Given his stature and breadth of career, it’s remarkable that Hugo Weaving has never performed any play from the great canon of 20th-century American works. That’s about to change when he inhabits the larger-than-life character of Big Daddy in Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (STC, Roslyn Packer Theatre, April 29-June 8), a prospect that excites Weaving as much as it does director Kip Williams. It is a play that can afford no weak links in the acting, and Williams has also cast Pamela Rabe as Big Mama and Zahra Newman as the feline Maggie. Get set to watch this hyper-dysfunctional family unit implode amid a welter of lies and sweltering heat.
For those who prefer their human interaction even more overtly savage, Williams is also directing a Nigel Williams adaptation of William Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies (Roslyn Packer Theatre, July 23-August 24). The production opts to have the book’s school-boy characters played by a mix of male and female adults, which may add yet more layers of metaphor to a work that hardly short-changes the reader on that front, already. The dog-eat-dog behaviour is instantly reminiscent of our financial sector, for instance, and the bullying conjures up certain politicians, shock-jocks and footballers. Leading the cast in her STC debut is screen-star Mia Wasikowska.
It’s hard to conceive of a more apt play for our times than Bertholt Brecht’s 1939 play The Life of Galileo (Belvoir St Theatre, August 3-September 15 Belvoir St Theatre). In this the Inquisition’s attempts to suppress the great scientist’s confirmation of Copernican astronomical theories (via the use of a telescope) thunders with resonances as our own belligerent flat-earthers deny climate change. Colin Friels would seem ideally cast to tackle the title role in this Eamon Flack production.
Among the new plays appearing this year, Outhouse Theatre’s John (Reginald Theatre, September 19-October 12) is of special interest, given the quality of American playwright Annie Baker’s previous work, including The Flick, which the same company presented so memorably last year. In John, directed by Craig Baldwin, and with a cast including James Bell, Maggie Blinco and Kimie Tsukakoshi, Elias and Jenny find their bickering relationship unravelling in what has suddenly become a super-spooky b&b. Hold on to your hats.