On the Sunday sliver of space between the end of Brisbane Festival and the Tony Awards celebration of Broadway being back, Queensland Theatre’s Artistic Director Lee Lewis launched its 2022 season with promise of continued celebration of the resilience of the arts and cultural sector, and the power of great stories told by talented artists. And season tickets are on sale now!
Finally making its way to the mainstage, after 2020’s false Brisbane start, is the rarely performed and highly anticipated Othello. Adapted for the stage by Jimi Bani and Jason Klarwein (who is also the production’s director), the work’s examination of race and gender politics through an Australian lens will be occurring at Queensland Theatre’s Bille Brown Theatre from 10 September to 1 October as part of the 2022 Brisbane Festival. The trilingual (Kala Lagaw Ya, Yumpla Tok and English) production promises illumination of the vital role of the Torres Straight Light Infantry Battalion during World War Two.
Shakespeare also makes an appearance of sorts with Theresa Rebek’s Bernhardt/Hamlet directed by Lee Lewis, which, with support by Phillip Bacon Galleries, will be take audiences to the fashion and feminism of late 19th century Paris in the Bille Brown Theatre from 28 May to 18 June. Forget ‘to be, or not to be’, for theatre star Sarah Bernhardt absolutely will when she sets her sights on playing Hamlet because who better to take on the greatest part ever written than the greatest actress of the century?
Classics continue to feature within the season’s framework with a reminder that nothing good ever happens after 3am, courtesy of Edward Albee’s big and bold domestic comedy, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe (most recently seen at Brisbane’s Ad Astra), which will be showing at QPAC’s Playhouse from February 12 – 26. Directed by Margaret Harvey, the fresh State Theatre Company South Australia production, supported by Production Partner Griffith University, promises a fresh and unique vision of the classic portrait of a marriage in crisis in its veer between reality and illusion, and hatred and desire.
Another highlight comes courtesy of the revival of Wesley Enoch’s joyous Brisbane musical The Sunshine Club (with music by John Rodgers) which the Australian playwright and former Queensland Theatre artistic director will direct at the QPAC Playhouse from 9 – 30 July. In partnership with QPAC and supported by Production Partner Ergon Energy, the groundbreaking 1999 show will swing audiences into the titular Sunshine Club of 1946 where everyone is welcome and romances bloom.
Big social themes feature at the heart of many of the season’s works, including with Kendall Feaver’s The Almighty Sometimes, a heartfelt family drama that explores the complexities of diagnosing children and raising teenagers towards independence. Under Daniel Evans’ direction, the award-winning play will bring to its audiences serious subject matter with some funny at Bille Brown Theatre from 13 August to 3 September.
March will see the world premiere of the compelling debut work First Casualty at the Bille Brown Theatre, supported by Production Partners BDO Australia, the Landmark Productions Fund and Legacy Queensland. The work, written by a serving soldier and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, Christopher Johnston, to be directed by Lee Lewis, will, from 12 March to 9 April, take its audiences to the high point of the war in Afghanistan in 2011. The story of soldiers more than war, promises authenticity in its depiction of the triumphs, tragedies, strains and sacrifices of defence force personnel.
Also more intimate in its focus is the world premiere of “don’t ask what the bird look like” by Hannah Belanszky, which will be directed by Isaac Drandic at the Bille Brown Theatre from 30 April to 14 May. This gently funny, almost gothic tale about land, family and reconnection from an exciting new First Nations voice promises to be a heart-warming meditation on the search for identity and belonging with a light touch of humour and a philosophical undercurrent.
The season of complex and richly diverse stories will conclude with a one of home and celebration of immigrant and refugee stories, as well as our common humanity. With hippies, cowboys and a ninja battle on stage at the Bille Brown Theatre, under the direction of Lee Lewis, the wild hip hop romance of Qui Nguyen’s American heartland road trip take Vietgone looks set to bring some pulp fiction style surprises along with its humour and songs (original music by Shane Rettig) to its 29 October – 19 November season.
Queensland Theatre’s season of eight plays, including two world premieres, represents a now particularly treasured opportunity to bring community together, regardless of how the reality of the year to come may pan out. And given the vibrancy of its diverse 2022 program, audiences can now only await with fingers crossed anticipation for a fantastic year filled with theatre.