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The Ten Best Sydney Theatre Shows to See This April

Autumn is the perfect time to see theatre in Sydney. But laidback shows these are not.
By Matt Abotomey
April 04, 2017

The Ten Best Sydney Theatre Shows to See This April

Autumn is the perfect time to see theatre in Sydney. But laidback shows these are not.
By Matt Abotomey
April 04, 2017


Autumn is the perfect time to see theatre in Sydney. But laidback shows these are not.

Unravel the mysteries of human conflict with a Bengal tiger. Eavesdrop on a meeting between Salvador Dali and Sigmund Freud. Drop into Charles Dickens' house for 'fallen' women (that actually existed. Autumn wields quite a hefty stash of theatre for Sydneysiders, so we've picked the shows you should focus your attention on. They're not light, they're not cruisy, but they're the best on stage this month.

By Matt Abotomey, Hugh Robertson, James Whitton and Rima Sabina Aouf.

  • 10
    The Dog / The Cat - Belvoir

    Animals are better than people, so this double header is as good as sold out — and back by popular demand. Brendan Cowell has written The Dog, about the love triangle created when two men share a dog, and Lally Katz has created The Cat, about sharing a talking, smart-arse cat with your ex. Directing both is Ralph Myers, former Belvoir artistic director, friend to all animals and real-life co-parent of Cowell’s dog.

    Benedict Hardie (The Drover’s Wife) returns to star as app designer Marcus, in The Dog and lovesick guy Albert in The Cat. Xavier Samuel (Twilight: Eclipse, Love and Friendship) returns as Ben in The Dog and the cat in The Cat. Sheridan Harbridge (Girl Asleep) joins the cast as Miracle in The Dog and Albert’s ex Alex in The Cat. The show played Downstairs in 2015, and now it’s headed for the Upstairs stage.

    Two plays, one night, funny, furry. Book it.

  • 9

    Emele and Ayeesha are no strangers to subconscious stereotyping, especially when it comes to how people perceive their skin colour. Showing at The Joan, Black Birds is an innovative ensemble of stories from their lives that show the subversive marginalisation they experience due to the fact that they simply aren’t white.

    The production was developed through The Q’s Artist in Residence program, and not only explores the the issues of race and gender stereotyping, but it also explores new ways of presenting them. The show isn’t so much a play, or a talk, or anything like theatre goers are used to. Instead, it’s a mixture of music and stories, dancing and poetry. It’s frenetic, it’s fast-paced — it’s life.

    The show aims to give audiences the chance to look into the lives of the storytellers and view the world from a different perspective. For many, it’ll be a chance they’ve never had before, and one to be savoured.

    Images: Alana Dimou.

  • 8
    Dracula - Riverside Theatre

    Sure, you know Dracula. But what do you actually know? If we brass-tacks this, you’ve got a deathly pale, rake-thin Eastern European guy with a black cloak, high collar, high cheekbones and low voice. “I vont to suck your blooood.”

    So, next to nothing, in other words.

    If you want to change that, this is where you start. Shake and Stir have been cranking out literary adaptations for a decade now. Past productions include 1984, Animal Farm, George’s Marvellous Medicine and Endgame.Last year they tackled Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte’s unsettling, romance-y trek over the English moors. Mr Stoker, one imagines, is in very good hands.

    When Jonathan Harkness, an up-and-coming lawyer pays a visit to Castle Dracula, he is intrigued by his host, an odd gentleman with a rather macabre fascination for… well, you know the rest.

    But you don’t, do you? Book a ticket here.

    Image: Dylan Evans.

  • 7
    Carmen — Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour

    Opera Australia is going back to where it all began for their annual outdoor opera extravaganza. What was first seen as a bold, expensive experiment in 2013, Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour has now become an international tourist icon, drawing crowds from all over the world to experience the grandeur of opera in the grandest of locations.

    Georges Bizet’s famous opera Carmen is the perfect fit for such a lavish spectacle — love, treachery, civil war and two of the best-known of all opera arias, portrayed with a realism and intensity that remains affecting and bracing nearly 150 years after it was written.

    On-stage a world-class cast of singers, dancers and physical performers (plus a nine-metre-high Hollywood-style sign spelling CARMEN) will bring to life the torrid world of Franco-era Spain, accompanied by a full chorus and orchestra (and, at times, fireworks). The offstage offerings only add to the spectacle, with five dining areas, including a tapas bar, a paella bar, a Spanish cantina and The Platinum Club, where you can book in for a sit-down three-course meal. They’ll host some 3000 audience members, who will come from far and wide to see a highlight of Sydney’s cultural calendar in its sixth year each night.

  • 6
    Hysteria - Darlinghurst Theatre Company

    Maybe I’m just a sucker for absurdist advertising, but if the poster for your show is a drawing of a guy with a lobster on his head, I’m coming to your show. If the poster for your show is a drawing of a lobster balanced precariously on a telephone which is somehow part of a guy’s head, I stop asking questions altogether.

