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September 29, 2014

State Theatre launches 2015 season

There must have been a permanent buzzing in State Theatre Company artistic director Geordie Brookman’s brain as he put together the 2015 season, which is influenced by everything from politics to his long-term creative intentions.

  • Main picture: Daniel Marks
  • Words: Farrin Foster

What at first appears to be a program of 10 plays and one symphonic collaboration quickly reveals itself to be something much more complicated.

The first play of the season is actually not a play at all, but a “Triptych” – three Samuel Beckett pieces that are to be performed in sequence. Even the plays that seem to be more straightforward productions are sometimes the result of “two or more years” of conversation and planning to bring together the right collaboration partners, the right people to direct, perform, design and execute.

“We exist specifically for this community and that means we should be telling stories for this community” – Geordie Brookman.
Man with a plan: Geordie Brookman photographed by James Hartley.

Man with a plan: Geordie Brookman photographed by James Hartley.

Despite the enormity of the task, Geordie says that it is important – at least in part – to respond to current events so the season speaks directly and clearly to the audience.

“I think there’s a bit of a wrestle for the country’s soul at the moment and it’s tipping the wrong way,” he says. “There’s this time of potential great progress but also high conservatism.”

“We exist specifically for this community and that means we should be telling stories for this community and we should also be pulling stories in from around the world. I would love to think that we encourage our audience to be outward looking.”

To achieve this balance Geordie has crafted a 2015 season that spans many times and places (several of which don’t even exist), but that all have something relevant to reflect.

The already-mentioned Beckett Triptych, presented in partnership with Adelaide Festival, will turn the audience inward and encourage them to start “digging through memory and regret”. Meanwhile, Geordie hopes the modern adaptation of 17th Century comedy Volpone might give Australians pause to reflect on greed and manipulation in an era of political penny-pinching.

Australian classic Summer of the Seventeenth Doll will be drawn out from the “nostalgic gloss” Geordie says is often applied to it, and set in a sort of vacuum instead of the usual ’50s suburban landscape. “I think it’s one of the best plays about middle age ever written, full stop, not just in Australia but globally,” says Geordie of the Ray Lawler work which is often cited as Australia’s most significant piece of theatre.

Summer of the Seventeenth Doll actor Chris Pitman photographed by James Hartley.

Summer of the Seventeenth Doll actor Chris Pitman photographed by James Hartley.

Contemporary drama Mortido is another example of Australian writing in full force during the season, with Angela Betzien’s powerful script to be brought to life by Colin Friels – who will appear on stage in Adelaide for the first time in 22 years.

Masquerade – an interpretation of the British picture book by Australian playwright Kate Mulvaney – brings a magical edge as it moves between the world of the picture book and a real-life universe populated by a sick boy and his Mother.

Actor Nathan O’Keefe will demonstrate his well-documented diversity by moving from the comedic and surreal realm as he performs in Masquerade to the harsh truth of human fallibility in Betrayal, where he stars alongside Alison Bell and Mark Saturno. This is one of several plays where Geordie takes on directing responsibilities himself.

“I just love it,” says Geordie, “because it looks at why we make stupid choices and you might be sitting there internally thinking ‘don’t do it, don’t do it’ knowing full well that if you were in that situation you probably would have made the same decision.”

Betrayal's Alison Bell photographed by James Hartley.

Betrayal’s Alison Bell photographed by James Hartley.

Shakespeare gets a look in too, but in the most oblique of ways, with closing of the season work The Popular Mechanicals referencing and expanding upon the world of the amateur theatre actors who make up part of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Ultimately, Geordie says the season – which also includes collaborations of various types on This is Where We Live, The Importance of Being Miriam, Madame and Mendelssohn’s Dream – reflects the evolution of State Theatre Company.

“For me it’s about directness of storytelling,” he says, “trying to remove anything that is a barrier between the audience and the story.

“And it’s about making work that’s as accessible as possible – that doesn’t mean dumbing it down or making it vanilla, it means making it intellectually and emotionally accessible to anyone whether they’ve seen one piece of theatre or 200 pieces of theatre.”


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