Sydney Theatre Company has announced its 2002 program: a diverse collection including European and American classics, new Australian works, tragedy, comedy and mystery. Maybe mayhem in the real world creates the conditions for expansion in the illusory world of theatre.
Robyn Nevin not only presides over all as Artistic Director, but she also acts - as the fading Southern Belle Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, directed by Jennifer Flowers - and directs: Hanging Man by Andrew Upton, a new study of Australian identity as the three sons of a legendary Australian painter come home for the funeral; and a new adaptation by STC's resident writer Beatrix Christian of A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen.
The choice of Nevin to run STC seems to work in all directions. After a strong showing this year, she announces not only 3 "artform development" productions in the Wharf 2 Blueprints season: Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman's The Seven Stages of Grieving (Aug-Sep), Benjamin Winspear's adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth (May-Jun), and the Australian premiere of David Tushingham's translation of Mr Kolpert by David Gieselmann (Feb); but also 11 mainstage productions, plus the presentation of Theatre de Soleil showing The Flood Drummers by Helene Cixous in the Sydney Festival (Jan); and the construction of a new theatre at Walsh Bay for 2003, with expanded commercial opportunities for the company; and the news that private sector support is growing to the point that in 2002 more funds will come from private sources than from Government for the first time in STC's history.
Even the website (www.sydneytheatre.com.au) is expanding, though chunks of it are still under construction at this stage. But you can now book tickets directly.
Productions are: A Man With Five Children by Nick Enright, a drama starring Steve Bisley (Jan-Feb); The Lady in the Van by British writer Alan Bennett, a poignant comedy starring Ruth Cracknell (Jan-Mar); A Doll's House by Ibsen who wrote "For me it has been a question of human rights ... my task has been the portrayal of human beings", starring Miranda Otto(Mar-Apr); Soulmates by David Williamson, a new comedy in "a world where, highbrow and lowbrow, the prizes of critical acclaim and literary immortality provoke greed, envy and competitive passions", starring Amanda Muggleton (Apr-Jun); the Australian premiere of Copenhagen by British playwright Michael Frayn, a play about loyalty in Nazi-occupied Denmark - to family, country and science's quest for knowledge - starring Colin Friels, John Gaden, Jane Harders (May-Jun).
And for the second half of the year: Volpone by Ben Jonson, the classic comedy of avarice, starring Barry Otto (Jun-Jul); The Virgin Mim, a new play by Tony McNamara commissioned by STC, a "tidal wave of comic mayhem" about a reconstructed virgin (Aug-Sep); Hanging Man by Andrew Upton (Aug-Oct); Life is a Dream by 17th Century Spanish writer Pedro Calderon de la Barca, a classic poetic study of a woman disguised as a man who falls in love with a prince who believes he's a slave (Sep-Oct); the 20th Century American classic The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, "an exquisite hymn to lost love and our need to believe in possibility", starring Robyn Nevin (Oct-Dec); Great Expectations by Charles Dickens adapted by Simon Phillips, a Melbourne Theatre Company production starring Angela Punch McGregor (Oct-Dec).
There is also the Sydney Theatre Company Education Program which includes Schoolsdays at mainstage productions, the Blueprints production of Macbeth, the Theatre-In-Practice program for teachers and students to access the professional resources and skills of STC, and the STC-The Sydney Morning Herald Young Playwrights' Award. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone the Education Manager (02) 9250 1700.
And finally, the Patrick White Playwrights' Award is a national competition which aims to encourage and reward the creation of new writing for the theatre of highest quality. The inaugural award, launched in July 2000, was shared by Bette Guy (The Other Side of the Lake), Ailsa Piper (Small Mercies) and Ben Ellis (Who Are You, Mr James?). The award is part of the STC Writer's Program which in 2002 has spawned The Virgin Mim, Hanging Man and the adaptations of Life is a Dream, A Doll's House and Macbeth.
What we are seeing from the Sydney Theatre Company is an integrated and well-directed offering to the whole community. The 2002 program is an intelligent mix which should make for an exciting theatrical year in Sydney.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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