Geordie Bookman has formed an Ensemble company which will take its first steps with two back-to-back productions.

With the formation of the State Theatre Company Ensemble – a group of actors and creatives who will work on a number of productions in 2017 and 2018 – Artistic Director Geordie Brookman has pointed the State Theatre Company of South Australia (STCSA) in a new direction.

The new State Theatre Company Ensemble. Photo by Sia Duff

“The formation of the Ensemble will reintroduce a method of theatre making not seen at the Company since John Gaden’s artistic directorship [in the 1980s]. Combined with our continuing commitment to new Australian writing and ambitious national and international partnerships 2017 promises to be a year of rich theatrical adventure,” says Brookman.

The Ensemble features six South Australian actors – Anna Steen, Nathan O’Keefe, Rachel Burke, Dale March, Rashidi Edward and Miranda Daughtry – who will work with Brookman, Resident Artist Elena Carapetis and Resident Designer Geoff Cobham on back-to-back productions of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Nathaniel Dean and Ningali Lawford-Wolf star in The Secret River. Photo by James Hartley

The season opens with Neil Armfield’s award-winning Sydney Theatre Company production of The Secret River, adapted by Andrew Bovell from Helen Grenville’s novel, which will be staged in the quarry at Anstey Hill, the magical setting used for Peter Brook’s legendary Mahabharata at the 1988 Adelaide Festival. In a co-production with Sydney’s Belvoir, Imara Savage will direct the Australian premiere of Mr Burns – A Post-Electric Play by innovative American playwright Anne Washburn. Set in a post-apocalyptic America, a group of survivors re-enact the classic Cape Feare episode of The Simpsons, creating a kind of theatrical pop culture religion. The production will star Mitchell Butel and Esther Hannaford.

British directors Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan will restage their Olivier Award-nominated adaptation of George Orwell’s classic, dystopian novel 1984 with an Australian cast. The multi-media production from British companies Headlong, Almeida Theatre and Nottingham Playhouse will embark on a national tour spearheaded by STCSA and Sydney Theatre Company. Veteran stage actor Sandy Gore will play crime writer Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr Ripley, Strangers on a Train) in Joanna Murray-Smith highly acclaimed psychological thriller Switzerland, which premiered at STC in 2015.

Sandy Gore plays Patricia Highsmith in Switzerland. Photo by Sia Duff

Closing the season is Vale, a new Australian work by AWGIE Award-winning playwright Nicki Bloom. Brookman will direct the play, described as “a dark-as-pitch comedy with a sting in its tale” offering “a collision between the wit of Edward Albee and a modern Greek tragedy”. Mark Saturo plays Joseph Vale, the self-made head of a hotel empire whose New Year’s Eve celebrations are accompanied by unexpected fireworks.

The 2017 State Education production is a new work called Sista Girl looking at family and the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians co-written by Elena Carapetis and Alexis West, which will tour throughout regional and remote South Australia. The 2017 State Umbrella show is a new work called Rabbits by local artists Emily Steele and Daisy Brown.

Summing up the programme Brookman says: “An exploration of the individual in extremis is stitched through the 2017 season, but ultimately it is a collection of great plays, brilliant actors and compelling stories, all of which come together to push the boundary of just what theatre might be able to do.”