Having recently kicked off their year with You Know We Belong Together, Craig Dalglish takes a look at the diverse and eclectic season of productions Black Swan State Theatre Company has in store for Perth Theatre lovers for the remainder of 2018.
This year Black Swan will deliver three mainstage shows in the Heath Ledger Theatre and a record five shows in the Studio Underground. This includes three world premieres, two co-productions with local companies and four plays written by Australian playwrights.
Following on from the success of Next to Normal and Clinton The Musical the 2018 program will see the return of not one, but two musicals. Sondheim’s Assassins and Xenides – a top dollar musical that peers behind the glitz, the glamour and the fabulous prizes of Australia’s favourite game show, Wheel of Fortune.
In programing the 2018 season artistic director Clare Watson said, “We began by asking the question: What should we be talking about right now, as citizens of the world, as Western Australians, as humans? We wanted the theatre that you see at Black Swan to catalyse and contribute to the big conversations.”
SUMMER OF THE SEVENTEENTH DOLL
Heath Ledger Theatre: 5 – 20 May
Ray Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll is one of the most significant plays in Australian theatre history. Set in 1950’s working class Melbourne, ‘The Doll’ revolves around the events of the seventeenth summer where two mates, on yet another ‘layoff’ season, come back to ‘live it up’ in the city with their girlfriends. However, this summer, things begin to change.
The Doll is the ultimate Sex in the City saga – seething with passion, disappointment and heartbreak, where not even love can protect those who refuse to see the realities of the changing world around them. With ‘FIFO’ and ‘DIDO’ now being a normal part of life for many Australian families, this play is more relevant to our audience than ever before.
Studio Underground: 10 – 27 May
Hir (a gender-neutral pronoun of “his” and “her,” pronounced “here”) is an audacious dive into the dysfunctional-family playpen of American theatre.
A highly intelligent, heartfelt and humorous portrayal of a family in crisis. Isaac returns home after serving a three-year stint in Afghanistan, only to discover his family household in revolt. His father, Arnold, has suffered a stroke rendering him nearly speechless. His mother, Paige, has become a gender studies aficionado. And his younger sister, Max, is now his younger brother. Isaac suddenly finds himself at the centre of a very different kind of war zone.
Taylor Mac’s subversive comedy about a middle-class family in transition is fresh, feisty and emotionally gripping – it’s like ‘The American Dream’ is stuck in the American reality. Darkly comic – like “Roseanne on acid”!
Heath Ledger Theatre: 16 June – 1 July
In a fairground, a rogue’s gallery of nine misfits gather. The Proprietor of the game entices them to play, promising that their problems will be solved by killing a President of the United States, with the song Everybody’s Got the Right. A revue-style portrayal follows of the many and varied ways that each of the men and women have committed (or attempted to commit) the ultimate crime. It is a highly entertaining diorama of America’s cult of celebrity through the ages and the means that some have used to obtain it.
Stephen Sondheim (Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd) is considered a ‘titan of musical theatre’. This work personifies his signature blend of intelligently stunning lyrics and beautiful music, embracing a range of American musical traditions from the 1860s to the 1980s, from marches to spirituals, to folk and rock. Bold, original and alarmingly funny, Assassins is a timely reminder that those in power ignore the marginalised in society at their peril.
Studio Underground: 21 June – 8 July
One of Australia’s most powerful actors, Catherine McClements (Water Rats, Rush), plays Claire, a vicar and leader of a community choir that regularly meet in a local town hall. When a young man enters the hall and opens fire, her beloved community – and the ideals that sustain it – is blown apart.
Set in the wake of the tragedy, a conversation unfolds between Claire and the young man. She is unpacking her rage, her fears and ultimately, her forgiveness. The young man is something else: the voice of the alienated, an enemy within and a lost generation. In an era of uncertainty and inexplicable events, questions are asked and resolutions sought. Could he have been stopped?
Studio Underground: 16 August – 2 September
It’s July 1979. NASA’s Skylab is hurtling towards Earth, about to crash land near Esperance in remote Western Australia. Nev, Jem and the kids have no idea that their world is about to change: reality shifts, conspiracy theories abound and a pink horse appears out of nowhere. The town’s white fellas start behaving strangely too, with apologies for taking black fellas’ land and handing over all money owed.
Dreamtime meets Monkey Magic in this fantastical comedy where things that were once considered impossible, become not only possible, but real. Based on a true story – only the facts have been changed to protect the innocent!
IN THE NEXT ROOM, OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY
Heath Ledger Theatre: 20 October – 4 November
In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play is a sassy play about power and passion. Sarah Ruhl re-imagines the curious chapter in the early history of psychotherapy, when women were treated with a certain mechanical device. And thus began the peculiar history of the vibrator…
Set in the 1880s, just after the advent of electricity, In the Next Room takes place in the adjoining parlour and consulting room of Dr Givings, who specialises in treating “hysteria” in women. Brisk, clinical and efficient in manner, he obsesses on the marvels of technology and what it can do for his patients. Although highly observant, he fails to notice that his wife, Catherine, is feeling neglected. Seeking the companionship of her husband’s patients, she soon begins to discover the truth about what goes on ‘in the next room’.
A fantastically funny and marvellously entertaining bodice ripper about true love and orgasms. Nominated for three Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize, this is a play guaranteed to hit the spot!
Studio Underground: 25 October – 11 November
It’s time to take another spin and revisit Adriana Xenides, the darling of TV Week and glossy magazines, who made a visit into almost every lounge room across Australia. She wore 4000 dresses, turned 200,000 vowels, traversed 500km in killer heels and always beamed that million- dollar smile. Adriana won our hearts, and after 19 years, won a place in The Guinness Book of World Records for being the longest serving game show hostess.
Xenides gives voice to the woman we all knew but who was largely misunderstood and misrepresented. Her story is operatic in scale: rags to riches, the migrant’s journey, the fairytale princess and the tragic icon, who died far too young.
This hotly anticipated new work by Clare Watson and her team of talented collaborators features a wonderful mash-up of ‘80s songs, from TV theme tunes to Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart – alongside an original composition by electronic power-pop group, The Twoks. An energetic Australian musical exposé that is both hilarious and tender, a tribute and a protest.
Subscriptions and tickets are now on sale for all productions. For more information, visit: www.bsstc.com.au for details.
Image: Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, Assassins and In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play – courtesy of Black Swan State Theatre Company