Acclaimed playwright Michelle Law’s new play Top Coat is set to give the body-swap comedy genre a fresh, hilarious and politically-charged makeover when it premieres at Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf 1 Theatre from 25 June 2022.
Directed by STC’s Directing Associate Courtney Stewart, Top Coat follows the headstrong and determined nail salon worker Winnie (played by Kimie Tsukakoshi – Death of a Salesman) who spends her days buffing the manicures of her demanding, mostly-white clientele including Kate (played by Amber McMahon – Rules for Living).
When a mysterious electrical event means Kate and Winnie wake up in each other’s bodies, all hell breaks loose and both women are forced to see the world, and their places in it, from entirely new angles. Rounding out the cast are John Batchelor (Saint Joan) and Matty Mills and Arisa Yura, both making their STC debut.
Law, the creator of Belvoir’s Single Asian Female and SBS’s Homecoming Queens who is making her STC debut with Top Coat, said the play was inspired by her own experiences existing in a cis Asian woman’s body.
“I’ve always been conscious of how I am perceived by others in certain public spaces, which is often some kind of service role – wait staff, a masseuse, a nail salon worker,” said Law. “Too often, we’re assumed to be a white person’s subordinate.”
She said Top Coat, through a witty and satirical lens, would tap into some of the big conversations being had in the Australian arts landscape about “white supremacy, systemic racism, and representation – both on stage/ on camera and behind the scenes”.
“Who are the folks in leadership positions at organisations who are purportedly focused on ‘diversity’ and rectifying historical exclusion? Are they the right people to be steering the course? And how does representation impact society and the everyday lives of us all?” said Law.
“I hope that audiences will leave the show more conscious than ever that while many of us are excellent at saying the right things to appear politically correct, it takes people actually walking the talk to enact true and meaningful change.”
Director Courtney Stewart has assembled an incredible team, including two members of STC’s inaugural Design Associates Program – James Lew and Kate Baldwin – as Designer and Lighting Designer respectively. Tiffany Wong is Assistant Director, Michael Toisuta is Composer/Sound Designer, Jennifer White is Voice Coach and Nigel Poulton is Fight & Intimacy Director.
Stewart said she was excited that Top Coat was being brought to life by a creative team with inherent understanding of the themes and experiences portrayed, and that the message of the play was incredibly pertinent to Australia in 2022.
“Our ability to connect with each other has been put to the test in the wake of COVID and lockdowns, and while Top Coat is is deeply political in its nature, and very funny, this piece invites us to find our way back to each other and be empathetic to people’s situations,” said Stewart.
Top Coat is Stewart’s mainstage directing debut with STC, and her last before she heads to La Boite Theatre in Queensland after being recently appointed their new Artistic Director. Stewart has a long-standing creative relationship with STC, having become a Resident Artist in 2021 as our Richard Wherrett Fellow.
She has worked on numerous STC productions including as dramaturg on Kate Mulvany’s adaptation of Ruth Park’s Playing Beatie Bow and Artistic Director Kip Williams’ Julius Caesar, as Assistant Director on Disapol Savetsila’s Australian Graffiti and Assistant Director and dramaturg on Anchuli Felicia King’s White Pearl.
Stewart also directed Rough Draft #52 – Omar Musa’s The Pretty Game. She was also a participant in the CAAP Directors Initiative and was an STC Teaching Artist for three years as part of our School Drama program.
Director: Courtney Stewart | Featuring: John Batchelor, Amber McMahon, Matty Mills, Kimie Tsukakoshi, Arisa Yura | Designer: James Lew | Lighting Designer: Kate Baldwin | Composer & Sound Designer: Michael Toisuta | Assistant Director: Tiffany Wong | Voice Coach: Jennifer White | Fight & Intimacy Director: Nigel Poulton | Writer: Michelle Law
Wharf 1 Theatre – Wharf 4/5, 15 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay (Sydney)
Season: 30 June – 6 August 2022 (previews: 25 – 29 June)
Information and Bookings: www.sydneytheatre.com.au
Image: Kimie Tsukakoshi in Top Coat – photo by Rene Vaile