Snap up a seat at these Sydney plays.

Sydney Festival is just about done for the year, but the theatre still beckons. Whether it's escapism, hard truths or old friends that you're after, Feb's lineup ticks most of the boxes. You could try your luck at securing a decent seat for Belvoir's returned Jasper Jones (pictured) or you could see one of these new shows, spanning subjects from Mark Colvin's kidney to Oscar Wilde's fall from playwright to prisoner.

Image: Jasper Jones, Lisa Tomasetti.

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    Away - Sydney Theatre Company

    For its thirtieth anniversary, STC wheels out Michael Gow’s much-performed classic and that scourge of HSC students – Away.

    Tom and Meg really like each other. The school year has just finished and they wouldn’t mind using the summer to untangle their feelings. But they won’t get the chance – they’re both being dragged away to spend Christmas holidaying with their families. Roy, the school principal, and his wife Coral decide they wouldn’t mind some time away either.

    Tom’s parents are keeping a big secret from him. The problem is, he already knows. Meg’s parents don’t want her going anywhere near Tom. Roy and Coral, who are mourning the death of their son, realise their marriage is falling apart. Then the fairies show up.

    For those who like their ’60s nostalgia peppered with Shakespearean tricksiness, hop off the bus now — this is your stop.

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    The Mystery of Love and Sex - Darlinghurst Theatre Co.

    Change may well be as good as a holiday, but how do you tell that to the people who represent constants in your life?

    The Mystery of Love and Sex is a collection of secrets, kept with varying degrees of success. Charlotte and Jonny love each other but right now they’re both finding their emotional and physical needs are being met elsewhere. When Charlotte’s parents get wind of this, they don’t judge, they’re definitely not judging. They’re just having a hard time… understanding… how, errr, how it all works.

    Bathsheba Doran, who wrote the play after stints on Boardwalk Empire and Masters of Sex, says the play “explores all different types of love”. It also pokes at the questions of what happens when we need renewal but don’t want to give up what we have and whether family are the best people to help us pick up the pieces in the aftermath.

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    The Judas Kiss - Red Line Productions

    In much the same way as many people seem hard-pressed to conjure more than the moment of creation and the mob scene from Frankenstein, it seems to be common knowledge that Oscar Wilde was persecuted for his homosexuality… and that’s it.

    As part of Sydney’s Mardi Gras celebrations, Iain Sinclair directs David Hare’s The Judas Kiss which follows Wilde’s fall from celebrated playwright to a prisoner sentenced to hard labour.

    In 1895, Wilde sued his lover’s father for calling him a sodomite. The trial found evidence that Wilde was culpable for gross indecency and he withdrew his case. The Judas Kiss is set in the weeks following, in which Wilde is holed up in a hotel, his friends pleading with him to flee to France before the law catches up with him.

    But for Wilde’s customary flamboyant wit, there is little to celebrate in the play’s events. Wilde was ruthlessly manipulated by his lover, imprisoned and eventually died in exile. It’s an important story, but don’t go in expecting Lady Windermere’s Fan.

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    A Strategic Plan - Griffin Theatre Company

    Melbourne playwright Ross Mueller takes a knife to contemporary office politics and bureaucracy with his new work, A Strategic Plan. Under the tagline “failure is not on the whiteboard”, the play follows Andrew, a former rock musician, as he sinks into, then begins drowning in, the bureaucratic swamp of running STACCATO, a youth music oufit.

    Justin Smith’s Andrew doesn’t have full Dude status, but there is something distinctly Lebowskian about him. The board smells blood immediately and begin a hellish barrage of acronyms, forms, legislation and snide remarks. A Strategic Plan promises a masterclass in how to kill a dream in the 21st century.

    The play is, on the surface, a comedy. But director Chris Mead says it would be a mistake to write it off as a ‘funny play’. “There are great jokes in there but there’s also a deeper emotional truth inside the play which is about how brave you’re going to be to live the life you want to live.”

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    Mark Colvin's Kidney - Belvoir

    The phone hacking scandal that blew up in the UK about a decade ago doesn’t immediately strike one as brimming with feel-good stories. The demise of a smutty tabloid was about as close to a silver lining as it got. Nevertheless, after digging around in the News of the World’s ashes, playwright Tommy Murphy has come up with an unexpected prize: redemption.

    Mary Peirse plays Mary-Ellen Field, a business adviser who was wrongfully fired for sharing private information about her client in the early 2000s. When news broke that a number of celebrities’ phones had been tapped by Rupert Murdoch’s News International, Field realised what had happened and began sharing her story. When she shared it with ABC journalist Mark Colvin, it started a friendship which ended up with Field… but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

    Belvoir’s artistic director Eamon Flack has described the company’s 2017 lineup as an attempt to “defy the cynicism and shittiness of the world”.  Mark Colvin’s Kidney could well prove a much-needed antidote to the chaos. Or, at the very least, a comfortable place to sit while civilisation shreds itself.

    Image: Daniel Boud.

Published on January 31, 2017 by Matt Abotomey

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