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Rose Byrne Returns to Sydney Theatre Company for 2016 Season

Andrew Upton's parting masterwork, here broken down into gifs.
By Rima Sabina Aouf
September 03, 2015
By Rima Sabina Aouf
September 03, 2015

You'll be able to get up close to world conqueror, fearsome Bridesmaid and actual ray of sunshine Rose Byrne in 2016, when the actor makes a return to the Australian stage. She'll play the wildcard, Karen, in Speed-the-Plow, a satire on Hollywood studio dealings by David Mamet (esteemed American playwright most recently admired for his work fathering Girls’ Zosia Mamet).

Byrne's appearance is part of the new season from the Sydney Theatre Company (her first role there since 2001's Three Sisters). The season is the final one from artistic director Andrew Upton, who is wrapping up eight years at the helm of the company, including five alongside wife Cate Blanchett. STC will spend 2016 handing over to incoming artistic director Jonathan Church.

"Though it is my last program, it is Jonathan Church’s first, and I think inheriting and overseeing it will be an opportunity for him to get to know the Company and our audience across its full range," says Upton. "He’ll work with some of our great writers, directors, designers and actors in work showcasing them and the STC at their best."

What else is in store in 2016? Some of Upton's all-time favourite playwrights, an award-winning international production that imagines Prince Charles finally ascending to the throne, five premieres of new Australian works, and the return of one of our 2013 favourites.

Here's the breakdown.

The Golden Age (14 January – 20 February) As Upton sees it, "injecting life" into great Australian plays of the past, particularly ones we've not seen enough of since, is one of the missions of the STC. The 1985 play The Golden Age by Louis Nowra falls into that category, and with its unbelievable yet inspired-by-a-true-story premise — that a group of people living in isolation since the 19th century and abiding by Regency customs is found in the wilderness of Tasmania (okay maybe that's not unbelievable) — it looks like a fascinating exploration of colonialism.

The Secret River (1 February – 20 February) We picked this as one of our top five shows of 2013, and it's one we're happy to welcome back. The concurrent look at a white settler family and a family from the local Dharug people sharing the same riverbank is necessary viewing. Kate Grenville's empathetic storytelling, Andrew Bovell's effective adaptation, Neil Armfield's epic direction — it's become the stuff of Australian legend.

Arcadia (8 February – 2 April) This is one of those Tom Stoppard head trips — in fact, a favourite of Upton's, who rates it even above Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. It's set in one home, across two different time periods 200 years apart. In 1809, a libidinous tutor and his precocious protege explore chaos theory — and each other. In the present day, two feuding academics try to piece their story together. Cerebral good times ensue. Ryan Corr, Blazey Best, Andrea Demetriades and Josh McConville all star.


Machu Picchu (3 March – 19 April) Upton describes playwright Sue Smith as creating serious, adult dramas, but with a touch of whimsy. This one stars Lisa McCune as a successful woman forced into reassessing her life. Where the Incan citadel comes into it, we'll have to wait and see.

Golem (16 March – 26 March) 1927 are one of those companies that smush together live actors and lush animated projections and create the kind of show that renders adults open mouthed and mostly nonverbal. The Brits were last here in 2010 with The Animals and Children Took to the Streets and this time they're back with a Frankenstein tale about modern technology.

King Charles III (31 March – 30 April) The STC has a tradition of bringing out one international production each year, and this one's a doozy. Olivier Award-winning, Broadway-bound, King Charles III is set in a near future where Queen Elizabeth II has passed and Prince Charles finally ascends to the throne. Written in iambic pentameter a la Shakespeare, the play, by Mike Bartlett (Cock), cloaks today's light-hearted royals in dynastic intrigue.


Hay Fever (11 April – 21 May) We go to Noel Coward plays to see people destroy each other with words. This is a fun one, set in a British country manor to which every member of an outwardly respectable but actually eccentric family has invited a single guest. Actors Heather Mitchell, Harriet Dyer, Tony Llewellyn-Jones and Helen Thomson are along for this crazy ride, along with director Imara Savage.

Disgraced (16 April – 4 June) This is a new American work that made waves in 2012 and won the Pulitzer Prize. It explores prejudice in contemporary New York through the character of an American-born, Muslim-raised corporate lawyer whose dream run at work comes to an end. Like so many good theatrical dramas, it all blows up one night over dinner.

All My Sons (4 June – 9 July) If there's an Arthur Miller play out there that can just carry on and do its thing without punching you in the gut, we're yet to see it. Big guns John Howard and Robyn Nevin will star in this one, about an all-American family whose successes are threatened by the emergence of secrets from the past. We've previously called Arthur Miller the 1940s' Breaking Bad, so there's that.


The Hanging (28 July – 10 September) Master of theatrical creepiness Angela Betzien (The Dark Room) is back with a play about two missing Melbourne schoolgirls, whose disappearance may have been inspired by Picnic at Hanging Rock. This crime thriller will be directed by Sarah Goodes and stars Ashleigh Cummings of Puberty Blues.

A Midsummer Night's Dream (12 September – 22 October) You think you know this play, but director Kip Williams sees a side to it we haven't explored (and if you saw his Romeo and Juliet, you'll know these sides can be very illuminating). His imagining will focus on the forest as a site and a symbol of sexual exploration for the young lovers.

Power Plays (17 September – 15 October) Upton admires the "particular energy" that short plays have — bold and immediate — and here he's programmed a collection of five new such works by Melissa Bubnic, Michele Lee, Nakkiah Lui, Hannie Rayson and Debra Thomas. Bound together by the theme of 'power', this show is one for all the theatre lovers with short attention spans.

A Flea in Her Ear (31 October – 17 December) "Come for the sex, stay for the farce", reads the STC program. We couldn't have put it better or more clickbaitily ourselves. Simon Phillips directs a new adaptation by Upton, based on the work of Georges Feydeau.

Speed-the-Plow (8 November – 10 December) Here's that glimpse of the beneficent Rose Byrne we promised you. Hopefully her own experiences do not too closely resemble Mamet's cutting depiction of Hollywood life. Lachy Hulme (Offspring) also stars and Upton directs.


The Tragedy of Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark (16 June – 17 July) Although you no doubt lolled at this title, this play is not strictly for you. If you can find a small person to take with you, however, it might be the best introduction to theatre you can give them. Crafty and crass Sisters Grimm member Declan Greene teams with kids company The Listies for this one, an add-on to the STC main stage season.

The Wharf Revue 2016 (19 October – 23 December) You've either been going to this annual political send-up every year for 15 years, or you've not heard of it. Whichever it is, continue as you were.

2016 season tickets are on sale from 8 September. To explore the season and to book, visit the STC website.

Published on September 03, 2015 by Rima Sabina Aouf
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