Luckily for Melbourne there is a lot happening at the Malthouse Theatre, so gather on the grounds outside for deliberation and discussion, because Season One for 2011 has just been announced, along with a new artistic director, Marion Potts.
The Malthouse Theatre is like a gem on a dusty plain. Step around the corner from Southbank’s monstrous skyscrapers to find a contemporary building arisen from the dirt, and as red as the earth, currently with the light installation ‘heaven is a place where nothing ever happens’ out front. Luckily for Melbourne there is a lot happening at the Malthouse Theatre, so gather on the grounds outside for deliberation and discussion, because Season One for 2011 has just been announced, along with a new artistic director, Marion Potts.
Potts calls from a busy conference hall, where all the hustle and bustle sound like the opening night of a new performance. She explains how her interest in directing and performance began from her days at university when she joined theatre clubs before moving on to NIDA, where she studied directing. After taking a position as an affiliate director at the Sydney Theatre Company, Potts’ experience in the industry grew until she became resident director at Sydney Theatre Company and began directing on the main stage. She then worked freelance and became Associate Director of the Bell Shakespeare Company before taking the role as Artistic Director of the Malthouse Theatre, where she represents a new force of creative input and progression for an already artist-focussed company.
Potts barely deliberates on her excited and sincere words as she expresses how she has always viewed the Malthouse Theatre and what drew her to the role.
"The nature of the theatre company was so positive and it was a company that was prepared to gamble and to take risks with the artists, the kind of risks that need to be taken to satisfy good work. If a company can do that for one artist, and is doing that for every artist that comes through the door, it’s actually a really important place in the theatre landscape," she says. Risks are good, risk taking is better, and no one knows that more than the artists that grapple to get their work onto the performance stage for a stake at immortality.
Potts has always worked closely in collaboration with artists and performers, and being a director as well, knows what goes on and what needs to be going on for successful productions. “I want to work on revisiting rehearsal models and models for creative development, to really look at how we make work in this country and find a better way of doing it,” explains Potts. “What we’re hoping to do is put a number of ideas into a creative development scenario. All of the programming will come out from what we’re hoping to develop at the Malthouse.”
Artists will no longer need rely on just the chance of sending completed work in, but will be able to pitch ideas and have them worked on collaboratively from the concept, making productions more creatively secure and successful. Speaking of artistic risk taking, it might dazzle art and theatre lovers to see that the first performance on the bill for 2011 is John Ford‘s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore. First performed in 1633, some may wonder what could possibly be exhilarating or taboo about this piece. Surely Ford had no idea about the morals that invest in and plague contemporary society, or about defining ambiguous words like love. Turns out Ford knew more than enough.
Annabella: Love me, or kill me, brother
Giovanni: Love me, or kill me, sister
Annabella has three suitors, yet none compare to her elder brother Giovanni. Potts’ adaptation puts an almost operatic spin on the piece, bringing a musical influence to a 400-year-old text. "It’s a love story, a story of forbidden love, as the two protagonists are siblings. It pushes us immediately into a confronting moral territory and that’s one of the reasons I’m attracted to it, because its moral relativism is something that keeps his writing alive today and audiences interested," Potts explains. She collaborates again with composer André Greenwell, with whole texts scored to baroque inspired music. Potts describes the adaptation as "Quentin Tarantino meets Romeo and Juliet." Murder and love: there’s not much better on the stage.
Another style of darkness also comes to Malthouse Theatre for Season One in the Belvoir production of The End. Associate Director at Belvoir, Eamon Flack, directs a piece based on Samuel Beckett’s short story about the demise and final stages of a man who has ruined and squandered his life away till the dying days. Performed by the brilliant Robert Menzies, some may not need any other reasons to attend, especially since he’ll be delivering monologues on a bare stage. Yet The End is also about the beauty of life, and finding hope, courage and a sparkling jewel when there’s nothing left but a setting sun.
Another duo of beauty and brutality is Bertolt Brecht’s Baal. In collaboration between the Sydney Theatre Company and the Malthouse Theatre, director Simon Stone brings the romanticized anti-hero Baal to life. Written before Brecht developed his style of dramatic composition in epic theatre that surrounded his later work, Baal is in the form of prose and also includes songs. The new adaptation by Tom Wright is a hedonistic and unmissable take on how creative minds are elevated to cult status, and how those outside of society who hate its very grasp can also be alluring and idealized despite of and perhaps because of their destructive and irresponsible natures.
There are also four massive dance productions in Season One, including the much anticipated Connected. Directed and choreographer by Gideon Obarzanek, this is by no means your average sit back and tune out to dance experience. The work uses sculpture by Reuben Margolin as its core to construct worlds and movements beginning with the pieces and parts that form them. Margolin uses mechanics to replicate the hypnotic rhythms of nature, and the dancers from Chunky Move connect between the constructed world and the human world through a moving sculpture. As the dance builds so too does the sculpture. This is real time performance art from composers Robin Fox and Oren Ambarchi, combined with lighting by Benjamin Cisterne, who creates an experience of movement, light and sound. After all, who doesn’t like a nice dose of synaesthesia?
Other works for season one include In Glass, Amplification, Faker, Porn.Cake, A Golem Story, and the return of Moth. Welcome, and thankyou Marion Potts. Ticket prices across the season vary. More details can be found online at malthousetheatre.com.au