Ensemble Theater announces 2023 season

The Ensemble Theater kicked off its 2023 season, featuring 10 plays, including three world premieres by Melanie Tait, Hilary Bell and Mark Kilmurry with Jamie Oxenbould.

The lineup also includes the Australian premiere of the 2021 Tony Award-nominated play. Clyde’s by Lynn Nottage, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for drama, a David Williamson comedy and Tennessee Williams’ gothic masterpiece Suddenly last summer.

Sharon Millerchip and Amber McMahon will star in Melanie Tait’s new play A Broadcast Coup. Photo courtesy of the Ensemble Théâtre

Art Director Mark Kilmurry said, “We are thrilled to be able to bring you a 10-game season again! From classical theater to the best of contemporary plays, I look forward to sharing these wonderful stories with you.

“Whether you’re in the mood for dramatic tension, emotional storytelling, cabaret or comedy, as we all return to normal life, Ensemble’s 2023 season has something for everyone. Once again , we have a full and expansive schedule of wonderfully intimate theater. Striking the balance between celebrating local talent and bringing the best overseas plays to Sydney, as well as reviving classics and staging world premieres, 2023 has it all. action-packed season that will take you on a journey through the full gamut of human experience, from deeply personal to outbursts of joy and laughter and great comedy along the way.

The season opens at the end of January with a new comedy by Mélanie Tait entitled A broadcast coup. Tait wrote the delightful and very funny play The Appleton Ladies Potato Racewhich premiered at the Ensemble in 2019. A broadcast coup centers on a hard-working journalist who is determined to take down media stars, one by one. Janine Watson leads a cast including Matt Backer, Amber McMahon and Sharon Millerchip.

David Williamson’s romantic comedy Strass Rex and Miss Monica, presented by the Ensemble in 2010, returns with Georgie Parker and Glenn Hazeldine reprising their roles. Hazeldine plays Gary, aka Rhinestone Rex, a country singer turned kitchen designer, while Parker plays Monica, a violinist who was forced out of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. They seem so mismatched that romance is impossible, and yet…. Kilmurry directs.

Notting’s Game Clyde’s was described as a “charming”, “brilliant comedy” by The New York Times, when he performed on Broadway in 2021. Clyde’s restaurant-hitchhiker on a road in the middle of nowhere is staffed by people who have all done time in prison. Then a man with white supremacist tattoos joins the diverse team. It sounds difficult, but redemption and hope are in the air. Darren Yap leads a cast including Emily Havea.

In May/June, Shaun Rennie directs Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly last summer, a dark and intense one-act drama, with a surreal and dreamlike quality. Justin Amankwah, Andrea Demetriades and Belinda Giblin are part of the cast. This is followed by Benefactorsa comedy by Michael Frayn (Noises Off, Copenhagen), set in 1960s England, where an architect’s attempt to build new homes in a slum finds him and his wife clashing with their cynical neighbors. Kilmurry directs Megan Drury, Guy Edmonds, Matt Minto and Emma Palmer.

Next is Debra Oswald’s Mr. Bailey’s Keeper, in which Thérèse, fresh out of prison, becomes the carer for Leo, who now needs constant care after years of alcohol abuse. Damien Ryan directs John Gaden and Claudia Ware.

A few weeks later, Oswald takes the stage herself in her own play. Is there something wrong with this lady? in which she explores the ups and downs of being a writer. Lee Lewis directs.

Hilary Bell’s new play Harol’s summerD opens in September. Three stories intertwine in a poignant and funny journey about our search for comfort and joy, as Bell focuses on our love of weird things. Francesa Savige conducts.

British writer Shelagh Stephenson won the 2000 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy for her play The memory of water, which was first staged in 1996. Three sisters reunite before their mother’s funeral, but their memories of the same events are different. Rachel Chant directs Stephenson’s poignant play, which examines memory, life and loss.

The year ends with another first: Midnight Murder at Hamlington Hall of Kilmurry and Jamie Oxenbould. On the opening night of a thriller of the same name, staged by an amateur theater company, seven cast members are down with dreaded commotion. But the show has to go – even if they only have the director and the two remaining actors to call on. What could go wrong? Sounds like a fun and fairly topical holiday show in the current pandemic environment. So why not laugh?

Meanwhile, in a special event, Philip Quast will give six performances in March of his cabaret show The road that I tookaccompanied by Anne-Maree McDonald.

All in all, it looks like a largely feel-good season, with serious themes tackled through comedy — and up the aisle of the Ensemble’s loyal audience.

More information can be found on Ensemble Theater website.

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About Roy B. Westling

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