Sydney Theatre Company Artistic Director Kip Williams has unveiled his 2020 season – a year brimming with fantastic writing, electric performances and beautiful designs. The season will consist of 12 plays performed over four venues – the Roslyn Packer Theatre in Walsh Bay, the Drama Theatre and Playhouse Theatre at the Sydney Opera House, and Riverside Theatre in Parramatta.
“They say our personal memory of history only extends as far back as our grandparents, that this is why humanity repeats its mistakes,” said Williams. “But theatre holds its memory in text – reminding us of what we might otherwise forget.”
“In 2020, we put this to the test by reflecting on the past through the lens of the present. What does the middle of the twentieth century tell us about our world today? What did we know then that we have since forgotten? What hasn’t changed? How have we grown?”
The Deep Blue Sea
Roslyn Packer Theatre: 4 February – 7 March
It’s 1952 in post-Blitz London and Hester Collyer’s life is in turmoil. She has gambled everything – her home, her status, her marriage to a High Court judge – to pursue a life with the dashing RAF fighter pilot Freddie, and she has lost. Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, the deep blue sea suddenly looks very inviting. But Hester is determined to forge her own path in a repressive age. Terence Rattigan was one of the great stage and screen writers of the twentieth century and The Deep Blue Sea one of his master works. In Hester, he has created one of the most striking heroines of his era: strong-willed, unconventional and complex. After an almost decade-long absence from the STC stage, Marta Dusseldorp returns as Hester. She’s joined by Fayssal Bazzi (Mary Stuart) as the feckless Freddie, Brandon McClelland (Saint Joan) and iconic performer Paul Capsis. Helmed by Associate Director Paige Rattray, The Deep Blue Sea is a beautiful, humanist drama about loss, longing, and having the courage to want more.
No Pay? No Way!
Drama Theatre – Sydney Opera House: 10 February – 20 March
Riverside Theatres, Parramatta: 1 – 4 April
Prices are out of control – and so is Antonia. Riled by the rising cost of living, she agitates a riot in the local supermarket with an army of unruly housewives, leaving the place gutted. What follows is a wild and unpredictable caper, as Antonia and her friend Margherita attempt to outsmart the police, hoodwink their husbands, and ‘liberate’ more loot. This is high-wire farce. No Pay? No Way! (sometimes known as Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!) was written by Italian father of farce and Nobel laureate Dario Fo in 1974 and its ever-resonant themes of rising corporate greed, wage stagnation and the thrills of sticking it to the man have seen it staged around the world ever since. Sydney Theatre Company’s whip-smart new adaptation comes from the pen of Marieke Hardy, one of ABC TV’s great comic forces, and features the incomparable talents of Helen Thomson (Mary Stuart) as Antonia. Brought to life by director Sarah Giles (Accidental Death of an Anarchist) with a cast of Catherine V?n-Davies (Going Down), Glenn Hazeldine (Così), Rahel Romahn (Lord of the Flies) and Aaron Tsindos (Muriel’s Wedding the Musical), No Pay? No Way! is an irreverent and hilarious comedy with a glint in its eye.
Home, I’m Darling
Drama Theatre – Sydney Opera House: 6 April – 16 May
Judy is a picture-perfect ‘50s housewife. She spends her days making the perfect devilled eggs, mixing the perfect Screwdrivers and being the perfect homemaker to her husband Johnny. They’re totally happy with their pastel-hued life. The only problem is, it’s not the 1950s, it’s now, and their dream world is about to come crashing down in hilarious style. Fresh from winning the 2019 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy, Home, I’m Darling is full of big laughs, big skirts and big questions. How can we cope with the pressures of modern life? What do we lose in the present when we pine for the past? And can you get stains out of a shirt with just lemon juice and baking soda? Helmed by Resident Director Jessica Arthur (Lethal Indifference) and featuring Andrea Demetriades (Arms and the Man), this witty, highly-original and thought-provoking comedy takes a look at the complexity of women’s choices and the dangers of nostalgia through distinctly rose-coloured glasses.
