Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Upstairs, Upstairs: Black Swan launches its 2012 season

Let's go upstairs with Alison van Reeken (Boy Gets Girl)
The irony of Black Swan's second season at the State Theatre Centre is that economics appears to have forced it into the complex's big upstairs room, the Heath Ledger Theatre, for all six of the works it is mounting in 2012. From what I can gather, the STC's other resident, the Perth Theatre Company, is also grappling with the financial equation of using the smaller Studio Underground space in the complex.
It's ironic because Black Swan demonstrated this year that it has the pulling power to fill the Heath Ledger and you'd have thought that, flush with burgeoning box office revenues, increased corporate support, some high profile private generosity and the lion's share of government funding  for theatre in Western Australia, it would be able to turn its enviable position into more of the edgy product – the current season of The Damned is a case in point – you assume the Studio was built to house. 
That it appears not to be able to make the sums work for the Studio suggests the economic settings are fatally wrong for the space. If Black Swan can't make it work, you'd have to wonder who can.
Having said that, I think it's fair to say the season of six plays the company's artistic director Kate Cherry (who directs three of them) unveiled last night – in the Studio of all places – focus more tightly than last year on the company's brief as the State theatre company, with two new works on West Australian themes, two other new Australian plays and two established works from the last couple of decades by a British and an American writer.
Tim Winton returns for his second stint as a playwright, David Williamson for his second world premiere in Perth in two years, and Julia Blake, Helen Morse and Ernie Dingo all come visiting. There's a focus on the young designers Black Swan has been encouraging throughout, with Alicia Clements and Trent Suidgeest  in for busy years, as are local actors Stuart Halusz and the terrific young Whitney Richards.
Here's the programme:

The White Divers of Broome by Hilary Bell, a story of mother-of-pearl and racial conflict in the Kimberley town. World premiere season 28 Jan – 16 Feb.  
Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, the modern classic comedy of ideas and the eccentric family who has them. 17 Mar – 1 April.
National Interest by Aiden Fennessy. In association with the Melbourne Theatre Company, directed by it's writer and starring Julia Blake, the story of a family still grieving the loss of a son and brother in East Timor. World premiere season 5 – 20 May.
Signs of Life by Tim Winton. In association with the Sydney Theatre Company, the state's foremost literary figure brings a story of people navigating a dry sea. World premiere season 21 Jul – 12 Aug.
Boy Gets Girl by Rebecca Gilman. A NY story of modern dating and how to stop it, directed by Adam Mitchell and featuring a crackerjack West Australian cast. 15 – 30 September.
Managing Carmen by David Williamson. A story of footy and cross-dressing by the old master, in association with the Queensland Theatre Company and directed by Wesley Enoch. World premiere season 10 Nov – 2 Dec.

Link here to Steve Bevis's round-up of the Black Swan season, and here for his coverage of Black Swan chairman Sam Walsh's comments about WA arts funding, both in The West Australian


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