Highlights include Nakkiah Lui’s Black is the New White, Osamah Sami’s newly adapted memoir, and a Hedda Gabler on the coast.
Now in his second year, Artistic Director Sam Strong looks set to follow his impressive debut season with an equally intriguing 2018. With six new Australian works and four world premieres, Strong continues to demonstrate the refreshing diversity he brought to Queensland Theatre in his inaugural year.
“Like all great theatre, the 2018 season transports us to places we wouldn’t otherwise encounter – or even imagine,” says Strong. “In the coming year, audiences can be at the centre of a food fight at the Christmas dinner from Hell, evade pursuers across the Scottish highlands, wrestle with a Kafkaesque bureaucracy in Iran, help solve a 1960s murder mystery in the Western Australian Wheatbelt, become entangled in a 17th-century scientific feud, or sing melancholy love songs to the exotic Duke of a mythical realm.”
“In May, one of the most dramatic sporting moments of all time will form the springboard for a new play about football, family and faith and in November, Ibsen’s classic heroine Hedda Gabler will splash down poolside in a new version set on the Gold Coast,” he says. “All of this transportation will take place via the magic of theatre.”
The season opens with the Queensland premiere of Black is the New White, a sharply realised exploration of race, gender, religion, and class by commentator and writer Nakkiah Lui, directed by Paige Rattray. Garnering four and a half stars from Limelight in Sydney, Strong describes it as “quite simply a great night out. It’s a charming and perfectly executed rom-com, but it’s also an insightful comment on identity and aspiration in contemporary Australia.”
Black is the New White. Photo supplied.
It will be followed by The 39 Steps, a tongue-in-cheek noir based on the novel of the same name, most familiar to audiences via Hitchcock’s 1935 film. With just four actors playing a cast of 139 characters, this zany spy caper is brought to life with thrillingly inventive staging. “It’s a delicious mash up of genres: a dash of noir, a touch of thriller, a sprinkle of romance, a healthy dose of farce,” says Strong.
In April, Twelfth Night gets a bit of an update courtesy of a suite of original music written by Tim Finn, with a cast including Jason Klarwein, Christen O’Leary, and Jessica Tovey. “Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays because it is one of his most complete. It’s the perfect balance of melancholy and joy – as much about the pain of getting older or being left behind as it is about the thrill of falling in love,” says Strong, who is directing.
In May, Queensland Theatre presents the world premiere of The Longest Minute, a play about footy fanatic Jess and the 2015 NRL Grand Final. “Sport makes great theatre – its spectacle and drama, its heroes and villains, and its ability to inspire agony and ecstasy. The end of the 2015 NRL Grand Final between the Broncos and the Cowboys is a case in point. The Longest Minute explodes open these climactic moments to tell us the story of that unforgettable game, the underdog triumph of the 21-year history of the Cowboys, and the story of a family of footy fans following their dreams.”
The Longest Minute. Photo supplied.
The award-winning Good Muslim Boy is based on Osamah Sami’s memoir. Doing triple duty, he has adapted his irreverent yet tender tale of father and son for the stage, and will be playing himself. “This is a show built around the extraordinary life of Osamah Sami. It’s a tender portrait of a father-son relationship, a fascinating insight into faith in contemporary Australia, and a knife edge thriller about trying to get a loved one’s body out of Iran and find humanity in the sea of chaos. It just so happens that as well as having an incredible tale to tell, co-creator and performer Osamah Sami is one of our most engaging, endearing and enjoyable stage presences.”
The smash hit Jasper Jones is up next, an immensely popular Australian coming of age mystery by Craig Silvey adapted for the stage by Kate Mulvany. Having inspired three different sell-out theatrical productions and an acclaimed feature film, Strong attributes its success to the fact that “it so completely transports us into the shoes of its teenage heroes while taking us back to a time when the nation was also coming of age.” The production – a co-production with Melbourne Theatre – picked up several awards at this year’s Helpmann Awards, with Anna Cordingly taking out Best Scenic Design.
Jasper Jones. Photo supplied.
Strong will also direct a world premiere in 2018, David Williamson’s new work Nearer the Gods, which dramatises the relationship between intellectual giants Edmund Halley and Isaac Newton. “Williamson has been this nation’s preeminent storyteller for close to half a century. This is because he has an amazing ability to put his finger on the zeitgeist – to know exactly what stories need to be told right now. Here, he crafts a riveting drama-of-ideas out of a turning point in the history of science. David zooms in on the relationship between Edmund Halley and Isaac Newton, and the struggle to publish theories that would change the world.”
Hedda Gabler. Photo supplied.
Closing out the season is a contemporary Australian reimagining of Ibsen’s classic Hedda Gabler by Melissa Bubnic. Danielle Cormack steps into the title role, here a frustrated housewife on the Gold Coast married to a drug slinger. “Hedda showcases a triumvirate of incredibly talented women. Danielle Cormack is an actor with the power and sense of danger you need to tackle one of drama’s greatest heroines. Playwright Melissa Bubnic has the wicked turn of phrase and pitch black humour to wrench at 19th-century classic into the here and now. And director Paige Rattray has an ability to unleash performances that become seared into memory. Throw in a poolside set and a stellar local cast and Hedda promises to be the must see event of Brisbane in 2018.”