Wesley Enoch - Queensland Theatre

Queensland Theatre launches big 2022 Season

“Life is better with theatre.” That’s how Queensland Theatre’s Artistic Director, Lee Lewis, began her launch of the 2022 Season.

In the two years since taking over the job as head of the State theatre company Lewis has overseen a global pandemic that shut down most of their 2020 season, with the following 2021 line-up described by Lewis as “a bluff that somehow managed to come together… with a few interruptions.”

But while others may have crumbled, Lewis has stood tall and managed to learn a thing or along the way. “What I know is that we need to make big plays at Queensland Theatre.” And that’s just what Lewis’s 2022 season promises – big plays and big ideas.

Kickstarting the season in February 2022 is Edward Albee’s ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’, which tells the story of couple George and Martha who invite fellow couple, Nick and Honey, around for a late-night drink. What follows is three acts of darkly humous satire with a heartbreaking conclusion. First performed in 1962 and to celebrate the big platinum anniversary, director Margaret Harvey plans to transform the epic three-act-classic from a play “that reflects the American socio-politics of the 1960s” into a work that “reflects Australia as a nation and the socio-politic of now”. Direct from The State Theatre Company of South Australia this production is set to star Queensland Theatre favourite Jimmy Bani as George.

Lee Lewis Queensland Theatre
Queensland Theatre’s Artistic Director, Lee Lewis launches 2022 Season.

Next is’ ‘First Casualty’, directed by Lewis and opening in March. Set in a remote base in Afghanistan in 2011 at the height of the conflict, ‘First Casualty ‘tells “an authentic account of what it is like for Australians serving at war”. This big world premiere production first came to Lewis’s attention when first-time playwright  Christopher Johnston submitted the script for the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award in 2017. Lewis is the first to admit that this play shouldn’t have won that award at the time but, in the years since, she believes Johnston, a still serving member of the Australian armed services, has grown the play into “a show that must be seen on stage”.

Following last year’s season that was heavily criticised for a lack of an Indigenous presence, ‘Don’t Ask What the Bird Looks Like’ is just one of the big indigenous-led plays in the 2022 season. Hannah Belanszky, a Brisbane based Indigenous playwright, will be the first to admit “I often worry I don’t sound black enough.” This feeling of a lack of connection to the land led her down a path to creating this play. ‘Don’t Ask What the Bird Looks Like’ tells the story of Joan as she reconnects with her previously distant father in a play that director, Ian Drandic, said has “some of the best characters that I’ve read in quite some time.” Much like Johnston, ‘Don’t Ask What the Bird Looks Like’ was a finalist for the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award and, also much like Johnston, has benefitted from the longer gestation period. Drandic who was on the initial judging panel for the QDPA has watched the play grow and transform in a process he describes as “an absolute pleasure”.

Hannah Belanszky - Queensland Theatre
Brisbane Playwright, Hannah Belanszky will showcase a new production called ‘Don’t Ask What the Bird Looks Like’

Moving on, mid-year Queensland Theatre will present ‘Bernhardt/Hamlet’, a fast-paced comedy about a 19th-century woman. The year is 1899, the destination is Paris and Sarah Bernhardt is one of the few women who own a theatre. Like most theatre owners she is in desperate need of a hit. So, she does the sensible, if slightly revolutionary thing, and casts herself as Hamlet. The rest they say is history. Playwright, Theresa Rebeck brings this big story to the stage, which when it premiered on Broadway earned two Tony Award nominations. Queensland Theatre’s 2020 production is set to star Angie Millikan as Sarah Bernhardt and according to Lewis is a bit of a cheat on her part as a director as it has “all the best bits of directing Hamlet without the challenge of directing Hamlet” plus “gowns galore, gorgeous gowns.”

Lewis went on to say that “the only way that you know a play is a classic is to mount a revival” and so that is what she has in store with former Queensland Theatre Artistic Director Wesley Enoch’s 1999 big Brisbane musical, ‘The Sunshine Club’, which hits the stage in July 2022. Set in the days following World War II, an Indigenous returned serviceman is rejected from Cloudland on the basis of race and so vows to create a club where everyone can dance together. Enoch, returning to the director’s chair at Queensland Theatre for the first time since leaving the top job in 2015, believes this work, despite being more than 20 years old, “has the ability to bring people together rather than tearing them apart.”

Wesley Enoch - Queensland Theatre
The original 1999 production of Wesley Enoch’s ‘The Sunshine Club’.

