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7 November

7 November

Sounds of Musical Theatre

QTC UNVEILS 2021 SEASON: Queensland Theatre Company has unveiled a full, rich, bold 2021 season under artistic director Lee Lewis, with eight works across the year, beginning in late January with some 20 actors on stage in the Bille Brown Theatre in a new production of a classic play that emphasises the value of life and living in the moment. Casting of US playwright Thornton Wilders Our Town (January 30 February 27) is being left to much later than usual, however, following the uncertainties wrought by the COVID-19 epoch that saw theatres go dark for large stretches of 2020 and many work-deprived freelance creatives being denied government financial assistance. In past years we would have cast a long way ahead, says Lewis.

Were only going to be contracting probably about eight weeks before, so well have much more of a single-ticket campaign where we launch the actual cast. I dont want to get into the situation where Im promising the audience a cast member who will then need to do a TV job because they need to pay rent. Im more than happy to see people for different roles, but well be pushing go about eight weeks before.

At this stage, five of the eight QTC works will be exclusive to Brisbane in 2021: Our Town, directed by Lewis herself, a new take on Shakespeares Taming of the Shrew, the previously postponed stage adaptation of Trent Daltons novel Boy Swallows Universe, the premiere of Steve Piries Queensland Premiers Drama Award-winning play Return to the Dirt, and the musical work Robyn Archer: An Australian Songbook. One of the primary deciding factors in what well be presenting next year was the idea of getting as many artists back on our stage as possible, says Lewis. Its been a devastating year as we all know.

Were investing this next year in large works, so that the audience can come and see community on stage as well. The second QTC play staged in 2021 will be Glace Chases Triple X (March 6 to April 1), a Sydney Theatre Company co-production which was postponed last year due to the pandemic. Directed by Paige Rattray, it is the story of a romance between a Wall Street banker bro and a trans drag performer, played as originally planned by Chase, an Australian-born, New York-based self-described trans-queen writer-performer.

I think that was probably the worst thing Ive ever had to do was to announce to that cast that we wouldnt be going on, says Lewis of last years abandoned premiere of Triple X. Back then the play on the page seemed confronting, including an eye-popping sex scene, but having seen previews held before shutdown, its just a gorgeous love story, Lewis concludes. The third play for the year will be Damien Ryans new production of The Taming of the Shrew (May 8 to June 12), a comedy that nonetheless is complex in its exploration of gender and societal norms, says Lewis.

The play will also be filmed and available for purchase for streaming between June 14 and 20. The fourth play is Thai-Australian writer Anchuli Felicia Kings White Pearl (June 17 to July 10), directed by Priscilla Jackman, set in Singapore in the office of a fictional cosmetics company, which had its Australian premiere at the National Theatre of Parramatta in a co-production with Sydney Theatre Company in 2019. King says the play utilises the notion of whitening cream that lightens the skin as a lightning rod to explore the cosmetics industry and the ongoing legacy of colonialism in Asia.

The fifth play will be Suzie Millers Prima Facie (July 14 to August 14), starring Sheridan Harbridge and directed by Lewis, who together premiered the one-woman play at Sydneys Griffin Theatre in 2019, where Sheridan gave a bravura performance as Tessa, a thirty-something defence barrister who considers it her job simply not to know about guilt, this incuriosity extending to men accused of rape. The pandemic forced the postponement of the plays planned return tour of Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne in 2020. The sixth play is the highly anticipated premiere adaptation of Trent Daltons Boy Swallows Universe (August 30 to September 18), which was also postponed in 2020, adapted by Tim McGarry and directed by former QTC artistic director Sam Strong.

Brisbane-born Joe Klocek, 25, has been cast as Eli Bell in this coming-of-age story. Hes perfect and beautiful, says Lewis of the young actor. All but one of the eight QTC 2021 works will be staged in the Bille Brown Theatre.

Boy Swallows Universe is the exception, being performed at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. The company is aiming for 50 per cent audience capacity at both venues under present physical distancing rules, and audience masks will be recommended but not mandatory. .

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