Black Swan reveals 2022 program centred on the theme of Kin

Black Swan State Theatre Company has revealed an exciting program of works for their 2022 season.

The season is based around the theme of ‘Kin’, exploring connection and family through seven productions that will be staged across the year. The works explore everything from bloodlines to concepts found family, and even a virtual family.

The season is the final one to be programmed by Artistic Director Clare Watson who announced her departure from the company a few months ago.

The season will kick off with the fiercely political work City of Gold, written by Wongutha-Yamatji Meyne Wyatt. This semi-autobiographical story puts a family on stage with an unbroken lineage through multimillenia, surviving centuries of colonial violence, and asks us to all take a stand against racism: “offend your family, call it out.”

Director Shari Sebbens, who last worked with the company on the 2019 production Our Town, says “this show cuts right to the core of Meyne’s experience as a young black man in Australia. It is unrelenting and honest.”

Speaking to the launch audience in a pre-recorded segment, Sebbens said “This story in particular is about Meyne’s lived experience as a black man in the colony currently known as Australia, it’s an incredible piece.”

“It’s one of those plays that really makes you grateful for live theatre, grateful for stories that tell the truth about our nation and about who we are as a people, about our past and our present that we have to reckon with.” Sebbens said.

Starring Meyne Wyatt, City of Gold will commence the season, running from 4 to 26 March in the Heath Ledger Theatre and presented in association with Sydney Theatre Company as part of Perth Festival. Wyatt came to national attention when he performed a section of a monologue from the play on the ABC’s Q+A program.

Andrea Gibbs, who is performing in the company’s current production Animal Farm, has penned the second work in the 2022 program. Barracking for the Umpire is described as an original, riotous comedy about the fragility of our body, our family, our community, that asks, ‘what are we willing to sacrifice for the great game?’

Drawing upon her own upbringing in Donnybrook, Gibbs has created a story about a family whose lives are centred around the world of local footy. The new play was commissioned by Black Swan and it will be the works world premiere.

Barracking for the Umpire will feature Caroline Brazier, Jo Morris, Kelton Pell, Ian Wilkes, and – making her professional debut – Stephanie Somerville. The season runs from 24 Mar to 10 April at the Subiaco Arts Centre and is directed by Clare Watson.

Black Swan’s partnership with The Blue Room Theatre continues with Liz Newell’s Toast, a warm, funny story about the family we’re given and the family we choose for ourselves.

After the sudden death of their mother, three sisters are left adrift, wrestling with their loss and each other. Ringing with harsh realities and a few home truths, this superb locally written story is a love letter to the people who hold our hand in the dark.

Winner of the Blue Room Theatre 2017 awards for Best Production and Best Performance, this production has been upscaled to the Studio Underground from 5 to 15 May and is directed by Emily McLean, the director of current production Animal Farm.

McLean, who directed the original production, said she was immediately attracted Liz Newell’s script when she first read it.

“Who was this person that I’d never heard of who understood how to layer meaning, and understood how to build character and rhythm and tension. Who knew how to write a well made play…I recognised this was a voice that I wanted to support.”

The play deals with themes of grief and also features a coming out moment, the work is described as being a mix of tragedy and comedy.

“It’s a story about queerness with positive representation and authenticity.” McLean said.

Actors Alison Ven Reeken and Amy Matthews who starred in the original Blue Room production will be returning for the new mounting of the show, alongside Sam Nerida and Anna Lindstedt.

Following on from their previous success with musicals such as Assassins and Oklahoma, 2022 will see Black Swan staging the international smash hit and eight-time Tony Award-winning musical Once.

The tale is a modern-day urban love story of a struggling Irish musician on the verge of giving up, and a piano-playing Czech immigrant who reminds him how to dream.

Featuring an outstanding ensemble of multi-talented performers playing instruments live on stage, Once reminds everyone of music’s power to connect us. Once will be performed in association with Darlinghurst Theatre Company at The Regal Theatre from 28 May to 12 June.

Clare Watson told the audience at the launch that she’d always dreamed of directing a show at His Majesty’s Theatre, and also revealed a life-long desire to direct Tennessee’s’ Williams classic The Glass Menagerie. As her final director outing with company while serving as it’s Artistic Director both of those dreams will become a reality.

Screen sensation Mandy McElhinney, who has starred in Wakefield, Love Child and Paper Giants will take to the stage in this new production.

Williams play was his breakout success when it was first staged in 1944. It is Tennessee Williams most autobiographical work. Since it’s debut the play has been regularly performed around the world.  A new production has also been announced for London’s West End in 2022 with Hollywood star Amy Adams in the lead.

If you thought you never wanted to be on another Zoom call in your life, comedian Lawrence Leung is here to change your mind and tempt you back to the screen.

Connected is a live, online performance that takes place on two sides of a screen – Lawrence’s and yours. Performed over Zoom, this unique interactive comedy gives you the best seats in the house – that is, in your house.

Viewers will be guided through mini experiences where the idea of ‘connection’ is explored in increasingly awesome and wicked ways. Can participants read each other’s minds through a screen? Will complete strangers discover remarkable coincidences? Are we all connected? All you need is an internet connection, a device, and your favourite chair. Three shows only on 16, 17, and 18 September. Tickets are limited for these virtual performances and only available for single ticket purchase.

The co-dependence of mother and child in a central theme in Ella Hickson’s acclaimed play Oil. The play also explores the co-dependence of us all on one of Earth’s most precious and finite resources, oil.

Spanning 150 years and traversing the globe through Tehran, Hampstead, Baghdad, and then back to Cornwall, Oil is an explosive collision of empire, history and family.

Starring Hayley McElhinney (Doctor Doctor, The Cherry Orchard) with an ensemble of actors under the direction of Adam Mitchell (When the Rain Stops Falling, Death of a Salesman), Oil will be performed in the Heath Ledger Theatre from 5 to 27 November.

Mitchell said told the launch event audience that he’d been excited about the play since a friend introduced him to it after seeing a preview of the original production at London’s Almedia Theatre. The

Written by Ella Hickson play was described as a “rich reservoir” by Variety and “sportingly ambitious” by The Guardian. Adam Mitchell said the play has “more costumes than the Met Gala and more tension than the National’s party room.”

Reflecting on the theme of Kin, Clare Watson said while she had an amazing family of her own, she also had a massive theatre family too, and since arriving in Western Australia to join Black Swan it had expanded substantially.

“There is the family we are born into, the family that we’re raised by, we both inherit our kin and we choose who we gather around, this is our family.” Watson said.

“We all the product of our kin, not just genetically, but culturally. We each carry a narrative within us that comes from our families. There is a story in us all about how we were loved, and we bring those stories from childhood, to adulthood, and to our own families, to our friendships, to our workplaces, as yes- we bring it to the theatre too.”

Member packages are available now, with single tickets on sale from Tuesday 16 November. Visit the 2022 membership page to sign up. 

Graeme Watson

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