Belvoir Street Theatre hosted a full house for the launch of its 2020 season which comprises 11 plays.

Before unveiling the plays chosen Artistic Director Eamon Flack described the selection process. Despite what many people thought the plays included were not there to serve an over arching theme. Rather they were selected on the strength of their own merits. Once listed as a whole, there is an irresistible urge to find that all encompassing theme. One of the playwrights put it succinctly that the theme of all of the plays had the strong message of ‘how can we do things better’.

Amidst growing controversy of a perceived male dominated theatre,  Belvoir Street Theatre has opted for a year where the majority of the plays are either written by, adapted by or directed by women. Some feature women in the lead role,

The 2020 season is not didactic or message driven. Like all good theatre there is a leavening of both tragedy and comedy, compassion and insight.

In a first for a Belvoir launch either the writer, director or adaptor were briefly interviewed by Tom Wright in relationship to their particular play giving subscribers further insight into the choices they will have to make.

In brief, here is the list of plays that have been chosen :-

Every Brilliant Thing: 10th to 26th January

Steve Rodgers will reprise his role in this return season of the 2019 smash-hit production, Every Brilliant Thing. A warm, deeply-felt show that gleaned both awards and applause, Every Brilliant Thing is heartfelt, generous and original. A real gift that builds hope and joy – with help from the audience – every night.

Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam: 6th February to 8th March

After garnering accolades for its premiere season at Riverside Theatres, Belvoir presents National Theatre of Parramatta’s production of Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam, based on the novella by Peter Goldsworthy and adapted by Steve Rodgers. A powerful reminder of what we do for those we love, this show is an unmissable family story – raw, honest and beautiful.

Dance Nation: 14th March to 12th April 

Somewhere in America, away from the bright lights, a group of young teen girls prepare for the most important event of their lives – a dance show contest.  A comic play of memory, feminist power and a subtly subversive exploration of the time of life when the demons can get in. Dance Nation will star an incredible line up of talent, including Mitchell Butel, Emma Harvie, Chika Ikogwe, Yvette Lee, Rebecca Massey, Amber McMahon, Louisa Mignone Tara Morice and Tim Overton.

A Room of One’s Own: 18th April to 17th May

Rippling with passion, Virginia Woolf’s, A Room of One’s Own is arguably one of the finest pieces of writing in the last hundred years. Woolf’s essay has been painstakingly adapted by Belvoir’s Carissa Licciardello and Tom Wright, and stars Anita Hegh (The Wild Duck, STC’s The Harp in the South: Part One & Part Two).

Escaped Alone: 23rd May to 21st June

Escaped Alone by Caryl Churchill (Top Girls, Serious Money, Cloud Nine) and directed by Anne-Louise Sarks (An Enemy of the People), stars an impeccable line up of four of Australian theatre greats on stage together – Judi Farr (STC/Steppenwolf’s August: Osage County), Kris McQuade (The Sugar House), Heather Mitchell (STC’s Harp in the South) and Helen Morse (Malthouse’s Picnic at Hanging Rock). Funny, complicated and sinister, this is one production not to be missed.

The Jungle and the Sea: 4th to 26th July

From the team that brought us the 2019 acclaimed Helpmann award winning Counting and Cracking comes The Jungle and the Sea. Written and directed by Belvoir’s Eamon Flack and S. Shakthidharan, and presented in collaboration with Lingalayam Dance Theatre, the story leans on two pillars of classic literature – Antigone and Mahābhārata – to forge a new story with the power to heal.

Miss Peony: 1st August to 6th September 

A brand-new comedy from the writer who brought us the smash-hit 2018 production, Single Asian Female. Michelle Law’s (SBS’s Homecoming Queens) Miss Peony is a glitzy, glamorous and slightly unhinged comedy about being caught between two generations and two cultures. And what happens when the ghosts of generations past come back to haunt you, for real.

My Brilliant Career: 12th September to 18th October

My Brilliant Career written by Miles Franklin, adapted by award-winning Kendall Feaver (The Almighty Sometimes) and directed by Kate Champion (Every Brilliant Thing), is a great tale of emancipation and identity starring the irrepressible Nikki Shiels (The Sugar House, They Divided the Sky) as Sybylla.

Cursed!: 24th October to 15th November

From 2019 Balnaves Fellow, Jaru/Gija writer Kodie Bedford (ABC TV’s Mystery Road) comes Cursed!, a madcap, liberating play. The hilarious story of a mixed-up family – are they cursed, or can they change the way they see themselves and how the world sees them? 

Summerfolk: 21st November to 20th December

Summerfolk is written by Maxim Gorky, and adapted and directed by Belvoir artistic director, Eamon Flack. A coastal town, somewhere in Australia, with a skeleton population in winter and swollen with the holiday crowd in summer. This particular bunch have been coming to their beach houses for years. They’ve got the money to enjoy themselves, they always have. Why should it be any different this year? Why should it ever change? 

“There’s this pervasive siege mentality in the world right now and this season is designed to be an antidote.” said Belvoir Artistic Director, Eamon Flack. “Everywhere you turn someone is after your taxes or your identity or your religion or your body or your beliefs… It feels like everyone’s living on the back foot, all trigger-happy and pissed off. The best way to fight against an uptight zeitgeist like that is to open things up, be generous in your thinking and your ideas.

We have to work from the position that if we all sit down and pay attention we can figure things out. And Belvoir is uniquely set up to do that. Watching great artists live on stage in the company of strangers is the purest dose of that social contract you can get. So we chose these shows and these stories to help open things back up again, to help calm things down and give everyone some more damn trust in each other. 

“This season mixes optimism with searching critique. It offers complex new theatrical work alongside time-tested classic theatricality. There’s an abundance of new stories and Australian stories, a mix of legends of the Australian stage and new talent. It’s an optimistic season. More is possible! The world can be better than this! That’s the spirit of our 2020 season”.

If the creatives’ visions are fully realised then it augurs well that the coming season may top this year’s record breaking 13 Helpmann awards .

Featured image : Courtney Stewart and Michelle Law at the Belvoir launch.

All pics by Ben Apfelbaum