Queensland Theatre have announced their bold season for 2021, in an online launch event.
Featuring four world premieres, including the highly-anticipated showing of Trent Dalton’s ‘Boy Swallows Universe’, as well as a Robyn Archer special event exclusive to Queensland, this season aims to inspire, ignite and unite in a year of big stories.
“We have all been on a wild ride in 2020 and 2021 promises to be challenging in ways we cannot imagine. But imagine we will,” said Queensland Theatre Artistic Director, Lee Lewis. “This year, we have all learned how much we need theatre. Thank you for staying with us through this dark age. We cannot wait turn the lights back on in our theatres in 2021.”
The 2021 season kicks-off 30 January with a “big cast” production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘Our Town’ by Thornton Wilder. Described as joyous, rich, complex and a classic that can transcend time, Lewis will direct the show and show how essential theatre is to living, breathing and dreaming.
“I think ‘Our Town is the most beautiful play to come back to the theatre with after a long time of darkness,” said Lewis.
“It’s a huge story told very simply, about a beautiful group of people who live in a small country town. It’s an extraordinary reminder that it’s the small things in life that matter in the face of big tragedy.”
‘Our Town’ will boast an extensive cast, as Queensland Theatre try to employ and get as many artists back on the Bille Brown stage.
Next up, comes the first of four world premieres that the season has to offer, with the rescheduled ‘Triple X’, written by Glace Chase, who also stars as the lead, and directed by Paige Rattray. The very personal rom-com is an honest, hilarious and emotionally-affecting story that presents the truth of entitlement, hypocrisy and realities of love in an eye-popping and confronting way. Originally slated for 2020, the production was caught in the cross fire of pandemic closures.
“If there was a record between rehearsals and an official opening, ‘Triple X’ may just win it, given we were about to stage the opening of this remarkable production in March this year. Then COVID-19 hit, and everything closed. So, when this opens in March next year, emotions will be high and so they should be,” said Lewis.
Following this in May 2021, Queensland Theatre will present their first Shakespeare in the Bille Brown Theatre, with ‘Taming of the Shrew’, to be directed by Damien Ryan. The complex play about gender and societal norms will get a new revamp fresh for a new age.
“With a sprinkle of old-time movie magic, director Damien Ryan rescues this classic love story from the clutches of controversy, by transporting it to 1920s Italy, when Kate is less of a problem and more of a promise of great women to come. This may not be the ‘Shrew’ you were expecting, but it will be an irresistible night in the theatre filled with glamour, romance, song and laughter. And a plane,” said Lewis.
Next is Anchuli Felicia King’s new play, ‘White Pearl’, which explores a ruthlessly entertaining portrait of toxic corporate culture, casual racism and the complexity of pan-Asian relations. Lewis described King as one of the writers for the future and it was important the Company introduced her to Brisbane Audiences. ‘White Pearl’ will be directed by Priscilla Jackman in the Bille Brown Theatre.
Following in July, is the rescheduled Griffin Award-winning ‘Prima Facie’ by playwright Suzie Miller. Described by Lewis, who will also direct the piece, as a timely play, this one-woman show presents an urgent and irresistible call for change through its powerful story of a defence barrister who finds herself on the wrong side of the system.
Then, and finally, from 30 August the highly-anticipated world premiere of the stage version of Trent Dalton’s popular novel, ‘Boy Swallows Universe’ will be presented in partnership with Brisbane Festival and QPAC. Adapted for stage by Tim McGarry and directed by Sam Strong, the coming of age story will bring 1980s Brisbane to life and surely see audiences jumping on planes to see the show.
“In exciting news, we can announce that the role of Eli will be performed by Joe Klocek. Joe started with Queensland Theatre in the Young Artists’ Ensemble, was cast in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and will now play this once-in-a-lifetime role at the Playhouse next year. It’s a wonderful reflection of the pathways open to our young artists,” said Lewis.
Immediately following is another world premiere, with the staging of 2020-21 Queensland Premiere’s Drama Award-winning play, ‘Return to the Dirt’, by, and starring, Steve Pirie. Set in a funeral home in Toowoomba, the Australian comedy is honest and surprisingly uplifting as it combines the light and the dark. It also invites audiences to start a conversation often avoided.
“With respect, wit and a nod to pop-culture, Steve takes us on a journey that celebrates finding your place in the world, the power of personal redemption and humility in the face of the big questions,” said director Lewis.
