The Angry Brigade (New Theatre until November 2)
The name sounds slightly Pythonesque, but Britain’s homegrown left-wing terror group The Angry Brigade was nothing less than serious in its determination to bring down the Establishment.
Responsible for a series of bombings in the early 1970s, The Angry Brigade targeted the homes of Conservative government ministers, army and police properties, BBC Outside Broadcast vans and the Miss World competition. Reasons given included the internment of political prisoners in Northern Ireland, the Vietnam War, and institutional sexism.
Playwright James Graham’s The Angry Brigade transports its audience to the beleaguered Britain of 50 years ago (one ruled by a fractious Tory minority government) to examine the motivations of a group of young idealists and the efforts of the police to stop them in their tracks.
Alex Bryant-Smith directs this Australian premiere.
Billy Elliot (Lyric Theatre from October 10)
Describing Billy Elliot as “gritty” hardly does it justice. Try this for size, a snippet from Solidarity, in which riot police spoiling for a fight taunt a picket line of striking miners:
You fucking worms / You fucking moles / You fucking Geordie shits / We’re here to kick your Geordie arse / You little Geordie gits …
Charting the artistic aspirations of an 11-year-old boy against the background of class struggle and the UK miners’ strike of 1984-85, Billy Elliot is an all-singing, all-dancing entertainment with an uncommonly strong political spine.
Justin Smith, a veteran of the Australian premiere production of 2007 in which he played Billy’s hotheaded brother Tony, returns, this time as Billy’s stoic Dad. Drew Livingstone (Sport for Jove’s Rose Riot) is Tony this time. Kelley Abbey is dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson, Robert Grubb is miner turned boxing coach George, and the title role is shared by Jamie Rogers, Wade Neilson, River Mardesic and Omar Abiad.
FreshworksFEMME (Old 505, until November 2)
Sounds like a hygiene product, but the Old 505’s FreshworksFEMME is, in fact, a month-long season of new playwriting from emerging female-identifying artists. Emma Wright’s Hairworm kicks off the season (read Emma’s backgrounder here), followed by Sally Alrich-Smythe’s Homesick, Georgina Adamson’s Netgirls (October 14-19), and the devised comedy Hot Mess (October 14-26).
The season concludes with Tabitha Woo’s comedy Duckpond (October 21-26) and Safe (October 28-November 2), Sarah Hadley’s parody of Todd Haynes’ movie drama of the same name, with Ella Prince playing Julianne Moore.
Rosaline (Kings Cross Theatre, October 11-26)
Bell Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing arrives at the Opera House after a marathon national tour but for a completely new take on the Bard, we’d recommend playwright Joanna Erskine’s Rosaline, a play devoted to the young woman who captured Romeo’s heart before Juliet turned his head.
Intrigued? Read Joanna’s explainer here.
Fangirls (Belvoir, October 12 – November 10)
Yve Blake’s poptastic musical arrives at Belvoir after a rave-reviewed premiere season in Brisbane. Celebrating the giddy highs of celebrity infatuation through the eyes and feelings of Edna, a 14-year-old in love with Harry, the lead singer of the world’s biggest boy band, True Direction.
All very easy to mock, of course. But Blake isn’t interested in belittling of the passions of young women – even if they are short-lived and cynically whipped up by the entertainment industry. Instead, in Fangirls she pays tribute to the vitality and intensity of that worship while illuminating the double standard that allows the revering and cheering of young men’s sporting heroes to go unremarked.
Baby Doll (Ensemble Theatre, October 18 – November 16)
Director Elia Kazan maintained that he, not Tennessee Williams, was largely responsible for the screenplay for the 1956 film Baby Doll. If so, he did a remarkable job in channeling Williams’s style.
Adapted from that screenplay, Baby Doll is the story of feuding Mississippi cotton mill owners and the young bride who becomes the focus of a sexual tug-o-war.
This production – the play’s Australian premiere – is directed by Shaun Rennie (The Rise and Fall of Little Voice; Jess and Joe Forever) and stars Kate Cheel in the title role, with Socratis Otto and Jamie Oxenbould as the men at loggerheads and Maggie Dence as Aunt Rose Comfort.
White Pearl (Riverside Theatres, October 24 – November 9)
Anchuli Felicia King’s first play first full-length play, White Pearl is a biting satire on racism, intra-community prejudice and class partly inspired by the rise of the “skin-whitening” business in Asian countries and an infamous Chinese TV commercial that saw a black man put into a washing machine. “A little gem,” wrote the veteran British critic Michael Billington of White Pearl‘s 2019 London premiere.
Priscilla Jackman (Still Point Turning: The Catherine McGregor Story) directs this Sydney Theatre Company/National Theatre of Parramatta co-production featuring Deborah An, Mayu Iwasaki, Vaishnavi Suryaprakash, Merlynn Tong, Catherine Văn-Davies and Shirong Wu.