The shortest month is long on theatre. Here are some recommendations to get you started.
The Wolves (February 2-March 3)
This production of American playwright Sarah deLappe’s hit play about a female football team debuted at the Old Fitz last year in a space smaller than a regulation penalty box.
Directed by Jessica Arthur, this remount features most of the original cast (Brenna Harding, Emma Harvie, Sarah Meacham and Nadia Zecker among them) and with all the extra room for manoeuvre, this will scale up to premiere league theatre. Read the review.
Wyngarde! / Queen Bette (Old 505, February 19-March 2)
G.Bod Theatre Company’s Queen Bette is a known and excellent quantity. We saw it in the old Old 505 in 2015, and Jeanette Cronin was in fabulous form as Hollywood legend Bette Davis. The surprise package here will be courtesy of Garth Holcombe, who, in a partner piece, brings to the stage the near-forgotten British TV star Peter Wyngarde in a show that traces his rise to fame (he was the groovy TV sleuth Jason King), his ego-driven eccentricities and fall from grace. It’s a rich and frequently funny story and Holcombe is an actor who can do it justice.
Angels in America (Old Fitzroy, February 15-March 15)
Tony Kushner’s two-part epic clocks in at something like seven hours in total, but this production, directed by Dino Dimitriadis for Apocalypse Theatre Company (makers of 2018’s award-winning Metamorphoses) is out to prove, among other things, that no play is too big for the Old Fitzroy.
Ben Gerrard stars as Prior Walter, a gay New Yorker dying of AIDS, abandoned by his lover, nursed by the fabulous Belize (who is also looking after the dying political powerbroker Roy Cohn) and haunted by terrifying yet ecstatic visions. Catherine Davies, Maggie Dence and Ashley Lyons also feature in one of the most ambitious productions ever attempted in this venue.
If We Got Some More Cocaine I Could Show You How I Love You (KXT, February 8-23)
The first feature-length play by Irish writer John O’Donovan (“a thorny, satisfyingly complicated play of ideas,” according to The Stage’s 2016 review of its debut) takes place entirely on a rooftop, on which two would-be burglars, Casey and Mikey, find themselves trapped. They’re rough, tough small town lads, high as kites on stolen coke. And they’re also in love.
That it’s directed by Warwick Doddrell (of the Sydney Theatre Award-winning Stupid Fucking Bird) should be enough to pique your interest. That it brings back Elijah Williams to the stage on which he made an explosive debut in 2016 (in Black Jesus) is another.
Tuesday (Belvoir, February 6-23)
The inaugural season of Belvoir’s low-cost 25A program was one of the quiet achievers of 2018, presenting consistently fine work from rising companies (and some old hands) on miniscule budgets and at $25 a ticket.
First cab off the rank in the program’s sophomore year is Tuesday, a dark satire on contemporary anxiety, alienation and consumption by Melbourne playwright Louris van de Geer.
Nell Ranney directs a new production of a play that debuted to four-star reviews in Melbourne in 2012. “Tuesday is a fine piece,” concluded ArtsHub reviewer Liza Dezfouli, “ironic in parts and telling of lives rendered bereft by the ugliness of a mass consumption seemingly impossible to avoid.”
In a city gripped by Kondo-cleansing fever, this might be just the show we need to see.
Read the review.
Dead Cat Bounce (Griffin, February 22-April 6)
In the language of shares and investments, a dead cat bounce is the temporary recovery of position in the price of a diving stock. Hope springs – but not for long.
In her new play, Sydney playwright Mary Rachel Brown applies the term to a young woman, Matilda, and recovering addict Gabe in a “grown-up love story” directed by Mitchell Butel and starring Kate Cheel, Lucia Mastrantone, Johnny Nasser and Josh Quong Tart.
The Moors (Seymour Centre, February 8-March 1)
Siren Theatre Company’s contribution to this year’s Mardi Gras Festival is Jen Silverman’s off-beat The Moors, a quirky-as historical drama that turns all the conventions of the genre inside-out. Romy Bartz, Thomas Campbell, Enya Daly, Brielle Flynn, Alex Francis and Diana Popovska feature. Kate Gaul directs. Want to know more? Click here.
Mary Stuart (Roslyn Packer Theatre, February 5-March 2)
Kate Mulvany turns her attention away from 1940s Surry Hills (The Harp in the South) and toward 16th century England with this adaptation of Friedrich Schiller’s Mary Stuart, a speculative fiction that engineers a face-to-face meeting between Queen Elizabeth I (played by Helen Thomson), and her rival for the throne, Mary (Caroline Brazier), women who share the same bloodline but who harbour radically different visions for the future. Expect all the accumulated dust of 200-odd years to be blown out of Schiller’s script by Mulvany and director Lee Lewis. The cast also features Fayssal Bazzi, Simon Burke, Peter Carroll, Tony Cogin, Andrew McFarlane, Rahel Romahn, Matthew Whittet and Darcey Wilson.
KING (Seymour Centre, February 20-24)
Debuting at the Seymour Centre during Mardi Gras, KING is a first-time collaboration between Sydney-based dance-theatre maker Shaun Parker and Bulgarian-born cabaret artist-songwriter and counter-tenor Ivo Dimchev.
Promising to tease out “patterns of behaviour of the cis-hetero-alpha-male against homosexual, bisexual and pansexual perspectives,” KING takes place in a world that’s part cocktail lounge, part jungle, and is focused on a naked male body which, we understand, will be guided and commodified by Dimchev’s narrator figure. So feel free to ogle all you like.