After sell-out seasons around Australia and unanimous critical acclaim, The Secret River, Neil Armfield’s landmark theatrical Sydney Theatre Company production, will make its Adelaide debut at the 2017 Adelaide Festival in an epic new open-air performance staged in the Anstey Hill Quarry, presented in association with State Theatre Company of South Australia.
Based on the international best-selling book by Kate Grenville and adapted for the stage by award-winning Adelaide based playwright Andrew Bovell, The Secret River marks Armfield’s and Rachel Healy’s first year as Artistic Directors of the Festival.
With all-new staging set in the breathtaking natural surrounds of the Anstey Hill Quarry in Tea Tree Gully, this monumental show under the stars will be the first time a major theatrical production has been performed in the quarry since the legendary Mahabharata at the 1988 Adelaide Festival.
Originally produced by Sydney Theatre Company, The Secret River was a sold out smash hit when it premiered in 2013, earning a rare full house standing ovation on its opening night, followed by seasons at the 2013 Perth Festival and the Canberra Centenary celebrations.
It has since won six Helpmann Awards including Best Direction for Armfield, Best New Australian Work and Best Play, and most recently earned rave reviews in encore seasons in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. It makes its Adelaide premiere as a key work of Armfield and Healy’s first Adelaide Festival, and is set to be one of the major highlights of the 2017 program.
Armfield says The Secret River is one of Australia’s most significant stories. “The Secret River addresses the contradiction at the heart of our society. It acknowledges truths that have been hidden for generations but have created the country that we live in today. Wherever we have performed this play, there has been a palpable sense in the audience that ‘at last this story is being told’.”
Based on Grenville’s Man Booker Prize and Miles Franklin nominated novel of the same name, The Secret River tells the story of two families divided by culture and land. William Thornhill arrives in New South Wales a convict from the slums of London.
This new land seems to offer him something of which he hadn’t dared dream: a place to call his own. On the banks of the Hawkesbury River, he plants a crop and lays claim to the soil in which it grows. But the Hawkesbury is already home to a family from the Dharug people; a family whose existence depends on that land. As Thornhill’s attachment to the land deepens, he makes a terrible decision.
State Theatre Company South Australia Executive Director Rob Brookman was the Associate Director and Administrator of the Adelaide Festival when the Mahabharata was staged at Anstey Hill Quarry in 1988, and will once again be part of presenting a landmark theatre event for Adelaide.
“The presentation of Peter Brook’s two seasons in 1980 and 1988 in an abandoned quarry at Anstey Hill were two of the greatest theatre experiences ever seen in Adelaide,” said Mr Brookman. “The combination of great theatre, a natural environment, the spectacular space and brilliant acoustic created by a monumental rock wall and warm summer nights was magical. It is an exceptional production that risks comparison with these experiences but The Secret River is one such exception.”
Director: Neil Armfield Cast includes: Georgia Adamson, Joshua Brennan, Shaka Cook, Nathaniel Dean, Frances Djulibing, Jennifer Hagan, Ningali Lawford-Wolf, Bruce Spence and Matthew Sunderland Artistic Associate: Stephen Page Set Designer: Stephen Curtis Costume Designer: Tess Schofield Lighting Designer: Mark Howett Composer: Iain Grandage Sound Designer: Steve Francis
The Secret River
The Quarry – Anstey Hill Recreation Park, Perseverance Road, Tea Tree Gully
Season: 28 February – 19 March 2017
Information and Bookings: www.adelaidefestival.com.au
Image: Nathaniel Dean and Ningali Lawford-Wolf to feature in The Secret River – photo by Hugh Hartstone