    Hysteria places a speculative microphone in a meeting between surrealist painter Salvador Dali — of melting clocks acclaim — and Sigmund Freud, who introduced us to a little something called the Oedipus Complex. It’s 1938 — Freud has just given the Nazis the slip and taken refuge in London. But as well as contending with the madly moustachioed Dali, Freud receives another guest. One intent on making him realise the cost of his choices and the toll of his research. With the walls rapidly turning into penguins, Freud’s choices are limited.

    Your queries are no good here — these people don’t play by your rules. Just remember: sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Especially if it’s mustard.

  • 5
    The Homosexuals, or Faggots - Griffin Theatre Company

    If you’re the kind of person who is quick to take offence, you might want to give the latest play from writer Declan Greene a miss. Indeed, all you need to do is look at the title to know that The Homosexuals, or Faggots, is not the kind of show to pull its punches.

    Fresh from a successful run at Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre, Greene’s blistering social satire is heading to Griffin Theatre Company. You’ll follow Warren and Kim, a pair of wealthy gay men who find themselves in an awkward situation involving a politically incorrect costume party and an easily offended academic. What follows is a farce that takes the piss out of hypocrites on both the right and the left, and has been described by the playwright himself as one of the more provocative things he’s ever written.

  • 4
    The Rasputin Affair - Ensemble Theatre

    Kate Mulvany can’t seem to keep away from history’s big bads at the moment. Fresh from a turn as Shakespeare’s dastardly prince-killer Richard III, The Rasputin Affair is her latest written work, a study of the mystical Russian royal advisor and his infamous brushes with death.

    With Europe in the throes of the First World War, a small group of Russian dissidents decide to do away with the hypnotic holy man, Grigori Rasputin. The king, Tsar Nicholas II, considers him indispensable and the conspirators believe the only means of breaking the spell is to eject Weirdy-Beardy into the underworld. Their chosen weapon? A plate of poisoned cupcakes. But Rasputin hasn’t gotten this far by falling prey to suspicious-smelling baked goods. He also claims to be a messenger from God. If the attempt succeeds, will the poisoners have knocked off a legit prophet?

    Since coming to power, Vladimir Putin has been an almost constant source of weirdness. The Rasputin Affair proves that he is simply continuing in a rich tradition.

  • 3
    Bengal Tiger in the Baghdad Zoo - Red Line Productions

    This play about the Iraq War shies away from WMDs, oil and 9/11. These considerations, after all, are somewhat abstract to a big cat. That’s right — Rajiv Joseph has entrusted his commentary on George W. Bush’s appalling expedition into Iraq to a philosophising tiger.

    Bengal Tiger…, as the name suggests, is set in Baghdad’s zoo, where a large feline is trying to unravel the mysteries of human conflict. His musings are not helped by the constant planning of his guards, Kev and Tom, two disillusioned Marines. They’re scheming to get rich by finding Uday Hussein’s fabled gold toilet seat. Then the ghosts start showing up.

    Yet another in a long line of baseless, gung-ho military disasters for America (and Australia), the Iraq War was a sustained campaign of needless destruction. I’ve yet to find anyone who can make sense of it, except as an exercise in corruption and greed. Perhaps it’s time to listen to the tiger.

  • 2
    The Bleeding Tree - Sydney Theatre Company

    After a season at Griffin that earned it three Helpmanns and a NSW Premier’s Literary Award, Angus Cerini’s ‘murder ballad’ is popping down the road to the Wharf Theatre.

    With the original cast — Paula Arundell, Airlie Dodds and Shari Sebbens — returning, The Bleeding Tree tells the story of a mother and two daughters living in rural Australia who decide to give the man of the house his marching orders. The eviction notice comes in the form of a bullet. But where’s the best place to dispose of a body in a small town? And what will the neighbours think? The Bleeding Tree is just as much a study of community reactions to domestic violence as a revenge thriller.

    Scoring praise for its pitch-black humour, sharp lyricism and taut revenge plot, The Bleeding Tree will hang you up by the heels until it’s good and done with you.

  • 1
    Consensual - New Theatre

    Guaranteed to set the staffroom afire with gossip and outrage, New Theatre wades into the prickly issue of teacher-student relationships with Evan Placey’s Consensual.

    Seven years ago, Diane was 22, a teacher’s assistant just getting to grips with the blend of riot control and guile needed to haul adolescents through a class curriculum. She made a mistake and got too close to a student who took advantage of her.

    Seven years ago, Freddie was 15, unhappy and a mess. A teenager, in other words. He was groomed by one of his teachers and bragged about it after the fact.

    Now, Diane is a qualified teacher and trying to get a new Sex Ed programme through the skulls of her Year 11 class. When Freddie turns up looking to press charges, both versions of events are played out, but Placey isn’t interested in who’s right. Rather, Consensual promises an unflinching account of what we tell ourselves about the horrible things we do to other people.

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