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I thought I’d post some highlights of the excitement in the Australian press after the announcement of Sydney Theatre Company’s 2012 schedule, which includes a new production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, starring Hugo Weaving and Pamela Rabe:
Hugo Weaving and Pamela Rabe, from the Sydney Morning Herald
WHAT CATE AND ANDREW DID NEXT
STC’S new season will show some classicswith a modern twist, writes Wendy Frew. ;There is a lot in the season about
identity, who we are, who we think we are, and how we act.’ Cate Blanchett
Photo: Kate Geraghty
The decision makers . . .
Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton launch the 2012 Sydney Theatre Company season
The final scene in Stephen Frears’s 1988 film Dangerous Liaisons is hard to forget.
n 18th-century France, the Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn
Close) and her former lover Vicomte de Valmont ( John Malkovich) ease their
boredom by playing sexual games at other people’s expense. By the film’s end,
Valmont and one of the women he has cynically seduced are dead and the
manipulative Marquise’s fac¸ ade of moral righteousness is exposed. As she
enters her box at the opera house, a hush falls on the theatre and all eyes turn
to her. Someone starts to boo; soon, everyone is cat-calling and stamping in
Back in her rooms, crushed, she sits facing her mirror, slowly removing the
last vestiges of her power and status – jewels, wig, powder – her face a mess of
tears and smudged make-up. She has lost everything.
The film was based on Christopher Hampton’s play Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
Sydney Theatre Company’s artistic directors, Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett,
have chosen this powerful story of lust, seduction and wickedness as the anchor
for next season.
The wigs and powder have been ditched and Pamela Rabe and Hugo Weaving are
exciting choices for the lead roles. But with the film likely to be front of
mind for many, the STC’s task will be to deliver a production so good – or so
different from what the audience expects – that it is judged on its own merits
rather than in comparison with the film.
Staging works people know and love is always a challenge. Audiences can be
stubbornly loyal to the first version of a film or stage production they see. In
their fourth program at the STC, Upton and Blanchett are facing that challenge
several times, also staging George Bernard Shaw’s
Pygmalion (perhaps best remembered as the 1964 screen version of the musical
My Fair Lady ) and Under Milk Wood. An early recording and a film version of
Dylan Thomas’s radio play are indelibly stamped with the dulcet tones of Richard Burton.
But each work has a special allure for the duo. In the case of Les Liaisons
Dangereuses, it is what Blanchett describes as the deliciously wicked wit and
repartee of the two leads, and the sexual politics at the heart of the story,
which she says is as relevant now as when the original novel was written by
Choderlos de Laclos in 1782.
‘‘It won’t be totally in period setting but there will be references to the
time it is set,’’ Blanchett says. ‘‘It is a very witty, sharp, biting play.’’
Pygmalion also plays with gender and power and the power of words. Upton and
Blanchett decided to ‘‘shake the dust’’ off the Bernard Shaw work and focus less
on the British class aspects and more on the power relations, especially that of
an older man and a younger woman.
‘‘It’s funny, it’s sexually charged . . . language is power and that is at
the heart of this play,’’ Blanchett says. ‘‘There is a lot in the season about
identity, who we are, who we think we are, and how we act.’’
It also provided a vehicle to showcase the talent of Jessica Marais, a young
actress whose ‘‘fragility and strength’’ caught their attention in 2008 in a
Melbourne production of Patrick White’s A Season at Sarsaparilla, before Marais
became a household name in the TV series
Perhaps the riskiest choice in the season, Under Milk Wood, which will be
directed by Upton, has long been on his and Blanchett’s list of ‘‘must-do’’
plays. When Upton spoke to the Herald, the production was still a work in progress.
‘‘It is a radio play so we won’t be trying to stage everything, and we won’t
necessarily aim for Welsh accents, but rather we want to let the rhythm of the
poetry set the pace and dictate the voices,’’ Upton says, adding that he wants
to retain the dream-like quality of Under Milk
Wood, in which an all-seeing narrator ( Jack Thompson) invites the audience
to listen to the dreams and thoughts of the townspeople in an imaginary Welsh
Thompson was one of several actors Blanchett and Upton thought were vital to
the success of some of their program choices. Bille Brown, as Bruscon, ‘‘a
theatrical actor playing a theatrical monster’’ in Austrian playwright Thomas
Bernhard’s The Histrionic, was another, along with Rabe and Weaving in Les
Liaisons Dangereuses. The season includes works the STC directors had been
thinking of doing for some time, as well as some almost last-minute inclusions.
The program lacks the star line-ups of last year’s Uncle
Vanya and the thematic pull of classic American drama that anchored last
year’s season. But the mix of old and new (there are four new Australian works
and two new Australian adaptations), collaborations and crossover works such as
physical theatre company Force Majeure’s Never Did Me Any Harm and the romantic comedy with songs,
Midsummer, should ensure the 2012 season will be one to talk about.
‘… The STC’s Oscar winning artistic director Cate Blanchett made the
announcement yesterday, along with husband and STC co-artistic director Andrew
Upton, heralding a new season line-up which will focus more on local talent than
on big-name, visiting international stars.
And it seems Jessica Marais is not the only TV favourite set to walk the boards, with
her former Rafters co-star Erik Thomson to appear as a grieving dad in The Splinter.
Meanwhile Blanchett joked there will be plenty of ‘‘ shagging’’ in their new
season line-up which is dominated by saucy, sexfilled productions including Les
Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) starring Hugo Weaving and Sex With
Strangers (with Jacqueline McKenzie).
‘‘ Maybe shagging is the theme, or a lot of missed shagging,’’ Upton joked,
while Blanchett added: ‘‘ It’s been on our minds.’’ ‘
‘… Throughout all 11 plays, also including Never Did Me Any Harm by Force Majeure
and The Histrionic (Der Theatermacher) by Thomas Bernhard, runs the theme of
relationships and how they transform.
“It became a point of departure for us in talking about choosing the plays,” says Upton.
“That idea of relationships and people changing through a relationship, they
became conversations we had in the program and I think that echoes throughout
Hugo Weaving and Pamela Rabe will play the lead roles in Les Liaisons
Dangereuses, their characters the Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de
Marteuil indulging in an elaborate game of revenge, seduction and cruelty from
the pen of French novelist Pierre Choderlos De Laclos.
“Les Liaisons was the first big rock which fell in the pond,” says Upton.
“It sent ripples flowing through the rest.”
AAP (in case you missed the watermarks)
You can browse through STC’s 2012 brochure online here.
And here are the highlights: