Spring is in the air and I spy the beloved bottle tree at Bille Brown Theatre as I smile in anticipation. It’s time for the launch of the program for Queensland Theatre in 2022. I am in awe of the team at Queensland Theatre for their ability to pivot and change in uncertain times. As the curtain falls soon on their most successful play ever, Boy Swallows Universe, we can all be buoyed by the fact that audiences will still come and revel in the joy of live theatre, with all its emotion, sense of story, wonder and character. We can now look ahead to 2022 where a total of eight plays will grace the Queensland stage inviting audiences to be entertained by the power of story. At the much anticipated Season Launch we were welcomed by Artistic Director, Lee Lewis who revealed her dynamic plans for a big year.
Lee says, “ Our 2022 season boldly crosses all boundaries, altering time and place and transporting us from Brisbane to Paris, Afghanistan, Far North Queensland and Arkansas. It will carry us across decades, from the 1890’s to the 1940’s, to 1975 and 2011, and will bring us to the current moment, reflecting the issues that matter deeply to us now.”
The first play announced was greeted with thunderous applause and I know many theatre lovers will be very excited to hear that the classic, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf , by Edward Albee, will be given a fresh and unique feel under the direction of Margaret Harvey.
Lee continues, “ In so many ways this play shouldn’t be funny, but it is. Audiences will delight in the caustic, brutal and spectacularly petty antics of the two couples behaving badly in this modern staging.”
This play is a co -production with the State Theatre Company South Australia. It tells the story of Nick and his wife Honey who are new in town and accept an invitation to an intimate afterparty at the home of Martha and George. As the booze flows and the conversations grow ominous, the four find themselves locked in a cruel sparring match with a hidden agenda. It will be showing at QPAC in February.
Second is a brand new work and one which needs to be told. Written by Christopher Johnston, First Casualty, is a story about our soldiers and their experiences in Afghanistan. Christopher is a serving member of the Australian Defence Force and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. His play is set in a remote Afghanistan outpost and is a story that reaches beyond the 20 year war. Christopher spoke eloquently about his play which is not a pro or anti – war piece , but a very human story about our soldiers. It offers us a chance to understand what they experienced.
A second world premiere is from Hannah Belanszky and is a gentle, almost gothic tale of family, identity and connection. Don’t Ask What The Bird Look Like, is a modern and beautiful tale about one girl’s search for her place in this world and did I mention the action is interspersed with some epic games of Scrabble. Yes, one for you, my Scrabble loving friends or should that be demons!
Director, Isaac Dandric (City of Gold) says, “ It is one of the most stage ready plays I’ve ever directed. With only three actors on stage it will take you on an emotional journey.”
Remember to pack your tissues for this tale of Joan. Joan needs a father. He left when she was a little girl. She wants answers, she wants history, she wants to know more about who she is. This play is from the pen of an exciting new First Nations voice.
Paris, how I have missed you! Now I can visit vicariously through the big theatrical play, Bernhardt / Hamlet by Theresa Rebeck. One of three plays directed by Lee Lewis this year it will be a delight for those who adore luscious costumes, the glamour of Paris and a strong woman taking charge of her destiny.
Lee says, “ The costume department has already taken over this one. It is the perfect play to enjoy some grandeur, some romance, some laughs and a dash of Shakespeare. I can’t wait to direct this gorgeous story starring Angie Milliken.”
Even writing this transports me to Paris where I sipped coffee at the Sarah Bernhardt café and laughed at the way my Mum always called me ‘ Sarah Bernhardt’ when I was being overly dramatic as a teen. Having experienced the grandeur of Paris haute couture week I will be hoping for a Behind the Seams tour to view the sumptuous costumes up close and personal. This play has gone straight to the top of my list to see with ‘my travel and fashion loving friends ‘.
Wesley Enoch gives us one of the big plays of next year with a remake of his joyous hit, The Sunshine Club. Wesley invites us to swing into the Sunshine Club where everyone is welcome and romance blooms. This musical begins in 1946 and war is finally over. But for Aboriginal soldier, Frank Doyle, who has spent years fighting shoulder – to – shoulder with troops from all over Australia, when he steps onto the Brisbane wharf he finds some things have not changed – despite his service.
Frank just wants a better life after a long war. He wants the simple pleasures of music and laughter, a place where he can dance with Rose, the beautiful girl next door. Filled with hope and defiance, Frank sets up his own ballroom, The Sunshine Club, where everyone is invited to meet, mingle and sway the night away.
Speaking to Wesley it is clear that this play is close to his heart, “ There were dance clubs all over Australia, from Brisbane to Darwin. The returning troops just wanted to enjoy themselves. It also has a gentle message along with all the song, dance, love and drama. I wrote lyrics with places you’ll recognise like….rhyming thunder with Nundah. “
We all chuckle, Wesley’s sunshiny demeanour is infectious.
Directed and written by Wesley Enoch, with music from John Rodgers, this glorious revival will be staged at QPAC.
Kendall Feaver’s The Almighty Sometimes really piqued my interest. It’s a powerful and honest family drama about raising a child, their search for independence and the grey areas of mental health care.
Director Daniel Evans says, “ It’s really a story about family and the love between a mother and daughter. The fear as they grow up and want their own independence and the feeling that you just can’t protect them anymore. The lead is a girl who has been medicated since she was eight years old and at eighteen wants to find out who she really is….. without medication. It will definitely be emotional.”
Daniel has directed over fifteen plays and I know he will find the perfect cast, the heart, hope and humour in this captivating multi – award winning play.
When Jason Klarwein asked Jimi Bani if there was a role he longed to play he was surprised to hear him say, ‘ Othello’.
Jason continues, “ It’s such a difficult play and I wondered why he would want to play such a character. When we started talking and thinking about giving the story a modern twist, Jimi told me the story of his family who fought for the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion during World War II. It just went from there.”
This tri- lingual production sees the narrative of Othello infused with the history of the battalion to bring together two powerful artistic cultures – Shakespeare and Wagadagam – creating an utterly distinctive theatre experience.
Finally, you know I love a good romance …. and the year’s end brings a funny and wild road trip romance through the heartland of America. Vietgone was penned by Qui Nguyen and is based on his own parent’s love story. The story begins in an Arkansas arrival camp for Vietnam War evacuees and sets off through the heartland of USA. This funny and poignant tale is likely to be one of the only 2022 plays to include live hip hop and ninja action. It’s an irreverent, pulp fiction style story which may or may not have led to the playwright’s birth. Sounds like rollicking good ride!
Selecting one or two might be difficult as there are such a variety of shows that cater to all tastes. Tickets are on sale now for 2022 and as our hearts ache for those theatres and artists whose work has been put on hold around the world , it’s our chance to start rebuilding our community’s arts sector, to revel in the power of a great story told by talented artists and to really just enjoy a great night out. Let’s look to the future and hope that 2022 sees the revival of theatre Australia wide.
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.
Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).