Film inspirations, revivals and new works in Melbourne 2019 theatre seasons

Melbourne’s two major subsidised theatre companies – Melbourne Theatre Company and Malthouse – revealed their 2019 seasons this week and if they have two things in common, it’s that theatre inspired by and/or made popular by screen versions shows no sign of waning in popularity and neither company features a big name movie star on its brochure cover.


MALTHOUSE, which has previously drawn inspiration (and handy name-brand recognition) from its treatments of Picnic at Hanging RockThe Elephant ManBliss and Melancholia will revisit the Australian film classic WAKE IN FRIGHT next year. Its theatrical adaptation is from the original novel by Kenneth Cook, not the film. This version is adapted for the stage by Declan Greene who will also direct and stars Zahra Newman “accompanied by a sonic assault from art-electronica band, friendships“.

The Malthouse season also includes a stage adaptation of the sci-fi novel SOLARIS by Stanislaw Lem which was adapted to film in 1972 and again in 2002. This new adaptation by Scottish playwright David Greig is a co-produced by Malthouse and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and is directed by Malthouse artistic director Matthew Lutton. (The show’s promotional image is above.)

MELBOURNE THEATRE COMPANY sees Simon Phillips, the guru of directing movie-to-stage adaptations (he originated the Priscilla musical, The First Wives Club, Muriel’s Wedding, and previously for MTC North by Northwest and All About My Mother), directing a new MTC production of the 2014 British stage version of the 1998 American film SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE.

MTC’s filmic inspiration is also seen in its programming of a co-production with Queensland Theatre of Colin Thiele’s novel STORM BOY (adapted by Tom Holloway) and directed by QT’s artistic director Sam Strong featuring John BatchelorTony Briggs and Emily Burton.

Meanwhile, the 1993 Kander and Ebb musical KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN famous for the 1995 film version will feature a cast including Caroline O’ConnorAdam Jon FiorentinoNatalie Gamsu and Bert LaBonte and will be directed by Dean Bryant.


MTC’s revivals include British playwright’s Alan Bennett’s autobiographical, THE LADY IN THE VAN which will star Miriam Margolyes and be directed by Dean Bryant.

Next year also sees a return of the modern Australian classic by Louis NowraCOSI in a co-production with Sydney Theatre Company. It will feature Esther HannafordHunter Page-LochardRahel Romahn and Katherine Tonkin and be directed by Sarah Goodes.

Arthur Millers American classic A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE gets another workout in a new production directed by Iain Sinclair and a cast featuring Daniela Farinacci and Ivan Donato.

MALTHOUSE is bringing back the Aussie epic family saga CLOUDSTREET after more than 20 years. The adaptation by Nick Enright and Justin Monjo based on the Tim Winton novel toured the country and the world last time around. This production, the company says, will be a “monumental new production unprecedented in scale and ambition” in a co-production with Perth’s Black Swan. It is to be directed by Matthew Lutton and features a cast including Guy Simon, Natasha Herbert, Bert LaBonté, Greg Stone and Alison Whyte.

Malthouse is also programming a return season of dance company Chunky Move‘s COMMON GROUND after its sold out 2018 season. Chunky Move’s artistic director Anouk van Dijk directs dancers Tara Jade Samaya and Richard Cilli  in “a unique duel that lights the fuse on equality and betrayal”.

Another of Malthouse’s hits returns next year in BLACKIE BLACKIE BROWN: THE TRADITIONAL OWNER OF DEATH by Nakkiah Lui and directed by Declan Greene.


2019_xxPress_Arbus&West Landscape_photo by Justin Ridler

Melita Jurisic plays legendary actress Mae West opposite Diana Glenn as legendary photographer Diane Arbus in an imagined encounter in the world premiere of ARBUS & WEST by playwright Stephen Sewell. It will be directed by Sarah Goodes. (Promotional image above by Justin Ridler).

AT MTC, THE VIOLENT OUTBURST THAT DREW ME TO YOU by playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer “tackles the ticking time-bomb of adolescence in a smart, sweet and fiery tale about two offbeat kids at war with the world” and stars Harry Tseng and will be directed by Prue Clark.

Nicholas BellJing-Xuan ChanJosh McConville and Yuchen Wang will star in the world premiere of MTC “Next Stage” commission, GOLDEN SHIELD, a legal thriller by Anchuli Felicia King to be directed by Sarah Goodes.

Nakkiah Lui’s hit satirical play BLACK IS THE NEW WHITE which premiered in Sydney last year is at MTC next year with a cast including Kylie BracknellTony BriggsLuke CarrollVanessa DowningMelodie Reynolds-Diarra, Tom Stokes and Anthony Taufa. It is directed by Paige Rattray.

AT MALTHOUSE, the Sydney Belvoir Theatre hit of 2017, BARBARA AND THE CAMP DOGS by Ursula Yovich and Alana Valentine and directed by Leticia Cáceres stars Yovich and Elaine Crombie with a three-piece all female band. As the brochure puts it: “Malthouse Theatre’s Merlyn stage is revived into a classic sticky-carpet venue which will see some audience members seated on bar stools, up-close and personal with the band as they perform original songs about love and home”.

AUSTRALIAN REALNESS: playwright Zoey Dawson “pries open social divides with incisive comedy and exacting satire” . It’s to be directed by Janice Muller and features a cast led by Linda Cropper who each play two versions of their character – “one bourgeois, one bogan”.

MY DEARWORTHY DARLING by writer Alison Croggon and directed by The Rabble is described by Malthouse as “Threads that run through history are woven into a tapestry. As the strands draw ever tighter, the old languages threaten to tear asunder. What new worlds might open?”

APOCALYPSE MEOW: CRISIS IS BORN: The chanteuse Meow Meow is back in a pre-Christmas, Christmas show.


AT MTC, Kat Stewart and Peter Kowitz feature in Brit playwright Simon Stephens‘ Broadway and West End hit, HEISENBERG in a new production directed by Tom Healey.

The Australian premiere of US playwright’s Anna Ziegler’s PHOTOGRAPH 51 about the scientist Rosalind Franklin features  actor Nadine Garner and direction by Pamela Rabe.

AT MALTHOUSE, Irish director Gavin Quinn’s THE TEMPLE – agroup session of gags, traumas, banter and tantrums” gets a local cast with  Nicola Gunn, Ash Flanders, Mish Grigor, Aljin Abella and Marcus McKenzie come together in an “unforgettable evening of laughter and self-discovery”.

American creators Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R. Sheppard’s show THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD GAME is a “darkly comedic take on how the First World has become jaundiced by its racially-charged back story is a shift-in-your-seat lesson waiting to be discovered…with repartee, acuity and nudity”.

Promotional image for Malthouse’s Solaris by Zan Wimberley



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