Melbourne Theatre Company’s 2017 season features eleven mainstage productions and seven of them can be considered comedies (and among them are three new Australian plays), the directorial debut of Judy Davis in Melbourne and former MTC artistic director Simon Phillips returning to direct Macbeth.
By Garson Kanin (USA)
January 14– 25 February, Southbank Theatre
Cast of the screwball comedy made famous by the 1950 George Cukor film includes Heidi Arena, Christie Whelan Browne, Joel Jackson, Richard Piper.
Director Dean Bryant, set and costume designer Dale Ferguson, lighting designer Matt Scott, composer and sound designer Mathew Frank.
MTC says: “With the war over and Europe littered with a billion tons of scrap metal, junk-yard tycoon Harry Brock settles into a swank Washington hotel suite ready to grease palms and browbeat senators. Yet how can he win over Congress if his girlfriend, Billie, is always bringing down the tone? Enter Paul Verrall, a left-leaning magazine reporter, who knows enough about Washington to be cynical about the place. For a price, Verrall will teach Billie a few things, but does she have the capacity to learn? Does she ever!”
By Annie Baker (USA)
February 10 – March 25, Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre
Cast includes Julia Blake, Ursula Mills, and Helen Morse.
Director Sarah Goodes, set and costume designer Elizabeth Gadsby, composer and sound designer Russell Goldsmith.
Sarah Goodes says: “Annie Baker’s John explores and celebrates the unique quality of immediacy and intimacy of theatre. It activates the extraordinary inside the everyday and burrows towards the human need for connection and empathy. The opportunity to see this astonishing new piece of writing brought to life by two of this country’s most experienced and talented actors, Helen Morse and Julia Blake, is a remarkable opportunity not to be missed.”
By Brian Friel (Ireland)
March 4 – April 8, Southbank Theatre
Cast of the drama of four monologues includes Colin Friels, Pip Miller, and Alison Whyte.
Director Judy Davis, set designer Brian Thomson, costume designer Tess Schofield, lighting designer Verity Hampson, composer and sound designer, Paul Charlier.
(A Belvoir Theatre, Sydney production).
Judy Davis says: “To quote Brian Friel himself, ‘Memory is about what has happened in the past. It’s also about what might have happened but never did’. Faith Healer grapples with this notion of truth and falsity, and presents us with the gift of theatre in its essence – exceptional language that comes alive through carefully crafted characters.”
Three Little Words
By Joanna Murray-Smith (Australia)
April 18- May 27, Southbank Theatre
Director Sarah Goodes directs cast including Catherine McClements in this savage comedy of manners.
Sarah Goodes says: “Joanna Murray-Smith’s Three Little Words highlights her brilliant ability to focus on the complex dynamics of human relationships through wit, depth and the power of social commentary. In this new work she dives inside the interdependence of friends and their relationships – how we build our identities around those closest to us and how the breakdown of romantic relationships can be equally traumatic for those we spend the most time with. Brilliant and funny, as well as possessing a Greek-like focus on human interaction and behaviour, Three Little Words will be a wild night in the theatre.”
Minnie & Liraz
By Lally Katz (Australia)
May 12– June 24, Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre
Cast includes Nancye Hayes, Sue Jones, Rhys McConnochie, Virginia Gay and John Leary and Georgina Naidu in this off-beat comedy. Directed by Anne-Louise Sarks.
Anne-Louise Sarks says: “I was immediately drawn to the incredible, charming and complex women at the centre of Minnie & Liraz. I can’t wait to bring it to life. Lally’s writing is truly original and her latest play is deeply funny, honest and heart-warming – plus there’s the excitement of the bridge championship and a twist that even I did not see coming! In Minnie and Liraz, like all great comedies, there’s real truth at the core and the stakes are high.”
By William Shakespeare
June 5– July 15, Southbank Theatre
Cast to be announced.
Director Simon Phillips says: “I’m so delighted to be returning to the company with a Shakespeare – my greatest theatrical passion. This is probably his most visceral play – it operates on the head and the heart in equal measure, inviting the audience into the irrational world of its anti-hero. The results will hopefully be compelling, chilling and spasmodically heart-rending.”
By Michael Frayn (UK)
July 8– August 12, Playhouse, Arts Centre
Sam Strong directs an MTC and QTC co-production of the backstage farce with a cast that includes Simon Burke.
Sam Strong says: “Noises Off has been a guilty pleasure for audiences for decades. It’s a shamelessly entertaining night out, the quintessential workplace comedy that hilariously shows how the best intentions of any enterprise are undone by our all too human foibles. Noises Off is also a guilty pleasure for artists. This is the ensemble comedy par excellence, a Swiss watch of farcical construction that ensures everyone involved (actors and audiences) has a ridiculous amount of fun. I’m putting together a crack team of the country’s finest comic actors and we can’t wait to share our fresh take on the mayhem of Noises Off with audiences next year.”
Di and Viv and Rose
By Amelia Bullmore (UK)
August 12– September 16, Southbank Theatre
Marion Potts will direct a cast led by Nadine Garner in this comedy exploring female friendship.
Marion Potts says: “Over twenty years the world changes, things happen to us for better or worse. This play focuses on the relationships that somehow withstand the volatility of our lives – as much as a result of their flexibility as their solidity. It’s about those friendships that can bend and not break.”
By Noel Coward (UK)
September 23 – October 28, Southbank Theatre
Cast includes Simon Gleeson, Marina Prior.
Director Lee Lewis.
MTC says: “Although decidedly odd, the Bliss family can be perfectly charming when they want to be. Although it is indubitably true that Judith, a retired actress, tends towards melodrama in her everyday affairs, and her husband, David, a novelist, can be rather reclusive and foul tempered. Their grown-up children, Simon and Sorel, are quite capable of civility – if it suits them. It is just that, on this blighted weekend, each has invited a guest to stay at their house in the country without telling any of the others. So dashed inconsiderate! And for their poor guests, perfect agony!”
By Florian Zeller, translated by Christopher Hampton (France)
November 2 – December 16, Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre
Cast includes John Bell, Ian Bliss, Marco Chiappi, Anita Hegh, Natasha Herbert.
Director Damien Ryan, set and costume designer Alicia Clements, lighting designer Rachel Burke, composer and sound designer Steve Francis.
Damien Ryan says: “The greatest plays tend to be about family, an area we are all experts in, particularly its dysfunction. This play is a stunningly simple, funny and bitingly theatrical look at a family taking on a challenge that many in the audience will recognise as very close to home. It is, in fact, all of our destinies. We spend a lifetime collecting our identity and possessions around us, but what do we do when our mind begins to divest itself of that identity, when everything we recognise turns strange? The Father reminds us of everything we care about.”
By Eddie Perfect (Australia)
November 18– December 23, Southbank Theatre
Cast of Perfect’s second play includes Brent Hill and Verity Hunt-Ballard.
Director Dean Bryant, set and costume designer Owen Phillips, lighting designer Ross Graham.
Dean Bryant says: “Vivid White is the most theatrical new piece I’ve read in years – a roller coaster of comically dark scenes, interspersed with modern-day Weill-esque songs, and a climax unlike anything seen on MTC’s stage before. Eddie has one of the best gifts in the world, the ability to make you laugh hysterically at how ridiculous we are, and then leave you awake in the middle of the night. This new work screams off the page as a terrifyingly vivid look at what our world is becoming and it is thrilling to bring it to life.”