For their 2012 season, artistic director Ralph Myers and Belvoir have pulled together the most thrilling and the most original projects they could get their hands on – and brought in some of the best theatre-makers in the country.
Belvoir's 2011 season topped the previous year for subscriptions, with several shows selling out on subscription tickets only. 2012 will most likely be the same -- so sign up now to avoid having to line up for day-of-sale tickets. 30-Down packages are available (for under 30s) from $100 for its Downstairs Theatre season and $157 for its Upstairs Theatre season. Christmas gift ideas, anyone?
Written by Simon Stone after Seneca
Co-written by Thomas Henning, Chris Ryan & Mark Winter
Directed by Simon Stone
Starring Thomas Henning, Chris Ryan, Mark Winter
Presented by Belvoir and Sydney Festival in association with CarriageWorks
It is the most infamous of all the ancients – the story of the deposed king whose sons were slaughtered and served to him by his brother in a feast.
The Hayloft Project stunned audiences with this brilliant re-imagining at Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre in 2010. Their starting point: THESE MYTHS ARE REAL. The action of the show, much like our lives, takes place in the banalities and ordinarinesses between atrocities.
Featuring three extraordinary performances, the result is truly groundbreaking – gentle, disturbing, funny, beautiful and chilling in 90 minutes.
Sydney Festival and Belvoir head to CarriageWorks with this dangerously smart excavation of our ancient urges towards love and destruction.
Thyestes contains nudity, strong sexual themes, violent references and very coarse language. It is not recommended for people under 18.
Melbourne audiences were blown away by Thyestes in 2010 – and it was impossible not to feel the ripples here in Sydney. Belvoir’s artistic director Ralph Myers saw the production in Melbourne having just appointed Stone as Belvoir’s resident director for the following year – and we reckon he might have been rubbing his hands in glee.
We recently spoke to critic royalty Alison Croggon about the production, which she felt was “stunning”. “It’s a really fresh take on classical theatre,” Croggon said. “I suppose the first thing is the emotional rawness of it – how they took that idea and this horrible story of revenge – and very cleverly frame it in contemporary language. The impact of it is pretty major. It moves very unexpectedly. It’s a really fascinating piece of theatre.”
Written by Raimondo Cortese from an original concept by Alicia Talbot
Directed by Alicia Talbot
Starring Valerie Berry, Perry Keyes, Colin Moody, Effie Nkrumah, Hazem Shammas, Meyne Watt
A co-production with Urban Theatre Projects and Sydney Festival
Belvoir and the acclaimed Urban Theatre Projects (UTP) have joined forces for this big-picture show about a city and society redefining itself.
Late one night in the gutted façade of a building primed for redevelopment, a group of security workers, labourers, and a local teenager find themselves haunting the same territory. One by one they rule a line in the sand, and by dawn they’re set for a showdown over who builds the future and who gets to own it.
Buried City is an ambitious new work about ever-changing cities like, well, Sydney – where waves of immigrants make new lives on old land. Director Alicia Talbot’s investigation of real-time action and filmic panorama continues in this special collaboration between Belvoir and Bankstown-based UTP.
The work is being made in consultation with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and their Retired Members Association, African Women Australia Inc and Gadigal Information Service Aboriginal Corporation.
The troubadour of Redfern-Waterloo Perry Keyes makes his theatrical debut in this surprising show about the kindness of strangers and the brutality of old friends.
Urban Theatre Projects is best known for its remarkable site-specific Sydney Festival productions. Most recently their work The Fence, which took theatre audiences to a backyard in Parramatta, won a Sydney Theatre Award for Best Independent Production.
For the first time, they’re teaming up with Belvoir and responding to a site that’s remarkable in its own way: Belvoir’s Upstairs Theatre.
Ralph Myers: “We’re merging together Belvoir’s strengths of dramaturgy and text and Urban Theatre Projects’ strengths in finding these stories and contacting this part of the community that’s never really exposed to the light –investigating a part of the city that isn’t really seen.”
Written by Rita Kalnejais
Directed by Eamon Flack
Starring Eamon Farren and Greg Stone
Time for a comedy – a mad, gorgeous, bittersweet comedy about how good it is not to be dead yet.
