Lee Lewis, Artistic Director of Griffin Theatre Company, has announced the company’s 2019 season which consists of five mainstage plays by Australian writers, four of them written by women, and three of them world premieres.
“These are the stories that will challenge, comfort, frighten and inspire,” says Lewis. “And these are the fearless storytellers who will reshape how we can think, feel, love and hope. Each play is deeply intimate, striking at the heart of how we forget relationships and how we can make sense of our complicated presented and our imagined future.”
Griffin’s Artistic Director Lee Lewis. Photograph © Brett Boardman
The season begins in February with Dead Cat Bounce, a new play by Mary Rachel Brown (The Dapto Chaser). It won the 2016 Lysicrates Prize (then titled Approximate Balance) but has developed substantially since then, says Lewis.
“It’s a relationship story – what happens when you are in love and there is real baggage … and some of the baggage is alcohol,” says Lewis. “It’s not the event of the play, it’s the backdrop. The front end of the play is this extraordinary love story between an older man and a younger woman.” Mitchell Butel directs a cast that includes Kate Cheel.
Next comes Prima Facie by Suzie Miller, which won the 2018 Griffin Award. The one-woman play, to be performed by Kate Mulvany, is an indictment of the Australian legal system’s failure to provide justice for women in rape, sexual assault or harassment cases. Miller is a lawyer as well as an established playwright. “Essentially she is putting forward an argument that we need an entirely new system. And I don’t know of another playwright in the contry that could do that. I think she is slightly petrified at the thought of taking on the legal fraternity but she realises that if she doesn’t do it no one else can,” says Lewis, who will direct.
Kate Mulvany will star in Prima Facie. Photograph © Brett Boardman
Meyne Wyatt made his professional acting debut at Griffin in 2010 when he performed in Silent Disco straight out of NIDA. Now Griffin will perform his first play, City of Gold, in a co-production with Queensland Theatre. Lewis describes the play, in which Wyatt will also perform, as “one of the most confronting portraits of pain about what it is to be a young black man in Australia that I have ever read. It’s scary and funny and an international work that I think needs to be not only made but sent out around the world.”
City of Gold is about a young actor from Kalgoorlie, like Wyatt himself. Now he’s found himself starring in a controversial Australia Day ad that pays big bucks but draws the ire of his mob. “It’s not about the death of Elijah Dougherty [the 14-year old Indigenous boy who was chased and killed by a man in a 4WD in Kalgoorlie in 2016] but it was provoked by that for Meyne personally,” says Lewis. “It’s the right story for the right time and he’s brave enough to do it… He is putting himself in a very big firing line.” Isaac Drandic directs.
Meyne Wyatt, who will perform as part of the cast in his own debut play City of Gold. Photograph © Brett Boardman
In September, Lewis will direct Hilary Bell’s psychological thriller Splinter, first staged by Sydney Theatre Company. Starring Lucy Bell and Simon Gleeson, the play begins when a couple are reunited with their child who had gone missing. Lewis describes it as “an incredibly taut examination of a couple’s relationship under the most stress it can be”.
The mainstage season ends with First Love is the Revolution by Rita Kalnejais, who was seen in Sydney as an actor in plays such as BC and Babyteeth and who is now based in London. A play about hunger and desire, Griffin describes the blood-splattered play as “Romeo and Juliet pushed to deranged extremes, where the unlikely sweethearts are a 14-year-old boy and a hot young fox”.
Griffin’s Special Extra for 2019 includes the return of Omar Musa’s Since Ali Died, which sold out as part of this year’s Batch Festival at Griffin. It plays in January in association with Sydney Festival and Riverside Theatres, Parramatta. Also in Special Extra are Betty Grumble’s Love and Anger, Exhale by Black Birds,The Happy Prince by Melbourne’s Little Ones Theatre, and the comedy-cabaret Glittery Glittery by Fringe Wives Club. Batch Festival will also return in 2019, while the Australian Theatre for Young People will call the Stables home for another year, presenting two premieres in 2019: Intersection 2019: Arrival and April Aardvark by Nathaniel Moncrieff.