The Ensemble Theatre has launched its 2021 season, which includes seven plays and three cabaret shows. Five of the plays are Australian, and four of them will be world premieres. Of the seven plays, five were originally scheduled for 2020 but had to be postponed when the venue was shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re elated to open our theatre so people can experience the thrill of live theatre again in a COVID safe environment and enjoy seven plays with 30 of Australia’s finest actors,” said Artistic Director Mark Kilmurry.
Ben Wood will star in Kenny. Photograph © Christian Trinder
The 2021 season opens with Kenny by the Jacobson Brothers, adapted for the stage by Steve Rodgers. The Ensemble will join forces with Sydney Festival (with whom they co-produced Black Cockatoo last year) to co-present the world premiere in January. The play, which was originally scheduled for 2020, is based on the much-loved 2006 mockumentary film Kenny by Shane and Clayton Jacobson about a fearless, eternally optimistic Aussie plumber who works for a portable toilet rental company. Ben Wood steps into overalls and pulls on rubber gloves to play the title role. Mark Kilmurry directs.
Kenny plays 15 January – 27 February
Mark Kilmurry directs the world premiere of his own new play, Outdated, which was also postponed in 2020. The bittersweet comedy navigates the highs and lows of modern dating – a scary prospect when you are in your 40s and didn’t grow up swiping left or right. Rachel Gordon and Yalin Ozucelik play an awkward couple, who are attempting to put single-dom behind them.
Outdated plays 5 March – 17 April
Joanna Murray-Smith’s award-winning 1995 play Honour has been performed in more than three dozen countries, with seasons on Broadway and in London’s West End, and was to have been presented at the Ensemble in 2020. Taking an unflinching look at sex, relationships and intergenerational differences, Honour explores the breakdown of a seemingly rock-solid marriage when husband George leaves his wife Honor for a younger writer. Kate Champion, whose directorial credits include Fully Committed for the Ensemble in 2019, My Brilliant Career for Belvoir in 2020, and That Eye, The Sky for the State Theatre Company of South Australia in 2018, directs a cast including Lucy Bell as Honor.
Honour plays 23 April – 5 June
THE WOMAN IN BLACK
Originally scheduled for 2020, The Woman in Black is a spine-chilling ghost story by Stephen Mallatratt, adapted from Susan Hill’s novel. Mark Kilmurry directs the spooky two-hander, which premiered in 1987 and was one of the longest-running plays in West End history, second only to The Mousetrap. Garth Holcombe is one of the two actors. Be prepared to be scared.
The Woman in Black runs 11 June – 24 July
KILLING KATIE: CONFESSIONS OF A BOOK CLUB
Kate Raison and Chantelle Jamieson will perform in Killing Katie: Confessions of a Book Club. Photograph © Christian Trinder
Tracey Trinder’s new play – which was inspired by “a big drama” at her book group – will have its world premiere in 2021, after its 2020 season had to be postponed. In the play Robyn – who has been Queen Bee of her long-running book club – has her nose put out of joint when the free-spirited, sparky Katie joins the group, and plots to get rid of her, with shocking consequences. Francesca Savige directs the brutal, laugh-out-loud comedy with a cast including Kate Raison as Robyn and Chantelle Jamieson as Katie.
Killing Katie: Confessions of a Book Club plays 30 July – 11 September
Yasmina Reza’s sleek, witty play Art premiered in Paris in 1994. An English language adaptation, translated by Christopher Hampton and directed by Matthew Warchus, opened in the West End in 1996 and subsequently toured to Broadway. It was also staged in Australia. After successful dermatologist Serge buys a hugely expensive, apparently all-white painting by a fashionable artist, his 15-year friendship with Marc and Yvan finds itself on shaky ground as rows erupt over its merit. It is great art or has Serge been hoodwinked into splashing out on crap? Art explores ideas around modern art, friendship and truth-telling. Mark Kilmurry directs a new production of Hampton’s translation starring Andrew Hansen, Craig Reucassel and Chris Taylor from The Chaser.
Art plays 17 September – 30 October
NEARER THE GODS
Sean O’Shea and Rowan Davie will feature in Nearer the Gods. Photograph © Christian Trinder
The final play in the 2021 season is David Williamson’s Nearer the Gods, which premiered at Queensland Theatre in 2018. Beginning in 1684 at the dawn of the Enlightenment, bright, young astronomer Edmund Halley is trying to wrestle the secrets of gravity and the laws of motion from Isaac Newton, who has become a sullen recluse driven by religious delusions. Williamson shows how petty politics, inflated egos and fierce rivalries almost jeopardise one of the greatest discoveries in human advancement. Janine Watson, who received the Ensemble’s inaugural Sandra Bates Directing Award and who was Assistant Director on the Ensemble’s productions of Nina Rayne’s Tribes and Alan Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking, directs a cast including Sean O’Shea and Rowan Davie.
Nearer the Gods plays 5 November – 24 December
The 2021 program will also include three cabaret events: Diva Degustation by Trevor Ashley (21 – 29 March), And Another Thing by John Bell (15 – 22 August) and The Casting Couch with Todd McKenney and Nancye Hayes (17 – 24 October).