Rounding out the 2021 season in a grand finale from 20 November is a very special theatre experience in the world premiere of ‘Robyn Archer: An Australian Songbook’. Commissioned by Queensland Theatre for an exclusive and strictly limited season in an intimate concert in the Bille Brown Theatre, Lewis described ending the year as “wrapping 2021 with a great big bow in a gift to Queensland.”
“Robyn Archer is an Australian legend, industry pioneer and provocateur. She has delighted audiences around the world with her powerhouse shows, singing songs from the underground cabarets of the Weimar Republic, the salons of 19th century France and the folk clubs and Broadway stages of New York City. Robyn has conjured the works of Bertolt Brecht, Edith Piaf, Woody Guthrie and countless others. Now, she’s coming home,” said Lewis.
“Robyn’s wealth of musical knowledge is distilled into a fearless, political and personal celebration of the way song has shaped Australian identity. It’s a melodic road trip through more than 150 years of ‘other’ Australian song, as she explores the music of her upbringing and the countless rhythms and voices that are woven into the unique sonic fabric of this country.”
A trio of Australia’s finest musical artists will join Robyn to transform the Bille Brown Theatre into a cabaret stage: piano accordion virtuoso George Butrumlis, actor and multi-instrumentalist Cameron Goodall of The Audreys on guitar, and composer Enio Pozzebon on keyboards.
In another first, the Company is partnering with Australian Theatre Live to produce digital versions of three productions — ‘Taming of the Shrew’ (available 14 to 20 June), ‘Return to the Dirt’ (available 22 to 28 November) and ‘Robyn Archer: An Australian Songbook’ (available 13 to 19 December). Making theatre even more accessible, this venture will allow these productions to be shared in lounge rooms all over Australia is a wonderful way to connect with new audiences and make sure that no-one is missing out.
As Queensland Theatre attempts to navigate the impacts of COVID-19 and the pandemic, the Company acknowledged that the season will start with 50% capacities, as they adhere to COVID safe plans. Hoping that the restrictions will lift further during the year, Lewis recognised that it will be a bit of an adjustment initially.
“I’d be very happy to see half full houses, but it’s a bit of an adjustment for performers and the audiences. Given this year, we hope audiences will be thrilled to be there to enjoy these stories. While we all love zoom, there is nothing like live bodies in front of us, animated and bringing to life our stories,” said Lewis.
Queensland Theatre will also continue the popular Play Club digital readings, with six live events throughout 2021. The Company also is doubling down with a greater commitment to their education programs and are also developing works out of Cairns.
With plenty on the agenda for 2021, Queensland Theatre will endeavour to bring the performing arts back to life.
We need to see great big stories that fill us with inspiration. We need to have our artists back at work, breathing life into the national imagination. We need to talk to friends about the play we all saw last night and disagree with them about what it really meant. We need Australian voices speaking to us about what matters to us right now. We need the buzz of a foyer. We need our culture to come back to life, and we are making this happen,” said Lewis.
For more information and to book tickets or season passes, visit Queensland Theatre’s website.
Watch the full online launch below:
Queensland Theatre – 2021 Season
By Thornton Wilder
30 Jan — 27 Feb at the Bille Brown Theatre
By Glace Chase
6 Mar — 1 Apr at the Bille Brown Theatre
A Sydney Theatre Company co-production
Taming of the Shrew
By William Shakespeare
8 May — 12 Jun at the Bille Brown Theatre
Digital version available 14 to 20 June
By Anchuli Felicia King
17 Jun — 10 Jul at the Bille Brown Theatre
A Sydney Theatre Company and Riverside’s National Theatre of Parramatta production
By Suzie Miller
14 Jul — 14 Aug at the Bille Brown Theatre
A Griffin Theatre Company production
Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe
Adapted for the stage by Tim McGarry
30 Aug — 18 Sep at the Playhouse, QPAC
Queensland Theatre and Brisbane Festival in association with Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Return to the Dirt
By Steve Pirie
16 Oct — 13 Nov at the Bille Brown Theatre
Digital version available 22 to 28 November
Proudly supported by Queensland Government
Robyn Archer: An Australian Songbook
Devised and performed by Robyn Archer
20 Nov — 4 Dec at the Bille Brown Theatre
Digital version available 13 to 19 December