Time Out Melbourne

Red Stitch Actors Theatre’s first 2013 season includes four Australian premieres and fascinating new work from across the northern hemisphere

The sparkling wine was flowing and the canapés were flying as Red Stitch Actors Theatre joined with subscribers, friends and fellow travellers at Pawn & Co for the launch of their first season for 2013.

Artistic director and founding member David Whitely officiated, introducing the quartet of Australian premieres and the directors who'll be helming them.

First cab off the rank is New York-based playwright Amy Herzog's 4000 Miles (February 8 to March 9), winner of the 2012 Obie award for best new American play. Herzog writes about the affectionate if often-strained relationship between a grandmother and her grandson, when the latter tumbles into downtown New York at the end of an gruelling bicycle ride across America.

There are comparisons to be drawn with the sensitive observational writing of Annie Baker, another young New York-based playwright, whose Aliens was convincingly produced by Red Stitch in 2011, although Herzog is more narrowly focused on excavating her family history. Mark Pritchard (Shotgun Wedding) makes his directorial debut with the company after assisting with The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later.

Enda Walsh is one of the brightest, trickiest stars in the well-lit firmament of Irish playwrights. Penelope (March 22 to April 13) is a surprising burlesque adaptation of the story of Odysseus's wife, Penelope. As with Walsh's Walworth Farce, which toured Australia to great acclaim in 2010, it's a mix of farce and tragedy, beginning at the bottom of a drained swimming pool where the ill-fated suitors of the Ithacan Queen are rehearsing their marriage proposals. Alistair Smith, whose work in 2012 included a stint with MKA, will direct proceedings.

In a darker and more reflective vein, Thor Bjørn Krebs' About Tommy (26 April to 25 May) looks at the experiences of new recruits to the Danish International Brigade, a force deployed in the former Yugoslavia under the United Nations Protection Force. Based on actual events, it questions the effect of war on young recruits sent in to a conflict zone to 'monitor' but under no circumstances engage. Kat Henry, of Brisbane's Stella Electrika, directs.

Finally, for the first half of 2013, English playwright Lucinda Coxon's Herding Cats (June 7 to July 6). Lucinda and Michael are flatmates and much more. She works in an office, he works on a phone sex line, facilitating other people's fantasies. Together they fall into an odd relationship of co-dependency. Suzanne Chaundy, who directed Beyond the Neck for Red Stitch in 2012 returns for this cool vision of modern lives compromised .

Though each of the plays is in its own way comic, there's a welcome darker edge to this season, after 2012 finished with a rush of lighter comedies. With four Australian premieres, it also continues the fine Red Stitch tradition of bringing the latest work from America and the United Kingdom, with some salt from Denmark and Dublin, too.

The evening also marked the launch of the company's new website, where you can check out all the details of the new season.

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Updated on 3 Mar 2014.

By Andrew Fuhrmann   |  
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