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Brookman to end State Theatre tenure with Orwellian flourish

Theatre

Outgoing State Theatre Company artistic director Geordie Brookman will end his seven-year tenure at the company with an energetic adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm to kick-start the 2019 season.

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Brookman, who will leave State Theatre in April, last night launched its next line-up, which comprises eight major theatre productions, including several premieres and a much-anticipated return of a box-office hit.

He says the season places strong emphasis on the “Australian voice” and explores themes of community and extreme choice.

“I just wanted to make sure that it was a season that represented everything that we’ve been trying to do for the last six years, and that it would be a season that, whoever came into the job, would be proud to inherit,” Brookman told InDaily.

“I’m really proud of our commitment to diversity in our program and to the fact that we are now making sure that there is an Aboriginal-led and authored piece in every single program that we do.

“Most of all, I’m just proud of the degree to which the company has expanded and we’ve got to a point where we’re creating more work in Adelaide than we ever have before, but we’re also touring both around the country and internationally more than ever.”

State Theatre’s 2019 season will open with Brookman’s one-man adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which will feature Adelaide actor Renato Musolino playing upwards of 20 different farmyard characters.

The iconic 1945 novella tells the story of an animal uprising to reflect on the rise of authoritarian regimes that came to power in the lead-up to the World War II.

Brookman says the play, to be presented in March, will be a “concentrated, energetic piece of storytelling”.

It follows State Theatre’s successful staging last year of dystopian drama 1984, also based on Orwell’s writing.

“When we did 1984 last year it was such a massive event, partially because it was such a great piece of theatre, but I also think there was a recognition that George Orwell’s writing was scarily current,” Brookman says.

“I was reading something this year where people were talking about how in this global political landscape, all of a sudden we’re seeing the same kinds of leaders come to power that we saw come to power in the 1930s, which is a little bit terrifying.

“I thought, this is the moment to dive into this piece and to explore what our relationship is to power and why we have such a slippery relationship with the truth.”

Renato Musolino will star in Geordie Brookman’s adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Other highlights from the 2019 season include the return of the company’s 2016 hit The 39 Steps, which became the highest-selling show in its history. The mystery-noir play, based on the original novel by John Buchan and Alfred Hitchcock’s film adaptation, tells the story of an Englishman who gets pulled into a conspiracy.

The new adaptation will feature four actors playing 139 roles, with the same cast and director who featured in the 2016 play returning for the October 2019 limited season.

“Ever since we did 39 Steps in 2016, I kid you not, every week someone has asked us to bring it back,” Brookman says.

“We sat back and thought, how often in Adelaide do you get to bring a piece of theatre back? It’s really rare and we just thought that this play is something to celebrate.”

The 39 Steps cast: Anna Steen, Nathan Page, Tim Overton and Charles Mayer. Photo: James Hartley

Brookman says State Theatre’s collaboration with independent theatre company Is This Yours for a cross-gendered version of David Williamson’s iconic Australian drama The Club will be another standout show. An all-female cast will take on the play’s all-male characters – a programming decision he describes as “very exciting and modern”.

“As soon as I heard about this I thought, this is exciting,” he says.

“We’re actually going to take one of our great plays, one of our classic plays, and we’ve got a group of young theatre-makers who are brave enough to blow it up and reinvent it and see what it means to cross-gender that piece.”

Other major plays featured in State Theatre’s 2019 program include:

Hydra (May): A co-production with Queensland Theatre of Sue Smith’s romantic retelling of Australian literary couple George Johnston and Charmian Clift’s escapade to the Greek island of Hydra following World War II.

End of the Rainbow (June): A study of Judy Garland’s final days, starring Helen Dallimore (the original Glinda in West End hit Wicked).

A View from the Bridge (July): Kate Champion’s take on American playwright Arthur Miller’s story of family and honour in 1950s Brooklyn.

Jasper Jones (August): Kate Mulvany’s adaptation of Craig Silvey’s 2009 novel, which explores small-town life in Western Australia.

Black is the New White (November): A romantic comedy by Nakkiah Lui (Black Comedy) exploring race, identity and inter-relationships between families.

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