Queensland Theatre Company is no more!
Well, in a way. New artistic director Sam Strong tonight revealed his plans for the company in 2017, including a name change from “Queensland Theatre Company” to just “Queensland Theatre”.
Strong jokes that the name change is just a natural next step in modernising the company which, until 2001, was known as the “Royal Queensland Theatre Company”.
“The more serious answer is I wanted to find a way to reflect that what we do is bigger than just a season of plays, and what we do as a company is bigger than our own company’s interests,” Strong says.
“Theatre companies are generally not as good as they should be at communicating with their audiences about who they are, and what they stand for, and what they do. And being really clear about our name is the first step in being really clear with our audience about who we are.”
Strong’s mission statement for the company is to “lead from Queensland”, and his 2017 season should make it clear how he intends to do so. (But you can see Strong’s nine “key commitments” for Queensland Theatre in 2017 at the bottom of this page for more information.)
The season still features audience favourites, like Strong’s new production of Noises Off, and a return season of the company’s hit musical Ladies in Black, but Strong has taken some steps away from the seasons programmed by former artistic director Wesley Enoch.
There are several recent international works, including Annie Baker’s The Flick and Nick Payne’s Constellations, as well as American writer Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ provocative play on race and identity, An Octoroon (pictured above). An Octoroon will mark Sydney-based indigenous writer Nakkiah Lui’s directorial debut, and the play has been rejigged slightly and recontextualised to take on some of Australia’s racial politics.
“We want to take a national view and look to the health of the whole country’s creative culture, by putting great Queensland artists in exchange with great interstate artists, and thinking about the nurturing of talent and stories on a national basis. So giving an artist like Nakkiah her directorial debut is a great example of us looking around the country and going ‘what’s the next generation of talent?'”
Strong says that while companies in Melbourne and Sydney occasionally cross-pollinate, they have a tendency to not think far outside of their own cities, and that opens up a space for Queensland Theatre to take a leading role.
He will be touring four of Queensland Theatre’s productions to other states, and is bringing up Melbourne’s Red Stitch’s production of The Flick as part of this mission.
“It’s an example of us saying to the embattled small-to-medium sector around the country: if you create a great work of art, which Nadia Tass’s production of The Flick is, then you will have a home and a destination in Queensland Theatre.”
Most of next year’s Queensland Theatre productions also feature a mix of Queensland-based artists and artists from around Australia. There are some particularly starry performers heading up to Queensland from the southern states, including Miranda Tapsell for An Octoroon, and Marta Dusseldorp and Ben Winspear for Joanna Murray-Smith’s adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage.
Strong also wants Queensland Theatre to have a stronger presence around the state, not just in Brisbane. The company will premiere a new play, My Name is Jimi, in Cairns and tour Constellations to the Gold Coast, Townsville, Rockhampton, Mackay, Cairns, Gladstone, Bundaberg, Ipswich, Toowoomba and Caloundra.
QUEENSLAND Theatre Season 2017
LADIES IN BLACK
Book by Carolyn Burns Music and lyrics by Tim Finn; Based on Madeleine St John’s novel, The Women in Black Director: Simon Phillips Venue: Playhouse
CAST: Kate Cole, Carita Farrer Spencer, Bobby Fox, Natalie Gamsu, Madeleine Jones, Kathryn McIntyre, Sarah Morrison, Trisha Noble, Ellen Simpson and Greg Stone
(Touring Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra)
Playwright: Annie Baker; Director: Nadia Tass; Venue: Cremorne Theatre
CAST: Ngaire Dawn Fair, Kevin Hofbauer, Dion Mills and Ben Prendergast
Red Stitch Actors Theatre Production.
Playwright: Nick Payne; Director: Kat Henry; Venue: Bille Brown Studio
CAST: Lucas Stibbard, Jessica Tovey
(Touring Brisbane, Gold Coast, Townsville, Rockhampton, Mackay, Cairns, Gladstone, Bundaberg, Ipswich, Toowoomba and Caloundra)
ONCE IN ROYAL DAVID’S CITY
Playwright: Michael Gow; Director: Sam Strong; Venue: Playhouse; Co-production: Black Swan State Theatre Company
CAST: Adam Booth, Jason Klarwein, Toni Scanlan and Steve Turner
(Touring Brisbane, Perth)
Playwright: Michael Frayn; Director: Sam Strong; Venue: Playhouse; Co-Production: Melbourne Theatre Company
CAST: Simon Burke, Ray Chong Nee, Libby Munro, Hugh Parker, Louise Siversen and Nicki Wendt
(Touring Brisbane, Melbourne)
Playwright: Michele Lee; Director: Lee Lewis; Venue: Bille Brown Studio; Co-presenters: Queensland Government and Griffin Theatre Company, Winner: Queensland Premier’s Drama Award 2016-2017
CAST: Kristy Best
(Touring Brisbane, Sydney, Albury-Wodonga)
MY NAME IS JIMI
Based on a story by Dimple Bani, Jimi Bani, and co-created with Jason Klarwein; Director: Jason Klarwein; Venue: Bille Brown Studio
CAST: Jimi Bani, Dmitri Ahwang-Bani, Agnes Bani, Conwell Bani, Petharie Bani and Richard Bani
(Touring Cairns, Brisbane)
Playwright: Branden Jacobs-Jenkins; Director: Nakkiah Lui; Venue: Bille Brown Studio Co-production: Brisbane Festival
CAST: Elaine Crombie, Chenoa Deemal, Shari Sebbens, Colin Smith, Anthony Standish and Miranda Tapsell
SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE
Adapted from the series by Ingmar Bergman
Playwright: Joanna Murray-Smith; Director: Paige Rattray; Venue: Playhouse
CAST: Marta Dusseldorp, Christen O’Leary, Hugh Parker and Ben Winspear
Queensland Theatre in 2017: Nine Key Commitments
In addition to the nine shows in Sam Strong’s inaugural season, Queensland Theatre will make concrete its vision of leading from Queensland in 9 ways:
1. Touring 10 Queensland venues and world premiering My Name is Jimi in Cairns.
2. Showcasing Queensland artists and their work at 15 interstate theatres in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Canberra.
3. Bringing the best of the rest to Queensland, including acclaimed international plays The Flick and Constellations.
4. Creating Queensland exclusives such as Marta Dusseldorp and Ben Winspear in Scenes from a Marriage and Nakkiah Lui’s directorial debut with An Octoroon.
5. Bringing audiences the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander talent such as Jimi Bani, Nakkiah Lui and Miranda Tapsell.
6. Creating career pathways by supporting Brisbane independent artist residencies and reviving acclaimed small to medium productions from around the country.
7. Achieving gender parity. Of the 18 writers and directors, nine are female and nine male.
8. A commitment to diverse casting with a third of confirmed actors from diverse backgrounds.
9. Changing the company’s name to Queensland Theatre to reflect its commitment to its whole home state and whole country’s creative culture.