Seven shows to put a theatrical spring in your step …
The Humans (MopHead Productions/Old Fitzroy)
In New York writer Stephen Karam’s Tony-winning drama, a family gathers in the Manhattan apartment of youngest daughter Brigid to celebrate Thanksgiving. Present are Brigid’s boyfriend, Richard (they’ve just moved in together), her parents Erik and Deirdre, who have travelled from Scranton, PA, with Erik’s elderly mother. Sister Aimee, a lawyer, has come in from Philadelphia.
Through the lens of this apparently ordinary family, Karam probes all the things that keep you awake at night.
“I was interested in the ways that a functional family, full of huge strains of unconditional love, can experience these scary and tenuous moments,” Karam told the Boston Globe earlier this year. “The emotional currencies feel really powerful, even in these moments where people are trying to get along and doing their best to connect to each other but occasionally missing. It’s this tension of people who love each other so much that they can actually wound each other more deeply.”
Anthea Williams (the Sydney Theatre Award-winning director of Hir at Belvoir) directs this Sydney premiere. It is presented by indie stalwarts MopHead Productions, who have an excellent record in contemporary American drama having staged Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles and Puerto Rican writer Jose Rivera’s The House of Ramon Iglesia. Arky Michael, Di Adams, Diana McLean, Eloise Snape, Madeleine Jones and Reza Momenzada feature.
Accidental Death of An Anarchist (STC, Sydney Opera House)
The Sydney Theatre Company has another crack at Dario Fo’s politically-charged farce, this time with an all-female production directed by Sarah Giles (who co-adapts the script with Francis Greenslade).
Fo wrote the original script in 1969 as a response to real-life events surrounding the “accidental” death of a terrorist bomb suspect during a police interrogation in Milan. In it, a serial impostor hauled up by the Carabinieri for some minor transgression assumes the role of a senior corruption investigator. In a series of frenetic re-enactments and alternative scenarios, the cops and the Italian Far Right, for whom the anarchists were the fall guys, according to Fo, are put on trial.
Over the decades, the play’s currency has waxed and waned (it spiked in the late 1970s with the death of South African anti-Apartheid activist Steve Biko, for example) but now it stands or falls largely on its manic humour, which should be in safe hands here. The cast includes Amber McMahon, Julie Forsythe and Caroline Brazier.
Metamorphosis (Opera Australia)
Franz Kafka’s nightmarish story of a man who wakes up one morning to a new life as an insect was adapted into this six-scene chamber opera in 1983, with a libretto by Steven Berkoff (from his 1969 stage version) and score composed by Brian Howard.
Director Tama Matheson’s production features baritone Simon Lobelson as Gregor, Julie Lea Goodwin as Greta, and Christopher Hillier and Taryn Fiebig as Gregor’s parents, and it all takes place in Opera Australia’s scenery workshop in Surry Hills.
Shabbat Dinner (Griffin)
Regardless of how religiously observant they are, for most Jewish families, Aruchat Shabbat, the Friday night dinner, is the most important meal of the week. It is a time to come together, share good food (and wine), bless children and welcome in the day of rest.
That feeling of togetherness is something playwright Jessica Bellamy seeks to recreate in Shabbat Dinner, a theatrical event devoted to the sharing of food and stories.
First performed during the Bondi Feast festival in 2013, Shabbat Dinner invites its audience to a fully laid table to share in a meal inspired by the recipes of Bellamy’s late grandmother. Narrative and meal unfold as one.
“Basically, it’s a series of stories about my family that ask bigger questions about Jewish identity, feminism and the role that history plays in our lives,” Bellamy says. “It’s a very female experience. It’s about the role of women in the domestic framework.”
Need to know more? Read Jessica’s thoughts on the process of making Shabbat Dinner here.
Ironbound (An Assorted Few/Kings Cross Theatre)
“It’s Mother Courage meets Waiting for Godot,” says director Alastair Clark of his Sydney premiere production of US writer Martyna Majok’s Ironbound. “It slowly pulls you in.”
Ironbound is focused on Darja, a woman who spends much of her time at a bus stop. When we meet her, she’s 42, twice-divorced, broke and struggling to find work. After the opening scene, Ironbound travels back to 1992, the year Darja and her husband arrive in America from Poland, high on hope and the American Dream.
Gabrielle Scawthorn stars as Darja. Read her thoughts on the play and the problems our theatre has depicting issues of class here.
Pop-Up Globe (Moore Park)
When we went to the press launch of Pop-Up globe a few weeks ago, there was nothing but a set model and a ring of scaffolding to look at. Now, Moore Park is dominated by a full-sized replica of the second Globe Theatre.
While we’re not entirely down with the decision to play A Midsummer Night’s Dream with an all-male cast, we are curious to see what Pop-Up’s fusing of Elizabethan drama and Maori folklore results in and what a Macbeth played in broad daylight (we’re catching a matinee) will reveal in Shakespeare’s darkest tragedy.
If you missed the Sydney Festival production of Nathan Maynard’s salty comedy, you have a couple of chances to catch up this month – one at Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, the other at the Seymour Centre.
Set on Dog Island, off Tasmania’s northern shores, Maynard immerses his audience in the annual muttonbird harvest as practiced by the Duncan family.
A situation comedy as much as anything, The Season isn’t particularly plot-driven. Instead, it welcomes you to observe an indigenous, salt-of-the-earth family at work, rest and play, and a man’s efforts to keep the family in touch with tradition and country – and out of the reach of local ranger Neil, played by Trevor Jamieson.