 Opening in August 2022 is Kendall Feaver’s ‘The Almighty Sometimes’. First performed in 2018 at Griffin Theatre, under the direction of the then Artistic Director Lee Lewis, Feaver’s play asks a big question – what is you and what is your medication? Anna has been on medication for as long as she can remember since being diagnosed at aged 8 with “a range of mood and behavioural disorders”.  Now at age 18, she wants to stop. What follows is what director Dan Evans calls, “a love story between a mother and a daughter.” This might sound like a bit of a drag but Evan’s promises a play that is humorous as well as thought-provoking, stating “when I first read this play I laughed. I laughed a lot.”  While the play is yet to be cast, we can only hope that Queensland Theatre casts someone with lived experience of disability in the lead role.

First programmed as part of Queensland Theatre’s 2020 season, this big brand-new adaption of Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ is set to have its world premiere in Cairns this November. This will be the first time in more than 50-years that Queensland Theatre has staged this particular Shakespearean tragedy and it’s bound to be worth the wait when it comes to Brisbane as part of next year’s Brisbane Festival. Lewis describes watching a rehearsal ahead of the premiere in Cairns as “a sight to behold.” This new adaption is set to transform Venice of 1603 to the Torres Strait of 1942. Director and co-adaptor, Jason Klarwein, said the idea started in a dressing room between him Jimi and Bani. “We just started talking about WWII as perhaps the setting for the play.” Bani who will also star as the titular Moor, is currently in Adelaide rehearsing ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’. He said people will be amazed at just how relevant this play feels today despite being written nearly 500 years ago and set nearly 100 years ago. “The gender politics, the race, the cultures blend, battle, mix, everything is in there with Shakespeare… but that’s in real life too.”

Jimi Bani and Jason Klarwein - Queensland Theatre
Jimi Bani and Jason Klarwein have adapted William Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’.

Lewis admits that by next October she’ll “be exhausted” and that all she wants to direct when she is exhausted is a “big fun play”. This is what she believes Qui Nguyen’s ‘Vietgone’ is as it concludes the 2022 season in late October. ‘Vietgone’ tells the true-life love story of Nguyen’s parents who met in Arkansas following the end of the Vietnam War. Streaming in from his home in America, Nguyen says he hopes audiences get a sense of family. “While I wrote this play to about my family, it’s been incredible seeing it get produced all over America and almost every single company that have put it together have become a family themselves… and audiences feel that.”

While Lewis does admit that as much as we might want it to be, 2022 won’t be entirely back to what it was pre-Covid but instead has focused this year as being one of “recovery and rebuilding”. She acknowledges just how lucky we are to be in Queensland, with the recent easing in restrictions.

While Lewis may have been the one to program the season, she refuses to see the season as merely her season but “our season.” This makes it our job, as the audience, to purchase tickets and help the industry recover.

For all the details on Queensland Theatre’s 2022 Season, see our breakdown below. Purchase your tickets at Queensland Theatre’s website.    

Queensland Theatre’s 2022 Season

‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’

By Edward Albee
Directed by Margaret Harvey
12-26 February 2022
Playhouse Theatre, QPAC

‘First Casualty’

Written by Christopher Johnston
Directed by Lee Lewis
12 March – 9 April 2022
Bille Brown Theatre, Queensland Theatre

‘Don’t Ask What the Bird Looks Like’

Written by Hannah Belanszky
Directed by Isaac Drandic
30 April – 14 May 2022
Bille Brown Theatre, Queensland Theatre


Written by Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Lee Lewis
28 May – 19 June 2022
Bille Brown Theatre, Queensland Theatre

‘The Sunshine Club’

Book and Lyrics by Wesley Enoch
Score by John Rodgers
Directed by Wesley Enoch
9-30 July 2022
Playhouse Theatre, QPAC

‘The Almighty Sometimes’

Written by Kendall Feaver
Directed by Dan Evans
13 August – 3 September 2022
Bille Brown Theatre, Queensland Theatre


By William Shakespeare
Adapted by Jimi Bani and Jason Klarwein
Directed by Jason Klarwein
10 September- 1 October 2022
Bille Brown Theatre, Queensland Theatre


Written by Qui Nguyen
Original Music by Shane Rettig
Directed by Lee Lewis
29 October – 19 November 2021
Bille Brown Theatre, Queensland Theatre

To watch the full Queensland Theatre 2022 Season Launch, visit their website

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