Sydney Theatre Company

Death of a Salesman 

Sydney Theatre Company
by
09 December 2021

In his program notes, Kip Williams, artistic director of Sydney Theatre Company, talks about the need to ‘wrestle’ Arthur Miller’s great play ‘into the present’. But if ever there was a play that speaks, as the Quakers would say, directly to us in our condition, it is this one. When Miller wrote it, he assumed that the postwar boom would not last and that America would head back into another depression. In fact, the boom continued, and for the next thirty years the United States, albeit hesitantly, moved past the horrors of McCarthyism, Vietnam, and the brutal resistance of the south to the Civil Rights Act towards a more just and equitable society. But the election of Ronald Reagan and the last forty years of triumphant, unrestrained capitalism have led us to the Trumpian world where people are either winners or losers and are, in the gig economy, to paraphrase Willy Loman, eaten like an orange and thrown away like the peel. Miller’s play is a reminder that being human, in his words, ‘is something most of us fail at most of the time and a little mercy is eminently in order given the societies we live in’.

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Julius Caesar 

Sydney Theatre Company
by
22 November 2021

Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, first performed in 1599, is deeply interested in the difference between sleeping and wakefulness, if sleeping is equivalent to wilful ignorance and being awake means political consciousness. Characters throughout the play can’t sleep, won’t sleep, sleep on stage, are roused from sleep; they dream, and their eyes open and close, put to an eternal sleep. Before officially joining the conspiracy to murder Caesar in the Capitol, the play’s hero Brutus receives three letters from the conspirators Cassius and Casca entreating him to open his eyes to Caesar’s tyrannical aims: ‘Brutus, thou sleep’st; awake’. Once awake, it is his duty to ‘Speak, strike, redress’. The play’s language of sleep is strikingly similar to twenty-first century discourses of wakefulness – whether a woke sensitivity to issues of social justice, or the rioters at the United States Capitol shouting, ‘Wake up to the steal!’

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Fun Home 

Melbourne Theatre Company/Sydney Theatre Company
by
04 May 2021

Fun Home is not your average musical. Based on Alison Bechdel’s hugely influential 2006 graphic novel of the same name – which contrasts her coming out as a lesbian with her gay father’s closeted, unhappy, and ultimately self-destructive life – Hello, Dolly! it ain’t. But in the clear-eyed, compassionate, and understanding hands of playwright Lisa Kron and composer Jeanine Tesori, it became a multi-award-winning, much-performed success.

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Appropriate 

Sydney Theatre Company
by
25 March 2021

Picasso is supposed to have claimed that ‘good artists borrow, great artists steal’. The young American playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins does something slightly different. He, as it were, appropriates, taking well-known theatrical styles and adapting them to his own use. He gets old theatrical forms – the minstrel show in Neighbors (2010) or nineteenth-century melodrama in An Octoroon (2014), which this writer was fortunate enough to catch in New York, and explodes them to blisteringly funny effect. With Appropriate (first produced in 2013), he adopts that well-worn saga, the dysfunctional southern American family.

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Playing Beatie Bow 

Sydney Theatre Company
by
01 March 2021

Ruth Park’s novels were as much about Sydney as the people who live there. In Park’s famous The Harp in the South trilogy, the slums of Surry Hills are almost as lively and characterful as the Darcy family, whose story it relates. In Playing Beatie Bow, the changing face of The Rocks underpins every part of the narrative.

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Yielding to temptation 

Sydney Theatre Company
by
30 November 2020

The advance publicity for Kip Williams’s production of Oscar Wilde’s novella The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) makes much of Wilde’s aphorism ‘The only way of get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.’ In the past, Williams has found the fashionable mix of video and live performance pioneered by the Belgian director Ivo van Hove seductive. He has used it brilliantly in his production of Tennessee Williams’s Suddenly Last Summer and less so in Bertolt Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. But with his assault on Wilde’s famous work, he has yielded to it with a vengeance.

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Wonnangatta 

Sydney Theatre Company
by
14 October 2020

Theatre emerged from ritual and the present circumstances have introduced new rites of passage for those who take part in the ceremony. Donning your mask, you perform the cleansing of hands, stand at attention as your temperature is taken, and enter an eerily under-populated lobby in which other masked figures attempt to keep a prescribed distance as they head for the inner sanctum. Once inside it is easy to find your allotted place, one of the few seats not cordoned off. Looking around at the handful of other attendees seemingly randomly scattered around the auditorium, it feels more like a final dress rehearsal than an actual performance. Welcome to theatre-going in the Covid-19 era.

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The Deep Blue Sea 

Sydney Theatre Company
by
10 February 2020

The seismic shift which occurred in the British theatre with the success of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger in 1956 left Terrence Rattigan high and dry. Writing for the ideal audience member he dubbed ‘Aunt Edna’ – a very different creature from her flamboyant Australian namesake – he supposedly fashioned plays that were designed to entertain the middle classes without disturbing them unduly. But a close reading of his more serious plays proves him to be every bit as trenchant a critic of British society as the ‘angry young men’ – Osborne, Wesker, and Arden – who took over the theatre in the 1950s and 1960s.

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The Beauty Queen of Leenane 

Sydney Theatre Company
by
25 November 2019

In a cramped, dismal cottage on the Galway–Mayo border, the theatre’s most poisonous mother–daughter relationship since Electra battled Clytemnestra is being played out on the stage of the Roslyn Packer Theatre.

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It must be confessed that the advance publicity for STC’s production of Lord of the Fliesfilled this reviewer with foreboding. A perspective on William Golding’s allegory about the inherent savagery of humanity – a destructiveness that, in his words, ‘produces evil as a bee produces honey’ – which shrinks it to the malady of the moment, toxic masculinity ...

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