The Playhouse – Sydney Opera House: 30 April – 23 May
Scotty is living the dream. A successful Wall Street banker, he has just bought a Tribeca loft for a cool three million and is about to marry his beautiful and loaded girlfriend Kymberley. But Scotty has a secret that will outrage both his conservative mother Deb and progressive sister Claire: his ongoing affair with charismatic trans drag performer Dexie. This is an hysterically funny love story, but not for the faint-hearted. NYC-based, two-time Griffin Award winner Glace Chase is both the writer and star of Triple X, a deep dive into hypocrisy, self-deception, and the unknowable contours of attraction. Directed by Sydney Theatre Company’s Associate Director Paige Rattray (Black is the New White), it’s brilliantly comic, wildly provocative and ultimately moving. Also featuring Josh McConville (Cloud Nine), Contessa Treffone (The Harp in the South) and Christen O’Leary, Triple X is a tender and wickedly funny look at social taboos and love out of bounds.
The 7 Stages of Grieving
Roslyn Packer Theatre: 30 May – 13 June
The 7 Stages of Grieving is a vibrant, funny and insightful account of what it means to be an Aboriginal woman in contemporary Australia. On its premiere in 1995, it became an early triumph for Deborah Mailman and Wesley Enoch, and a beloved classic of Australian theatre. Twenty-five years later, in an updated and vivid new production, it’s as urgent and vital as ever. A woman stands alone on stage. Over one gripping hour, she traces seven phases of Aboriginal history – Dreaming, Invasion, Genocide, Protection, Assimilation, Self-Determination, and Reconciliation. Mailman and Enoch’s script is a potent expression of resilience and survival, as well as humour, joy and strength. It’s an ode to the power of storytelling. Making her directorial debut is Shari Sebbens, Sydney Theatre Company’s current Richard Wherrett fellow, with Helpmann Award-winner Elaine Crombie (Barbara and the Camp Dogs) tackling this performance tour de force with customary vivacity. The 7 Stages of Grieving’s generosity of spirit is set to be embraced by a whole new generation.
Roslyn Packer Theatre: 20 June – 11 July
A young writer confronts a director in an empty theatre. In a bristling exchange about his work, the director attempts to disarm her. He flirts. He patronises. He even offers her a job. She stares him down. She wants to do things her way; she wants the world to change shape. And without warning it does, revealing stories nested within stories like Russian dolls, each more brilliant and daring than the last. A play that fractures form and structure, The Writer takes aim at the business of making art – the compromises it demands, the people it chews up, and the endless ways patriarchal power can infect. Ella Hickson is one of the UK’s most exciting young playwrights and The Writer, which premiered at London’s Almeida Theatre in 2018, has been hailed as “momentous” (Broadway World), “riveting” (The Guardian UK) and “very punk rock” (Time Out London), exploding the very nature of what theatre can be. Directed by Resident Director Jessica Arthur, the ensemble cast features Emily Barclay (Lethal Indifference), Heath Ledger Award-winner Charmaine Bingwa and Toby Schmitz (The Present). It’s furious, raw and edge-of-seat compelling.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Roslyn Packer Theatre: 21 July – 15 August
Oscar Wilde’s century-old moral fable, packed with witticisms, is as devilishly wicked today as on its debut. Seeing himself in a dazzling new portrait, an exquisite young man makes a Faustian wish for eternal youth. Dorian Gray throws himself into a life of wanton luxury drifting from the pampered salons of Victorian London to the darkest recesses of the capital, and revelling in the splendour of his beauty which remains forever golden. Meanwhile, the portrait – banished to an attic – becomes more and more grotesque. This new interpretation of Wilde’s only novel is adapted and directed by Artistic Director Kip Williams. Collaborating once again with Eryn Jean Norvill (Suddenly Last Summer, Romeo and Juliet), Williams’ reimagining will see Norvill performing every role in the story in an audacious cascade of theatrical transformations. The inventive use of live video that made Suddenly Last Summer and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui so visually compelling will capture and amplify every move.
Roslyn Packer Theatre: 29 August – 2 October
After smash-hit seasons on Broadway and in London, Fun Home comes to Sydney in a soaring brand-new production. Winner of three Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Original Score, and a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Fun Home has been hailed as a “beautiful, heartbreaker of a musical” (New York Times) and “one of the best new musicals of our era” (LA Times). Based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, it’s a heartfelt story about coming out and coming of age. After the unexpected death of her father, Alison is forced to confront his secrets that come to light. Shifting between past and present, we meet present-day Alison, a successful graphic novelist; college-age Alison on the cusp of self-discovery; and precocious-child Alison, who plays in coffins instead of sandboxes in the family’s Bechdel Funeral Home. Four-time Gold Logie Award winner Lisa McCune and Maggie McKenna (Muriel’s Wedding the Musical) join an exceptional ensemble including Ryan Gonzalez (Jersey Boys), Lucy Maunder (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical), Adam Murphy (Aladdin) and Chloe Zuel (West Side Story). Directed by Melbourne Theatre Company’s Associate Director, Dean Bryant, Fun Home has laughs, drama and great tunes in spades. Don’t miss this chance to see one of the hottest musicals to come out of the US in a decade!
