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London coup for SA’s State Theatre


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The State Theatre Company will create its first international co-production next year with a new play written by SA writer Andrew Bovell and featuring rapidly rising local star Tilda Cobham-Hervey.

Titled Things I Know to Be True and set around a family who appear to be living the Australian dream in Adelaide’s southern suburbs, the play will also see the company make its London debut.

It is a linchpin in the 2016 season revealed this afternoon.

“It’s the first time we’ve gone to London, which is a big deal,” State Theatre Company artistic director Geordie Brookman told InDaily of the collaboration.

“The fact that it’s a brand new Australian play makes it even more satisfying.

“We [he and company CEO/producer Rob Brookman] came into this company in 2012 and we said we wanted to make it a leader in terms of the way that we make new work, and this is a real step on that journey.”

Things I Know to Be True will be written by Bovell (who wrote the stage play When the Rain Stops Falling and the film Lantana), co-produced by London-based physical theatre company Frantic Assembly, and co-directed by Geordie Brookman and Frantic artistic director Scott Graham.

It will have its premiere in Adelaide in May next year with a cast including young actress Cobham-Hervey, who first came to attention in the film 52 Tuesdays and is the face of this year’s Adelaide Film Festival, alongside Paul Blackwell, Eugenia Fragos and Nathan O’Keefe.

Brookman said that later in the year he and designer Geoff Cobham will take the sets and costumes to the UK, where the play will be re-created with a British cast.

“It’s exciting because we get to re-imagine the show, but it’s also great because it’s a much more flexible and dynamic way of us working in another country.”

Actress Catherine McClements, best-known for her roles in TV’s Rush and Water Rats, will play the lead in another 2016 State Theatre season highlight, The Events, a co-production with Sydney’s Belvoir Theatre and Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre.

Scottish playwright David Greig wrote The Events in response to the mass murders committed by Norwegian Anders Breivik in 2011. McClements will play a priest who struggles with survivor guilt after a massacre at the community centre where she runs a choir.


Catherine McClements. Photo: James Hartley

“Catherine actually made her professional debut with the company back in 1987 with Much Ado About Nothing, and it’s the first time she’s been with us in almost 20 years,” Brookman says.

“It’s very, very exciting to have her back. She’s an incredibly powerful actress and this role is made for her.

“Given the subject matter, it has its harrowing moments, but it’s also strangely uplifting and life-affirming.”

That may be partly because each performance of The Events is backed by a different community choir, which also gets pulled into the action. During the Adelaide season, 11 different choirs will perform.

Continuing the theme of family and community in the season will be Machu Picchu, a new Australian play by Sue Smith (Kryptonite, The Kreutzer Sonata). Gold Logie-winning actress Lisa McCune will make her State Theatre Company debut in the work, which centres on the relationship between a mid-life couple whose lives are drastically changed by a devastating car accident.

“Sue takes all the mess and tragedy of human existence and she makes it light and beautiful; she mines the humour of the everyday,” Brookman says of the play, a Sydney Theatre Company co-production.

“And Darren [Gilshenan] and Lisa as a combination on stage have this amazing sparky chemistry. They are both wicked comedians and incredibly intelligent performers.

“She [Lisa] is quite an extraordinary performer and so much more accomplished than perhaps people give her credit for … she’s incredibly compelling on stage.”

Paul-Capsis-in-Rumplestiltskin--State-Theatre-Company-of-South-Australia2016 will also see actor and singer Paul Capsis (pictured right) return to the Adelaide stage in a new musical co-production with Windmill Theatre which puts a contemporary spin on the dark Brothers Grimm tale Rumpelstiltskin.

Capsis played the role of the villain in the Sydney and New York seasons of Windmill’s Helpmann-winning production of Pinocchio, and writer/director Rosemary Myers said people could expect lots of his “trademark earth-shattering high notes” in the new play.

Coincidentally, Rumpelstiltskin was the first live show Capsis saw as a child.

“It left a mark on me,” he says. “The magic of the theatre. Storytelling. I was bedazzled.”

Brookman describes next year’s State Theatre Company program as its most ambitious yet. It also features its biggest number of collaborations, with six of the 10 shows being co-produced.

Brookman said working with other companies was part of the State Theatre’s strategy, creating greater exposure for actors and the company through the opportunity to present works interstate and overseas.

“And in terms of collaborating locally, it’s a results thing.

“Whenever the companies in this town get together and make something together, the results are invariably brilliant … and in the particular environment we are in at the moment in regards to arts funding, it’s really important for our industry to pull together and celebrate its strength, and collaboration is a great way to do that.”

The 2016 State Theatre Company season will also include:

Straight White Men: Co-production with Brisbane’s La Boite Theatre Company of a work by New York writer/performance maker Young Jean Lee, exploring the birth privilege (and challenges) of being a straight white man.

The 39 Steps: A farcical stage adaptation of the Hitchcock noir thriller of the 1930s and the John Buchan novel on which the film was based.

Tartuffe: Playwright Phillip Kavanagh will give a contemporary translation to Moliere’s comedy in this co-production with Adelaide’s Brink Productions starring Paul Blackwell, Nathan O’Keefe, Jacqy Phillips and Rory Walker.

Gorgon (State Education Show): A new commission from SA actress and writer Elena Carpapetis (The Good Son) about two young friends whose lives are shattered by a car accident in the Adelaide Hills.

The Red Cross Letters (State Extra): A verbatim-theatre work incorporating material from letters sent to the SA Red Cross Information Bureau by Australians seeking news of loved ones on the front during World War I.

Red Sky Morning (State Umbrella Program): An independent production of playwright Tom Holloway’s story intertwining the three voices of one family living in regional Australia.

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