A trio of rarely produced Samuel Beckett plays, iconic 1950s Australian drama Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, a new crime thriller starring Colin Friels and the return of Miriam Margolyes are among highlights of the State Theatre Company’s 2015 season.
Artistic director Geordie Brookman told InDaily the program, revealed last night, offered a good mix of new and older Australian plays, as well as classic work and reinvented classic work.
He said a highlight would be the season-opening Beckett Triptych, part of the Adelaide Festival, featuring actors Paul Blackwell, Pamela Rabe and Peter Carroll in the short plays Footfalls, Eh Joe and Krapp’s Last Tape. They will be performed over the course of a night in the State Theatre Scenic Workshop and Rehearsal Room.
“To be able to combine three of Beckett’s more rarely seen little pieces of perfection with three of our absolute best actors – it’s a bit of a dream come true,” Brookman said.
“Each in their own way are kind of like ghost stories – they are all about memory and regret.”
Brookman will direct a new production of Australian playwright Ray Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, which celebrates its 60th anniversary next year, with a cast including Chris Pitman (Babyteeth, Cloudstreet). Said to be one of the first plays to portray authentic Australian characters, it centres on two Queensland cane-cutters and their relationship with a couple of Melbourne barmaids.
“It’s one of the best Australian plays in existence and one of the best plays written about middle age ever,” Brookman said.
“It’s an extraordinary piece about how hard it is to make changes midway through your life … a very funny and moving piece of theatre.”
Representing contemporary Australian theatre is Angela Betzien’s Mortido, a collaboration with Sydney’s Belvoir Theatre, which is described as a “crime thriller, revenge tragedy and contemporary morality play all rolled into one”. Exploring the drug trade in Sydney, Mortido sees veteran screen and stage actor Colin Friels (Water Rats, Malcolm) playing a detective on the trail of a small-time cocaine dealer and king-pin distributor. It is Friels’ first time on the Adelaide stage since 1992, when he starred in Shadow and Splendour.
Other 2015 productions include family show Masquerade, Australian playwright Kate Mulvany’s stage adaptation of UK author Kit Williams’ children’s book of the same name; Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, featuring Helpmann Award winner Alison Bell (Hedda Gabler); an adaptation by Adelaide writer Emily Steel of English playwright Ben Jonson’s 17th-century satire Volpone, with comic actor Paul Blackwell as the lead; and the umbrella work Madame: The Story of Joseph Farrugia, about the founder of the Crazy Horse club.
The season will also see the return of popular actress Miriam Margolyes, star of this year’s box office hit Neighbourhood Watch, one-woman stage show Dickens’ Women, the Harry Potter films and television’s Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. In a new show cheekily titled The Importance of Being Miriam, at the Dunstan Playhouse in March-April, Margolyes says she will “engage directly with the audience, tell jokes, sing, do bits of Dickens, bits of Shakespeare, read poems and explore my whole life with the Adelaide audience”.
Geordie Brookman said the success of the 2014 season was a confidence booster for the State Theatre Company.
“I think this company is in an incredibly exciting spot,” he told the media and industry 2015 season launch event.
“There’s a feeling of momentum, ambition and optimism about the place.”
State Theatre CEO Rob Brookman said that in the 2013-14 financial year, the company gave 207 performances in South Australia, to paid attendances of 53,492 – a 67 per cent increase on the previous financial year.
Box office income more than doubled, with two shows – Brief Encounter and Neighbourhood Watch – breaking records (these were eclipsed again more recently by The Importance of Being Ernest).
Rob Brookman said corporate and philanthropic support had also risen by 39 per cent in the past financial year, with the annual report showing State Theatre had ended with a surplus of more than a quarter of a million dollars, “returning the company’s balance sheet to where it was four years ago”.
“All of this means more audiences engaging with theatre and loving it, more productions being made, more artists working, more new works commissioned, more developmental work, more kids participating in our vibrant education program and more stories being told on stage.”
State Theatre 2015 season
Beckett Triptych – Footfalls, Eh Joe and Krapp’s Last Tape
February 20 – March 15
Cast includes Paul Blackwell, Peter Carroll, Pamela Rabe
The Importance of Being Miriam, by Peter J James (State Extra)
March 25-April 2
Stars Miriam Margolyes
Madame: The Story of Joseph Farrugia (State Umbrella)
April 21-May 2
(A Torque Show production presented by Vitalstatistix, in association with State Theatre)
Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, by Ray Lawler
April 24-May 16
Cast includes Chris Pitman, Jacqy Phillips
This is Where We Live (State Education program)
(Co-production with Albury Wodonga’s Hothouse Theatre)
Cast includes Matilda Bailey, James Smith
Masquerade, by Kate Mulvany, based on book by Kit Williams
Cast includes Helen Dallimore, Kate Cheel, Nathan O’Keefe, Zindzi Okenvo
Betrayal, by Harold Pinter
July 24-August 15
Cast includes Alison Bell, Nathan O’Keefe, Mark Saturno
Volpone (or The Fox), by Ben Johnson, new adaptation by Emily Steel
August 21-September 12
Cast includes Paul Blackwell
Mortido, by Angela Betzien
Cast includes Colin Friels, Tom Conroy
Mendelssohn’s Dream (State @ The Symphony)
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra with State Theatre Company
The Popular Mechanicals, by Keith Robinson, William Shakespeare and Tony Taylor
(From the original production by Geoffrey Rush)
Cast includes Amber McMahon
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