Drama Theatre – Sydney Opera House: 7 September – 17 October
Wonnangatta Station, 1918. Two men arrive at a dark and empty farmhouse looking for the manager, their friend Jim Barclay. No one’s heard from him for more than a month. Something’s amiss. Then a grim discovery sets the men off on a journey across the harsh Australian terrain, looking for answers, maybe for revenge. Angus Cerini’s multi-award-winning The Bleeding Tree was a sensation on its premiere at Griffin Theatre and again when remounted by STC at The Wharf. In Wonnangatta, Cerini’s dark lyricism explores the Australian landscape – geographic and psychological – in a hard-driving yet poetic celebration of language and story. Who better than theatrical powerhouses Hugo Weaving and Wayne Blair to bring these words to life in an exciting world premiere production directed by Resident Director Jessica Arthur? This Australian gothic fable will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The Wharf Revue 2020: Good Night and Good Luck
Roslyn Packer Theatre: 21 October – 28 November
After 20 years the comedy institution bids farewell. Don’t miss out on this one last hurrah as the indefatigable trio of Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott reunite with dazzling accomplice Mandy Bishop for one final victory lap of The Wharf Revue. It’s good night and good luck to the comedy juggernaut that’s been keeping the bastards honest since 2000. The bad news is that the planet is on fire and our world leaders are barely qualified to run a chook raffle. And the good? The Wharf Revue has fake news, fake hair and real laughs in abundance. No one is safe and no topic too taboo in this night of sketches, songs and side-splitting satire. You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! You’ll want to move to New Zealand!
Rules For Living
Drama Theatre – Sydney Opera House: 26 October – 12 December
Meet the family. Edith is a highly-strung matriarch who prepares for lunch like it’s a military offensive. Youngest son Matthew, a frustrated actor and reluctant lawyer, longs for a different career … and for his brother’s wife. But Sheena, peeved and prickling for an argument, longs only for a drink. It’s Christmas – what could possibly go wrong? Sam Holcroft’s audacious script cranks the familial tension up to 11 using narrative tricks that clue the audience into a joke of which the hapless characters are unaware. Frenetically funny, Rules for Living is about all those expectations and roles that life sets upon us – and the tics and twitches that betray us when we struggle to shake them off. Susanna Dowling makes her STC directorial debut with a brilliant ensemble cast including Heather Mitchell (The Harp in the South) and Michelle Lim Davidson (Banging Denmark). Timed for the silly season, Rules For Living is the most deliciously dysfunctional Christmas lunch you’ll ever attend.
A View from the Bridge
Roslyn Packer Theatre: 8 December – 16 January
Rose Byrne returns to STC in A View from the Bridge, a play that, by her own account, is one that changed her life and sparked a lifelong love affair with theatre. Appearing alongside her is Emmy Award-winner Bobby Cannavale, her real-life partner and one of the US’s most respected screen and stage actors. Rose plays Beatrice who, together with her husband Eddie, has forged a family with her orphaned niece Catherine on the tough streets of the Brooklyn waterfront. When Beatrice’s cousins, Marco and Rodolpho, arrive from Sicily, desperate for a better life, she takes them in without hesitation. But as Catherine falls for Rodolpho, jealousy and desire boil over in an uncontrollable and devastating sequence of events. After 2016’s lauded production of All My Sons, Kip Williams returns to Arthur Miller with an arresting new production. Exploding the tensions between honour, duty and desire, this enduring 1956 classic by one of the twentieth century’s great dramatists strikes at the heart of the American dream.
For existing season ticket holders, tickets go on sale on Tuesday 10 September. For new season ticket holders, tickets go on sale on Friday 4 October. For more information, visit: www.sydneytheatre.com.au for details.
Image: Sydney Theatre Company 2020 Season (supplied)