On November 16th the Seymour Centre revealed its 2017 season through a night of song, interesting synopses and introductions to theatre companies both familiar, and new to the Sydney scene.
Hosted by Artistic Director Tim Jones and featuring guest speakers from each of the relevant production teams and theatre companies, it was a great night for witnessing the closeness of the theatre community and the unquestionable respect that underpins it.
Jones’ focus on and imperative to feature independent theatre companies, thereby giving them an affordable space to put on works that would otherwise remain unseen, has earned him much praise and gratitude from the companies and public alike. In an industry too often underfunded and under-resourced, to maintain the venues’ commitment to these smaller companies is impressive.
Where the independent companies thrive is in the Seymour Centre’s ‘Reginald Series’, a season specifically curated to feature small and independent theatre companies in the intimate Reginald Theatre. Beginning with a new production by Aussie favourite Lachlan Philpott and directed by Kate Gaul, The Trouble with Harry reminds us of the difficulties of gender exploration and the struggle for self appreciation in a time when sexuality was too often misconstrued and completely taboo. Based on a true series of events that eventuated in a bloody murder that scandalized 1920s Sydney, this production is brought to the Reginald by Siren Theatre Company and opens in February 2017.
Equally provocative is Fallen, by Seanna van Helten and directed by Penny Harpham. Inspired by the true history of Urania Cottage, a home for ‘fallen’ women created by Charles Dickens, it tells the tale of six women who are given a second chance, with the only condition being that they must leave their pasts behind and never speak of it again. This work examines what happens when starting afresh is conditioned on the repression of the past. This is a story ingrained in Australian history and introduces Melbourne based theatre company, She Said, to the Sydney stages (in association with Sport for Jove Theatre), in April.
Sport for Jove, a familiar name to Seymour patrons and known for their re-imagining of largely Shakespearean classics, is bringing a number of broader works to the stage this year including: They Shoot Horses Don’t They? in August and No End of Blame in October, as well as a number of classics to the Arts:Ed series. Horses, a great 1930s American novel, has been reimagined and brought to the stage by creator and director, Kim Hardwick. The show offers a dark and yet energetic view of the lengths that one will go to in order to earn a buck from an audience of spectators in the context of a dance marathon. Blame could also be a stand out of the season with an interesting expose into censorship, blame, defamation and political aggression…all through an innocent satirical device, the simple political cartoon. Written by Howard Barker and directed by Damien Ryan, this show looks to be equal parts satirical and thought-provoking, and definitely excited those in attendance.
Rounding out the Reginald series, White Box Theatre Company presents Nick Enrights’s classic Blackrock in March and in September, Catnip productions puts on The Nether. Blackrock will be directed by Kim Hardwick who, though unable to attend the launch, sent a video demonstrating such passion for the play, for the historical significance of Enright’s classic and, more than anything, for the dangerous and frightening relevance that this story holds even today. Equally disturbing to Hardwick’s production, directed by Justin Martin and written by Jennifer Haley, The Nether has received enormous acclaim on an international stage having already debuted abroad. Marked as one of the most provocative and haunting plays of recent years, Haley questions whether a crime is really a crime if the crime has no link to a place, but only to the on-line world?
Moving from the small companies to the Seymour’s biggest production of the year, 2071 gets the Seymour’s ‘Great Ideas’ season going with a work that examines one of the most critical issues of the decade: , climate change. Directed by Tim Jones and featuring beautiful and enormous digital projections by Artist Joe Crossley, this is certainly an interdisciplinary performance that promises to excite the senses whilst also examining an increasingly important issue. Rounding off the team, musician Andree Greenwell will offer an original score for this exciting work premiering in Australia in May 2017.
From there, the ‘Great Ideas’ season is filled with interesting performances all part of larger festivals and all set to question the human condition and our responses to a variety of circumstances. As part of the ‘Out of the Shadows’ festival, an interesting musical revue is brought to the stage, Prince Bettliegend, written by the Jewish prisoners in the Terezin Ghetto, a transit camp. It is often difficult for those who today know or learn about the Holocaust and the horrors of WWII to imagine any music, theatre, culture, fun emanating from this time. It is for this reason, to honour the true survivor’s spirit that allowed Jews in this situation to engage again with music, theatre and laughter, that it is exciting and particularly interesting to see this work being brought to life on the Sydney stage.
The Big Anxiety Festival will host two performances at the Seymour. The first, Grace Under Pressure, a verbatim play that examines the need to protect the mental health of young doctors. This performance has been co-commissioned by the Seymour Centre and the Big Anxiety and created by David Williams and Paul Dwyer in association with the Sydney Arts and Health Collective. Give Me Your Love is an import from the UK that examines the notion that MDMA could be seen as a legitimate way to treat PTSD.
Finally, as if the Seymour wasn’t busy enough, they added a film into the mix! A special one night only viewing of Julie Taymor’s mega, multi-million dollar New York production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. April 1st, mark your calendars!
The Seymour Centre has certainly outdone themselves with an impressive collection of wonderfully diverse plays and a range of important and under-represented stories told. 2017 should, by all accounts, be a great one!
For tickets for next year’s productions click here.