A group of more or less ordinary Sydneysiders go about their lives: Anna makes toast, Henry dresses for work, Milla catches the train to school, Moses deals drugs – that kind of thing. But hovering above this unholy parade of life is the sobering fact that Milla will die before her 15th birthday.
Rita Kalnejais is a young playwright of uncommon genius. She looks at the humdrum world around us and sees something radically alive. Dogs, Paganini, figs, an eight-year-old Vietnamese violin prodigy, morphine, clear skies and a Latvian immigrant are amongst the magnificent conflagration of ingredients which make up this wonderful, funny play. Written specially for Belvoir, its theme is what Rita calls the violent sweetness of life.
Eamon Flack (
The End, As You Like It) directs a play of unexpected brilliance about that very old and almost forgotten quality of life: grace.
You may be familiar with Rita Kalnejais’s work as an actress – she performed in The Kiss
in Belvoir’s Downstairs Theatre earlier in the year – but she’s also a fine playwright. Belvoir commissioned Babyteeth from Rita on the strength of the delightfully blasphemous-sounding B.C.
, a production directed by Simon Stone in 2009 that told the story of a modern-day hairdresser Mary and store clerk Joseph.
Myers says the resulting play was “not at all what we were expecting. “It’s a sort of black comedy about a teenage girl who is dying of cancer and this family that’s falling apart,” says Myers. “Every one of the characters is so rich. The girl, her junkie 21-year-old boyfriend she met on the train, her middle-class parents, her violin teacher with the eight-year-old prodigy student and a dog… It’s the strangest world that it takes place in but it’s very familiar. It’s kind of out of control. It’s funny, it’s wrong, it’s great. I love it.
Written and directed by Benedict Andrews
Starring Eloise Mignon and Dylan Young
No-one would doubt that Benedict Andrews has a vivid imagination. As a director he has taken some of our most revered classics and turned them on their heads. The Seagull, Measure for Measure, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Sydney Theatre Company’s The War of the Roses and The Season at Sarsparilla thrilled and scandalised audiences with their audacity, clarity and theatrical chutzpah. Now Andrews has turned his hand to playwriting.
A family under threat – from what, we don’t know – hires a young security guard, Chris. He spends long hours, day and night, by the pool, watching. One by one, in their private universes of plate glass and good food, each family member is drawn to Chris. A dangerous game of fantasy and privilege begins.
Every Breath is an extraordinary debut written by a theatre-maker at the top of his game. Darkly funny, sweetly eerie, and strangely familiar, this is about what happens when prosperity gives us the licence to see the world as we want to see it.
As artistic director Ralph Myers himself tells Time Out
, one of the cardinal rules of artistic direction is to never let playwrights direct their own work.
In the case of Benedict Andrews – whose star-studded production of The Seagull
recently thrilled Belvoir audiences, this reviewer included – Myers of course decided to make an exception.
“I don’t think I’ve ever read a play that’s come to us without having anyone work on it that is as complete and perfect as this play,” says Myers. “It just works. Obviously, having been a director for a long time, Benedict has an understanding of structure, which is something not so common in young, emerging playwrights. Plus he has an amazing facility with character and dialogue as well.”
Myers goes on to say that the play has a very simple conceit – which he can’t reveal at this stage. “But it is kind of delicious,” he says.
Written and directed by Simon Stone after Eugene O’Neill
Starring Emily Barclay, Patrick Brammall, Mitchell Butel
Three decades before he wrote Long Day’s Journey into Night, Eugene O’Neill wrote a sprawling and adventurous masterpiece the likes of which Broadway had never seen. Almost a century later, there is still no other play like Strange Interlude.
Twenty-year-old Nina Leeds has lost the love of her life in the war. Overcome with grief, she quits university, falls out with her father and moves away from home. What follows is a breathtaking journey through 25 years in Nina’s life, as she pursues a series of sexual flings to console herself, eventually settles down in a comfortable but unexciting marriage with Sam Evans, then begins a 15-year affair with his best friend Ned Darrell. One of the few modern plays to interweave soliloquy and dialogue, Strange Interlude offers a touching insight into the minutiae of our daily worries, joys and hopes, set against the vast backdrop of life’s irreversible decisions.
