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From Orwell to Mr Burns: State Theatre unveils 2017 season


A fresh adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian tale 1984 and a play imagining a post-apocalyptic future with The Simpsons as a new kind of Bible are among highlights of the State Theatre Company’s 2017 season unveiled last night.

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State Theatre artistic director Geordie Brookman says 1984, produced in the UK and being presented in Adelaide next May with a new Australian cast, is “absolutely thrilling”.

“I saw a matinee of it in London,” he told InDaily of the show, which revisits Orwell’s vision of a society dominated by Big Brother-style omnipresent government surveillance.

“It’s edge-of-your-seat theatre; an incredibly intelligent adaptation of Orwell’s work … it’s rare that theatre can scare the pants off you but 1984 does that.”

Brookman describes the State Theatre Company’s 2017 season as its most ambitious yet.

As announced last week, it will begin with the presentation of the Sydney Theatre Company production of The Secret River at Anstey Hill Quarry during the Adelaide Festival.

The second of seven main-stage works will be Mr Burns – A Post-Electric Play, a co-production with Belvoir Theatre which sees the survivors of an apocalyptic event spark a new type of religion with their re-creation of episodes of The Simpsons.

“It is just so inventive,” Brookman says.

“It’s incredibly intelligent, all-over funny and I love the way it looks at the way we form our myths and this idea that pop culture is increasingly taking the place of myth, legend and religion … the idea that The Simpsons can be the most important touchstone of society.”

Two mid-year productions of classic works – Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Shakespeare’s Macbeth – are being spearheaded by the State Theatre Company Ensemble, a new group of actors and creatives.

Members of the State Theatre Company Ensemble with artistic director Geordie Brookman (seated centre). Photo: Sia Duff

Members of the State Theatre Company Ensemble with artistic director Geordie Brookman (centre). Photo: Sia Duff

It is the first time in two decades that State Theatre has had an ensemble. Its members – who include actors Nathan O’Keefe (Things I Know to be True) and Anna Steen (The 39 Steps) – will work with the company for around half the year in 2017 and 2018.

As well as offering a degree of employment security for the actors, who will have a chance to collaborate and test themselves in different roles, Brookman believes the move will “pay back in spades” for State Theatre and its audiences.

“It’s about engaging with a style of theatre-making that the company hasn’t had a chance to do since the late ’80s early ’90s under John Gaden’s artistic directorship.

“It’s an incredible adventure for both artists and audiences.

“Collaboration is what it’s all about for me and this seems like the most pure form of collaboration that I can think of.”

The company’s upcoming season also features a number of new Australian works, including Joanna Murray Smith’s Switzerland, which will see actress Sandy Gore portray author Patricia Highsmith, and Nicki Bloom’s Vale, a dark comedy described as “a collision between the wit of Edward Albee and a modern Greek tragedy”.

The 2017 State Education commission, Sista Girl – co-written by Elena Carapetis and Alexis West especially for Natasha Wanganeen and Nadia Rossi – is about two women, one indigenous and one non-indigenous, who share the same father but meet for the first time at his deathbed.

“It’s both dramatic and difficult but with a real slice of humour and invention.” Brookman says.

The full 2017 season can be viewed on the State Theatre Company of SA website.

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