Sydney Theatre Company has defied the odds, announcing tonight a knock ‘em sock ‘em season for 2013.
Running the gamut of genres, the final season created by co-artistic directors Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett is filled with surprises. Featuring several original works, some fresh translations, classic material and some (to say the least) daring contemporary masterpieces, it’s no small claim to say that 2013 will be a big year for the STC.
Tonight at the Bar at the end of the Wharf – the dazzling creation of a persistently belligerent Cate and Andrew – in an atmosphere pervaded by classical soul and 60s rock and a coterie of bright young things, STC once again reminded their theatre-going public just why they remain a force to be reckoned with in the Australian cultural landscape.
In 2013, the company’s four venues will host sixteen shows – with five playing at the Sydney Theatre alone across the course of the year. Featured performers include Eamon Farren, Toby Schmitz, Paul Blackwell, Isabelle Huppert, Richard Roxburgh, Hugo Weaving, Tim Minchin (hallelujah!) and, of course, Cate Blanchett herself.
While the complete line up can be viewed by date, by venue and with more complete cast details online – here is a selection of what caused the biggest stir at the launch tonight.
Mrs Warren’s Profession
Introduced by Andrew Upton as the “Ab Fab” of 1910 – this classic piece of moral exploration by George Bernard Shaw is seldom treated to a full production these days. Generally stuck in the guise of a corset laden period piece, its message of liberal thinking remains appropriate even without the frilly costumery. With a cast featuring Eamon Farren, Drew Forsylhe and Lizzie Schebelsa, starring Helen Thomson in the title role and directed by Sarah Giles – this revival looks set to be a don’t miss mastermind of wit and controversy.
2. The Maids
Given the indisputable commercial success on an international scale of A Streetcar Named Desire and Uncle Vanya, any play featuring Cate Blanchett as a player must command attention. But in a fresh translation of the classic black satire The Maids by Jean Genet, co-starring Isabelle Huppert no less – this little performed but rightly celebrated social satire will command a serious box-office. With past productions few and far between, and twin lead roles of Solange and Claire having previously been played by such luminaries as Glenda Jackson and Susannah York – STC have their work cut out for them! It will be fascinating to see just what director Benedict Andrews and designer Alice Babbidge come up with.
3. Vere (Faith)
This new play by John Doyle, starring Paul Blackwell and directed by Sarah Goodes looks set to be the dark horse of the season. Featuring dissertations on faith and science – with the degeneration of a world class intellect into dementia in the foreground, this dramady has a very impressive premise and some serious pedigree. Look for this production later in the year at the Drama Theatre but keep it in mind. It’s going to grab some serious attention come opening night.
4. Waiting for Godot
Born of the rehersals of STC’s 2011 hit Uncle Vanya, and of the chemistry shared by co-stars Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh – and director Tamas Ascher – Samuel Beckett’s mad and maddening duo hit the stage of the Sydney Theatre in November. Beckett is not for everyone, and neither are Weaving and Roxburgh, but the presence of these two Hollywood luminaries will certainly grab international attention.
5. Colin Thiele’s Storm Boy
Adapted for the stage by Tom Holloway, this classic Australian coming of age story is not something I think anyone saw coming to a theatrical stage. It’s presence as part of the STC’s line up is a daring and innovative risk. Set to be directed by John Scheedy with designs by Michael Scott Mitchell, and starring Trevor Jamieson as the iconic character Fingerbone Bill, Storm Boy will be worth a look in just to see how it has been translated to the stage! Is this a hit in the making? Time can only tell.
6. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
The jewel in the crown of the 2013 season for Sydney Theatre is unquestionably the presence of Toby Schmitz and Tim Minchin (seriously brilliant!!) in Tom Stoppard’s dynamic war of words, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. At the launch, Cate Blanchett openly admitted that Stoppard’s 20th century classic needed to be done exceedingly well to hit its mark. In the hands of these two leading men (under the direction of Simon Phillips), it can only be a barn burner!
Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe will, of course, return with a new round of the huge cultural feast that has become the annual Wharf Revue. A great import is to be had by the presence at the Sydney Theatre in April and May of the West End and Broadway comedic blockbuster One Man, Two Guvnors.
In between this line-up of luminaries there is fantastic mix of expressionism, original Australian works, international and local collaborations and even some Shakespeare. And while a mainstream revival of Romeo and Juliet generally results in audiences reaching for the nearest cyanide capsule, a fresh, dark look at the original emo-love pairing with a bright young cast can only inspire hope that something new and vital is to be had.
This is the spirit with which I have come to view the 2013 line-up since departing the Bar at the End of the Wharf tonight. Post announcements, the atmosphere there transcended festive. It was more like a family reunion of very willing participants all basking in the final glow sparked by the end of a successful and (thank God!) controversial era.
In 2014, Andrew Upton will assume sole creative direction of the Sydney Theatre Company. But the years preceding, under the direction of this dynamic duo – love or hate the results – can only be viewed as a halcyon period for the STC. Some extraordinary work has been completed under their guidance and a great deal has been done to drive the company to new heights as a force for creative and alternative theatre, and as a nurturing ground for original works.
2013’s line up of plays is a fitting conclusion to their leadership of the STC – it’s bright, it’s diverse, it’s daring and it’s uncompromising in its intention to bring the crowds into the theatre. It’s a goal worthy of aspiring to. Onward 2013 – now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to book tickets to see Tim Minchin in a Tom Stppard play!
Andrew, Cate – thanks you guys Xoxox