STC 2013: Donation paves the way for exciting new Australian work

Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton
Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton. Image by Hannah Farrant-Jayet

Bringing new works to the stage can be difficult, especially when it comes to securing investors and having venues take a chance on something virtually untested for audiences. Sydney Theatre Company has, however, just made a giant leap forward in what might hopefully encourage other arts enthuiasts and organisations to do the same.

As part of their 2013 season, Andrew Bovell (When the Rain Stops Falling, Lantana) will adapt Kate Grenvell’s award-winning novel The Secret River for the stage. The prestige doesn’t stop there, with internationally-renowed director Neil Armfield set to direct, in collaboration with acclaimed choreographer Stephen Page. The rest of the creative team and cast will be announced at a later date.

Set in the early 19th century, The Secret River explores the conflict between transported thief William Thornhill and the Darug people who own the land he tries to settle. This uniquely Australian work will be accessible to more Australians than just Sydney audiences. After its premiere in January 2013 as part of Sydney Festival, it will be followed by performances in Canberra as part of the Centenery of Canberra’s year-long program, and then at the Perth International Festival.

This is a landmark production in many ways, but perhaps mostly so because it is being made possible by a philanthropic gift. The donation, which is a joint gift from David Gonski and Orli Wargon and Simon and Catriona Mordant, is the largest philanthropic donation that Sydney Theatre Company has ever received for a single production.

STC Artistic Directors Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton said that “in today’s economic climate, philanthropy is of increasing importance to the arts. We welcome this visionary gift from the Gonski and Mordant families and hope this pledge will lead the way for other individual donors keen to help performing arts companies to develop and present work.

“Investing in a new play is always a risky business as so much is unknown but developing new Australian work is of such importance to our culture.”

This is a great move by STC and, if we’re lucky, and others take inspiration from this theatrical milestone, could be the beginnings of a real industry shift towards developing, presenting, and encouraging new and high quality Australian works.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government’s Major Festivals Initiative, managed by the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, in association with the Confederation of Australian International Arts Festivals, Sydney Festival, Perth International Arts Festival and the Centenary of Canberra.

Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and is the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

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