Emily Barclay (The Seagull, That Face, Gethsemane
) takes on one of the great female roles of twentieth-century drama. In the vein of his 2011 rewrite of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck
, wunderkind Simon Stone creates a contemporary version of this truly amazing Pulitzer Prize winner.
With audiences probably still recovering from Belvoir’s January production of Thyestes
, it’s time for three more meaty months of Belvoir’s resident director Simon Stone at the Upstairs Theatre.
e is this strange, expansive, brilliant play,” says artistic director Ralph Myers. “It’s nine acts long and takes five hours to perform in its original format, so Simon has taken the knife to it which is great.”
It only adds to the excitement that Stone is directing actress Emily Barclay in the lead role of Nina – having chosen the play especially as a vehicle for her talents. Barclay appeared in Neil Armfield’s production of David Hare’s Gethsemane
in 2009, Lee Lewis’s production of Polly Stenham’s That Face
in 2010, and of course Benedict Andrews’s production of Chekhov’s The Seagull
in 2011, Strange Interlude
will be Barclay’s fourth Belvoir performance in as many years.
Myers – who singles out Barclay’s vodka-cornflake breakfast in The Seagull
as one of the most memorable moments in the 2011 Belvoir season so far – says that appearing in four Belvoir Main Stage shows in four years could be a Belvoir record. (If anyone can confirm or deny, let us know
Read our interview with the wonderful Emily Barclay.
Death of a Salesman
By Arthur Miller
Director Simon Stone
Starring Colin Friels, Genevieve Lemon
Willy Loman is feeling his age. He and his wife Linda are struggling to make their mortgage repayments. The company he works for is branching out in new directions and it looks like he’s about to be left behind. When his university drop-out son, Biff, moves back home after years of drifting, old tensions rise to the surface.
Arguably the greatest play of the twentieth century, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is about a man refusing to let go of the false dreams we were all once promised.
Returning to our corner stage after an absence of 30 years, Colin Friels tackles the role of a lifetime in Simon Stone’s take on this timeless masterpiece.
Finally Arthur Miller’s play gets, not just the Belvoir treatment, but the treatment of Simon Stone, one of the sharpest and keen-eyed directors working in Australia today. Artistic director Ralph Myers – who will be largely taking a much-deserved break from set designing in 2012 to concentrate on artistic direction – is on board as set designer, and composer/sound designer Stefan Gregory is also attached to the production.
The time is right for the production, and for the Colin Friels to be playing Willy Loman, says Stone – who also calls the play the greatest of the twentieth century. In contrast to his ruthless adaptations of Thyestes
and Strange Interlude
, Stone will be leaving Miller's text well alone.
Choreographed and directed by Lucy Guerin
Starring Alison Bell, Megan Holloway, Alisdair Macindoe, Rennie McDougall, Harriet Ritchie and Matthew Whittet
In every show we strive to be breathtakingly original. Choreographer Lucy Guerin’s new show for Belvoir takes this to an extreme by striving to be breathtakingly original every night.
A group of actors and dancers meet on stage and begin the show with a short conversation about… Well, we don’t know yet. Each night it will be a different conversation – just an ordinary preshow chat like you might have yourselves – and this short conversation will form the basis of the rather surprising performance that follows.
It sounds like it shouldn’t work. But in the hands of Guerin and her remarkable cast it does. The project began as a simple experiment: what happens when you put three dancers and three actors together in a room? The result is both a mesmerising cultural encounter between two art forms, and a kind of x-ray of the surprising hugeness that lies beneath our daily chitchat.
At the time of writing, Lucy Guerin’s dance-theatre work Human Interest Story
is surprising regular Belvoir audiences in the Upstairs Theatre. With Conversation Piece, artistic director Ralph Myers continues his commitment to bringing new experiences to Belvoir.
Myers compares the experience of the show – which underwent three weeks of development before even being programmed – to “growing a crystal garden” onstage every night. “The basic idea is to take three actors and three dancers and push them together in a piece of theatre,” says Myers. “It becomes about theatre and dance and the relationship between the two things.”
The other thing to note is that, just because the piece is a conceptual collision of theatre and dance, Belvoir isn’t skimping on talent on either side of the equation: Alison Bell (onstage later in the year in As You Like It
), Megan Holloway (recently seen in Belvoir’s own Neighbourhood Watch
) and Matthew Whittet are as renowned for their theatre work as Alisdair Macindoe, Rennie McDougall and Harriet Ritchie for their dance work.
