inspire, challenge and entertain audiences, Artistic Director Lee Lewis has revealed her plans for a big year, announcing the eight plays including two world premieres that form Queensland Theatre’s 2022 Brisbane Season.
“Our 2022 Season boldly crosses all boundaries, altering time and place and transporting us from Brisbane to Paris, Afghanistan, Far North Queensland, Vietnam and Arkansas,” said Lewis.
“It will carry us across the decades, from the 1890s to the 1940s, to 1975 and 2011, and will bring us back to the current moment, reflecting the issues that matter deeply to us now.”
2022 begins with a fresh version of Edward Albee’s masterpiece Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Playhouse, QPAC from 12 February.
“In so many ways, this play really shouldn’t be funny, but it is,” noted Lewis. “Audiences will delight in the caustic, brutal and spectacularly petty antics of the two couples behaving badly in this modern staging under Margaret Harvey’s skilful direction.”
March sees the world premiere of a compelling debut work, First Casualty written by Christopher Johnston, a currently serving member of the Australian Defence Force and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. Set in a remote Afghanistan outpost, First Casualty reaches beyond the headlines of this 20-year war.
“This play is not a pro-war story and it’s not an anti-war story,” Lewis said. “It is simply a story about our soldiers. It offers us a chance to understand what they experienced.”
The Bille Brown Theatre will then become a more tranquil town, the setting for Hannah Belanszky’s don’t ask what the bird look like from 30 April. This gentle, almost gothic tale was a finalist in the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award 2018–19 and now makes its world premiere, directed by Isaac Drandic (City of Gold).
“Hannah’s beautiful play invites audiences to join a search for family, identity and connection, interspersed with some serious games of Scrabble!” said Lewis.
Theresa Rebeck’s Bernhardt/Hamlet at the Bille Brown Theatre from 28 May is a treat for lovers of a big theatrical play, for those who adore luscious costumes, the glamour of Paris and a strong woman taking charge of her destiny.
“This is the perfect play to entice audiences out on a cooler evening to enjoy some grandeur, some romance, some laughs and a dash of Shakespeare — I can’t wait to direct this gorgeous story starring Angie Milliken (Death of a Salesman),” said Lewis.
July at the Playhouse, QPAC sees Wesley Enoch return to Queensland Theatre to direct his acclaimed musical The Sunshine Club, with music by John Rodgers. A ground-breaking work in 1999, The Sunshine Club brought together some of the biggest First Nations talent including Wayne Blair, Elaine Crombie, Roxanne McDonald, David Page, Stephen Page and Ursula Yovich.
“It is a joy to welcome Wesley home to lead the next generation with a glorious revival of his home-grown hit, a story filled with song, dance, love and dreams,” said Lewis.
Kendall Feaver’s The Almighty Sometimes is a powerful and honest family drama about raising a child, their search for independence and the grey areas in mental health care. It will run at the Bille Brown Theatre from 13 August.
“I’m excited to see director Daniel Evans (Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Anymore) find the heart, hope and humour in this captivating multi-award-winning play,” said Lewis.
September sees the much-anticipated Brisbane season of Shakespeare’s Othello adapted by Jimi Bani (My Name is Jimi, Our Town) and Jason Klarwein (My Name Is Jimi, Death of a Salesman) at the Bille Brown Theatre.
This tri-lingual (Kala Lagaw Ya, Yumpla Tok and English) production illuminates the vital role of the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion during World War II and brings together two powerful artistic cultures – Shakespeare and Wagadagam.
“Delayed by Covid, this unstoppable work is utterly compelling and will absolutely be well worth the wait,” said Lewis.
Audiences will then be whisked away from Far North Queensland to America for the wild, road-trip romance of Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone. The story begins at an Arkansas arrival camp for Vietnam War evacuees and sets off through the heartland of the United States.
At the Bille Brown Theatre from 29 October, this irreverent work features Ngoc Phan (Boy Swallows Universe) and is likely to be the only 2022 production to include live hip hop.
“A story that may, or may not, have led to the birth of this astonishing playwright, Qui will take audiences on a wonderful ride to see out our year of big stories,” said Lewis.
“2022 will be about recovering from the last two years,” said Lewis. “If there is anything we have learned in this time, it is that theatre remains vital. It is so essential that we gather together as a community to hear the stories that are important and urgent right now, that will help us imagine our future together.
“And together, we can celebrate the power of a great story, told by talented artists, to change our night, our year, and sometimes, our lives.”
Reflecting on the 2021 Season – which has seen box office records smashed as Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe adapted for the stage by Tim McGarry continues its incredible run at QPAC, as well productions interrupted by COVID-19 lockdowns – Lewis is “absolutely thankful for the support of our government, corporate and philanthropic partners who have believed in our shared vision to ensure the power and the excitement of live theatre is always here for our communities.
“With so many theatres still closed due to the current lockdowns, our hearts go out to our industry friends down the east coast of the country. Everyone at Queensland Theatre feels so grateful to have delighted so many theatre-goers in the last nine months. We hope the new year brings more joy for more audiences across Australia,” said Lewis.
For more information about Queensland Theatre’s 2022 season, visit: www.queenslandtheatre.com.au for details.
Image: Jimi Bani – photo by Justin Ma