Following their smash hit ‘The Revolutionists’ in 2021, The Curators’ Theatre returns for an action-packed year in 2022. The quirky Brisbane outfit will once again infuse their heritage-listed home at Christ Church in Milton with relevant, dynamic and innovative experiences.
Their season kicks off in late February with an Australian classic by Angela Betzien (‘The Dark Room’, ‘Hoods’) and introduces the eclectic range of genres they offer this year. ‘Children of the Black Skirt’ recounts the dislocation of the Australian psyche, its unresolved tensions with its landscape, its bush panic and the stories of its lost children – abandoned, forgotten, stolen.
Director Helen Strube was enthralled by “the form and structure that Angela has created”. Strube said the potential for further exploration of the challenging themes drew her to the project.
“The play gives presence to our country’s children, be they child immigrants who found themselves in Australia through deception, or children of The Stolen Generations.” Strube is passionate that ‘Children of the Black Skirt’ will connect with 21st century Australians. “These children, now adults, live in our community.”
Over 60,000 years of Australian history is brought together in Betzien’s Gothic play, well suited to the old-time grandeur of Christ Church where performances will take place.
“The precinct has witnessed the cultural history of the area and indirectly the nation,” says Strube. “‘Children of the Black Skirt’ weaves its way through our history and provides a unique commentary.”
The show features founding member Lisa Hickey as the Black Skirt. Hickey recently played Olympe de Gouges in ‘The Revolutionists’ (2021).
In May, The Curators put their spin on Shakespeare’s tragedy ‘King Lear’ in ‘King Lear Monster Show!’ which has been adapted and will be directed by Michael Beh. “This Lear takes no prisoners,” Beh explains. In a dystopian future, clothing is all recycled; epoch pop. Masks are de rigueur. The colliding sounds of grand opera and long dead rock gods linger, because – like all divas – Lear loves to dance.
Beh reveals the fun he’s had adapting the masterpiece.
“The characters, story and text are reconstructed, with clutches of text from other great poets and authors…it magnifies the hysterical hilarity of the story to discover the light, the humour and the love within the darkness.”
Set in a post-democratic world, KLMS! will continue Beh’s inventive brand of adaptations. “[The show] takes the essence of Shakespeare’s incredible play and renders it down to a short, sharp groove into the abyss where love, opera, beauty and snatches of later 20th century rock music blast our senses.”
The show features Warwick Comber, Amanda McErlean and Lauren Roche, all of whom have appeared in previous productions with the company.
The journey from Lear’s warped world then leads us to darkened tearooms, gloomy farmhouses and heated dancefloors in a collection of short plays under a single event – ‘Shadows of Love: A Triptych’ – directed by Hickey and Strube. Presenting riveting takes on love gone wrong, August Strindberg’s ‘The Stronger’ is joined by ‘Mrs Thally F’ by John Romeril and ‘Trifles’ by Susan Glaspell.
Hickey, who directs ‘Mrs Thally F’, says the three works heavily explore identity and protecting personal dignity in troubled relationships.
“All three plays bring a different but valuable perspective to these central questions, which are still so pertinent to our lives.”
‘Shadows of Love: A Triptych’ breathes new life into older or “forgotten” works. On Romeril’s 1971 play, which focuses on the real-life Sydney murderer Yvonne Fletcher, Hickey says: “He had a great sense of what works dramatically on stage, and a great ear for Australian dialogue.” Of a similar tone, Glaspell’s play from 1916 places audiences in “the aftermath of a grisly murder” and explores “being trapped, seeking escape and grappling with life-negating circumstances.”
The character of Mrs Thally F will be played by Sherri Smith, who appeared in the company’s ‘Uncle Vanya’ (2017) as Sonia.
The season concludes with “no-holds-barred merriment” in ‘The Curators’ Christmas Cabaret’, promising an unforgettable evening of song and dance, comedy and pathos, story and imagining – with just a little naughtiness.
“We will serve our excellent chilled, Curators’ Christmas punch,” says Strube. The eclectic event will take “audiences on a roller-coaster ride from silly to serious and back again.”
From Australian Gothic to song and dance, the year ahead is delightfully exotic with The Curators’ Theatre as they revisit the age old question – Why theatre?
“Our programming gives audiences ways of thinking and feeling beyond the 24/7 ‘digital babble’ of social and televisual media,” Strube remarks. “We hope our audiences will take away insights prompted by the stage worlds we create, that they will add to the dialogue, ask questions and connect.”
Photos by Naz Mulla Photography