Written by Noel Coward
Directed by Ralph Myers
Starring Toby Schmitz and Eloise Mignon
Amanda has just married Victor and gone on her honeymoon. Elyot has just married Sybil and gone on his honeymoon. To the same hotel. Elyot and Amanda are about to find out all over again why they got divorced in the first place.
The censors did their best to ban the play when Coward wrote it in 1930 (as a vehicle for himself) and it has been refusing to behave for 80 years now. Its wit is definitive, its plotting almost perfect, and its critique of modernity dazzling. The great theatrical adventurer Ralph Myers finally gives himself a directing gig and his task is almost ridiculously pleasurable: to direct Toby Schmitz in
Toby Schmitz and Noel Coward. Say no more.
Well, we’ll say a little more.
The rest of Australia has been seeing a lot more of Schmitz lately – he toured as Benedick in Bell Shakespeare’s blisteringly funny Much Ado About Nothing
in 2011 and stars in Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest
from November. It’s some consolation that Schmitz is back in a play that would appear to be tailor-made for his exceptional comic talents: Noel Coward’s Private Lives
, the play that rehabilitated the playwright’s career.
Belvoir artistic director Ralph Myers always fantasises about directing productions, he says... but never gets around to it. Myers hasn't been in the director’s chair since 2008. “So I thought I might as well give myself a job. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do and I realised I wanted something that I didn’t really need to think about whether or not it was a good play. Private Lives
is one of the most perfectly written plays ever. It’s kind of a perfect play. It’s funny, it’s savage, it’s incisive, it’s beautifully structured, it’s got five amazing characters, it’s brilliant. And it’s been crying out for a version that isn’t people walking around in dinner suits and drinking martinis.”
Beautiful One Day
Created by Paul Dwyer, Eamon Flack, Rachael Maza Long, David Williams
A co-production with Ilbijerri Theatre Company and version 1.0
Palm Island. An Aboriginal man is arrested, allegedly for insulting a police officer. Within 90 minutes, he lies dead on the watchhouse floor, his liver cleaved in two. The community protests, the police station is torched. A Senior Sergeant stands trial for manslaughter but is acquitted. Questions are raised about manipulation of evidence and a court suppression order. A protestor, jailed for inciting a riot, is out on parole on condition that he speaks to no-one.
Beautiful One Day is a theatrical documentary made by a group of Australians (black and white) seeking to interpret these events against the full sweep of the island’s history. It seeks to grasp the ordinariness of brutality, charting the course of repression, resistance and racism but also the astonishing resilience of the people who call Palm Island home.
Melbourne’s Ilbijerri Theatre Company (
Jack Charles v The Crown) is a champion of Indigenous storytelling. Version 1.0 (
The Bougainville Photoplay Project,
A Certain Maritime Incident) have turned tough, patient enquiry into an artform. Together with Belvoir they have set each other the task of trying to understand the horror of circumstance that we all find ourselves in.
To close the 2012 Belvoir season, three outstanding companies – Belvoir (represented by Eamon Flack), Ilbijerri (represented by Rachael Maza Long) and Version 1.0 (represented by David Williams andBougainville Photoplay Project
‘lecturer’ Paul Dwyer) – join forces to tell the as yet ongoing story of Cameron Doomadgee and Palm Island.
“It’s really great to be doing something that is a piece of indigenous theatre that is really overtly political again,” says artistic director Ralph Myers. “And to be able to pick at a running sore on the Australian national psyche, I suppose, and get somewhere closer to healing it.”
For the Belvoir experience in closer quarters, the Downstairs Theatre will see five new productions over the course of the year. The sweaty anthropology of boxing I’m Your Man
(a co-production with Sydney Festival); Food
, a Kate Champion-directed drama set in a country highway takeaway joint; Old Man
, a new play from Downstairs Theatre star Matthew Whittet; Medea
, Kate Mulvany and Anne-Louise Sarks’s Stoppardian behind-the-scenes take on Euripides’s great tragedy; and Don’t Take Your Love to Town
, a one-woman show created by and starring the great Leah Purcell, with Eamon Flack.