Matthew Lutton unveils a brave and bold line-up that looks set to thrill.
When Matthew Lutton took over as Artistic Director at the Malthouse Theatre earlier this year he said he wanted the Company to be “entertaining, subversive, sexy and provocative”. And it seems his first season of work has been carefully curated to achieve exactly that.
It kicks off on a high note with the delectable Meow Meow bringing to the stage her version of the Little Mermaid. She’s a performer that Lutton describes as a theatrical and musical maverick and one that had critics and audiences captivated with her Little Match Girl back in 2011. Directed by Micheal Kantor and featuring Hugh Sheridan and the aptly named Sirens Orchestra, it’s a show that will undoubtedly be a crowd pleaser.
Another story turned for the stage follows with an ambitious, first-ever staging of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Lutton will direct Joan Lindsay’s haunting tale, adapted by playwright Tom Wright, and says, “This novel has embedded itself in our national psyche, and still speaks to us about what it means to live in this country and be Australian today.”
The season also builds on Lutton’s commitment to collaborate with some of the best and most exciting independent and international artists. From overseas, he’s bringing the world’s most notorious theatre collective, Berlin’s Gob Squad, for a new production that tackles a 19th-century icon of literature, War and Peace (Around a Kitchen Table).
Gob Squad is a company that has a reputation for challenging people’s understanding and perception of life and art. “They’re theatrical rebels,” says Lutton. “They have the guts to take on Tolstoy’s epic, and will fearlessly break down the fourth wall, taking Malthouse Theatre out onto the streets.” This is likely to be Tolstoy as never seen before.
Every Brilliant Thing
With a slightly lighter international offering, UK comedian Jonny Donahoe will perform his heart-warming one man show Every Brilliant Thing. Loved by audiences in Edinburgh and New York, it has been described as “One of the funniest plays you’ll ever see about depression – and possibly one of the funniest plays you’ll ever see, full stop.”
Theatre collaborations with top Australian names and companies pepper the season too. Eamon Flack’s The Glass Menagerie, the show that sold out in Sydney and recently won the 2015 Helpmann Award for Best Play, will give Victorian theatre goers the chance to see acclaimed actress Pamela Rabe as one of Tennessee William’s most legendary characters, Amanda Wingfield. “It’s a legendary play,” says Lutton and, having been so well realised by this creative team, a star studded classic that’s a safe bet for the season.
The Company is also partnering with Belvoir and State Theatre Company of South Australia to produce the Australian premiere of The Events by celebrated playwright David Greig. It was written in response to the violence unleashed by Norwegian white-supremacist Anders Breivik, and premiered at 2013’s Edinburgh Festival to critical acclaim.
Using a different community choir each night, and described as a chilling exploration of the aftermath of a massacre, Lutton sees the play as “one of the most remarkable pieces of theatrical writing of recent years.”
Another partnership, and one that Lutton expects will be one of the most talked about shows of the year, is with St Martins Youth Arts Centre. Called Gonzo, this show is a jaw-dropping expose on teenage boys’ relationships with internet porn. The subject matter is edgy and controversial and audiences are being warned to leave their preconceptions at the door. But according to Lutton, “No other company could wrestle with the subject of teenage boys and pornography with more sophistication and insight than St Martins.” It’s a story of the now, he believes, and one that needs to be told.
Audiences will also be treated to Blaque Showgirls, a new piece by Nakkiah Lui, an artist known for breaking the rules and described as a phenomenon and a sensation. The show is described as a piece of cultural commentary; a story of Ginny – a white-skinned ‘blaque’ girl who dreams of becoming the best Aboriginal dancer in the glitzy clubs of Brisvegas.
Across the board, it’s a brave, diverse and exciting program, featuring artists and voices that are sure to challenge and entertain. Earlier this year, Lutton began his tenure stating, “I believe conversation is at the heart of civic society and I want to create theatre that starts conversations by combining complex elements of politics, history and the personal.” Although Malthouse theatre goers have to wait till January for it all to begin, the promise of what’s to come has probably prompted many of those conversations already.