Featuring an audacious new commission from South Australian playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer and the Australian premiere of an international hit, the season invites audiences to reflect on the power of community and the possibility of positive change.
Artistic Director Mitchell Butel says the 2021 season examines who we were, who we are and who we hope to be. “Those questions are at the heart of the work we’re presenting in 2021 – explorations of community, class, conflict and even our planet’s history and future,” he says.
“This year made us confront new paradigms about how we live, work and love. The work we offer in 2021 won’t have all the answers but it will crack open those conversations in a dynamite fashion,” says Butel.
Opening the season is the world premiere of The Boy Who Talked To Dogs – based on the true story of Byron Bay’s ‘Dog Man’ Martin McKenna. A co-production with Slingsby for Adelaide Festival, Irish playwright Amy Conroy takes McKenna’s extraordinary childhood story of his time living with a pack of stray dogs in the city of Limerick and weaves it with shadow puppetry, raucous Irish music and physical performance under the direction of Andy Packer.
Starring acclaimed actor Bryan Burroughs as McKenna and taking place at Thomas Edmonds Opera Studio at the Adelaide Showground, the story that has featured in news programs over the years unfolds for the first time on stage in what is sure to be a magical experience for audiences of all ages.
The Gospel According to Paul, originally programmed for the 2020 season, descends at Dunstan Playhouse in April following hit seasons across the country. Jonathan Biggins’ ode to Paul Keating hilariously skewers both sides of politics and chronicles the former Prime Minister’s professional achievements and personal obsessions through a mix of song and story, all delivered with the signature wit and eccentricities of the controversial political giant.
The bittersweet new play by Adelaide playwright Emily Steel, Euphoria will finally have its world premiere at the Chaffey Theatre in Renmark before heading to the Space Theatre for two weeks in May. Originally programmed for 2020, the two-hander then commences an extensive tour to regional South Australia, including Burra, Tanunda and Whyalla.
Commissioned and developed by Country Arts SA, Euphoria is a tender and wry examination of the challenges faced, and joys experienced, by thousands of people in regional SA, informed by conversations between Steel (Decameron 2.0, 19 Weeks, Rabbits) and residents themselves. Under the direction of Nescha Jelk (Jasper Jones, Terrestrial), actors James Smith (Jasper Jones, Vale) and Ashton Malcolm (Rumpelstiltskin) bring an entire town to life in an intimate town meeting-style setting from designer Meg Wilson.
Elena Carapetis returns to the Company (and the Royalty Theatre) in June to direct The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race, starring Susie Youssef (The Project, Have You Been Paying Attention, Home I’m Darling, Rosehaven) in her STCSA debut. With a tone reminiscent of classic Australian sitcoms, Tait’s play centres on a woman named Penny who returns to her childhood home just in time for the town’s famous Potato Race.
When she learns the women’s prize is $200 compared to the men’s $1000, she sets out to right this wrong – but not without jumping a few hurdles of her own. Inspired by real events, the hit comedy by ABC journalist-turned playwright Melanie Tait brings together a cast of SA greats, including Genevieve Mooy, Carmel Johnson (Ripcord) and Anna Steen (The 39 Steps) as Penny.
Supported by STCSA’s Dramatic Women – a donor collective that has been supporting female-driven works for more than 15 years, The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race is a big-hearted tale about women getting loud and making waves in a town resistant to change.
Deborah Mailman and Wesley Enoch’s landmark work, The 7 Stages of Grieving, comes to the Space Theatre in July following its 2020 cancellation. Starring Helpmann Award-winner Elaine Crombie and directed by Shari Sebbens (The Sapphires, Black Is The New White), the 1995 classic play traces stories of love, loss and survival to create a portrait of the First Nations experience in contemporary Australia. The modern masterpiece comes to Adelaide via Sydney Theatre Company with a stunning update 26 years after its premiere.
In August comes the world premiere of Hibernation – a boldly ambitious large-scale work with themes eerily parallel to the 2020 lockdown. Written pre-pandemic by Finegan Kruckemeyer and playing at the Dunstan Playhouse, Hibernation takes audiences from South Australia to Africa and the United States as the world’s 8.5 billion inhabitants hibernate for a year to save the planet. Starring Kialea-Nadine Williams, Ezra Juanta, Rashidi Edward and Mark Saturno under the direction of Mitchell Butel, Hibernation tackles the notions of humanity’s relationship to nature and climate change action in a brave, unexpected and peculiarly Australian way.
Acclaimed director Margaret Harvey reinterrogates Edward Albee’s masterwork Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? through a dynamic new Australian lens in September. Harvey, known for her starring role in Wesley Enoch’s 2005 production Black Medea and the TV show RAN: Remote Area Nurse, makes her State Theatre Company South Australia directing debut to bring the almost 60-year-old piece storming into 2021.
Closing the season is Jonathan Spector’s outrageous zeitgeist comedy Eureka Day – a pathos-filled piece that uses the vaccination debate as a springboard for big questions about the greater good. An examination of cancel culture, social media, and the individual vs society, Eureka Day’s Australian premiere also marks the Company debut of actors Juanita Navas-Nguyen and Sara Zwangobani. Former Artistic Director Rosalba Clemente returns to the Company to direct what may just be the most topical, scintillating and scandalous play of the year.
State Theatre Company’s Stateside program also returns in 2021. Brink Productions’ The Bridge of San Luis Rey – starring Paul Capsis with musical director Slava and Leonard Grigoryan, premieres at Adelaide Guitar Festival in July after its 2020 postponement, while Gaslight director Catherine Fitzgerald returns in November with Dry – a dystopian western inspired by the desert town of Port Augusta. Both companies receive production, marketing and administrative support as part of the program.
“After a challenging six months of lockdown, the tremendous success of our production Gaslight and excitement surrounding the upcoming Ripcord has reminded us that gathering together is a fundamental human need,” says Butel.
“So is sharing stories. We’re happy that we can return in 2021 with works that will explode off the stage and make audiences re-think and recharge, all while being challenging, provoking and entertaining. We’re back.”
Subscriptions to State Theatre Company South Australia’s 2021 season are now available. For more information, visit: www.statetheatrecompany.com.au for details.
Image: 2021 Season (supplied)