Sydney Theatre Company has announced its current plans for the remainder of the 2020 season including a return to the stage with a COVIDSafe, socially distanced season of Angus Cerini’s Wonnangatta starring Wayne Blair and Hugo Weaving at the Roslyn Packer Theatre from 21 September 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all Sydney Theatre Company shows and ticket holders, with all theatres dark since March. It is currently the intention to stage Rules for Living and The Picture of Dorian Gray later in 2020.
The previously scheduled farewell season of The Wharf Revue 2020 and A View from the Bridge are cancelled and it is anticipated that they will be rescheduled into 2021. Further updates for each show will be announced in due course.
“It’s thrilling for us to be returning to the stage following what has been the longest period of closure in the company’s history,” said Artistic Director, Kip Williams. “The past 5 months have been extremely challenging for STC and our industry. I’m so excited to have our artists, crews and production departments back doing what they do best: making theatre.”
“Wonnangatta is the perfect piece of theatre for us to return with – a phenomenal new Australian play by Angus Cerini featuring two of our greatest actors, Wayne Blair and Hugo Weaving, and directed by one of our country’s most exciting young talents, our Resident Director Jessica Arthur. Audiences are in for a treat.”
Directed by STC’s Resident Director Jessica Arthur, Wonnangatta commenced rehearsals last week under strict COVID safety measures. The season was initially programmed in the Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, however the current NSW Government “one person per four square metre” rule greatly reduces the number of seats that can be sold.
For this reason the show will instead be performed at Roslyn Packer Theatre from 21 September – 31 October and in order to comply with current government social distancing requirements, the capacity of the auditorium has been reduced from 880 seats per night to an audience of 147.
Current ticket holders who wish to attend the socially-distanced performances will be invited to book into the Roslyn Packer Theatre season on a priority basis and those who are not ready to come back to the theatre will be offered the opportunity to retain a credit voucher (valid for three years), receive a refund or donate the value of the ticket back to the company.
“While the theatre industry has consistently maintained that the economics of socially distanced theatre do not stack up, in the case of Wonnangatta we have weighed the pluses and minuses and decided to continue,” said Executive Director, Patrick McIntyre. “The show already has very strong pre-sales and a relatively modest weekly running budget.”
“We think proceeding under the four square metre rule and within the parameters of our overall COVIDsafe planning will provide some useful lessons for the company – and I’m sure many people will be curious to come to the show and lean into this unprecedented cultural moment with us. But unfortunately this isn’t a solution for all the remaining shows in 2020 – and certainly we could not contemplate planning a new season under these restrictions.”
For those returning to the theatre, a range of stringent new health and safety measures will be implemented to keep the audience, artists and staff safe and comfortable, including: mandatory masks for audience members and staff, increased cleaning of public spaces, upgraded air conditioning, hand sanitiser stations and processes to reduce congestion in foyer areas.
Image: Hugo Weaving, Jessica Arthur, Kip Williams and Wayne Blair – photo by Prudence Upton