Take a deeper look into Malthouse Theatre's 2018 Season

Following this year’s programme of sexy, disruptive theatre as provocateur, next year’s theatrical feast promises more of the same.

  • }

As the youngest dude to ever sit at Malthouse Theatre’s helm, Matthew Sutton is cementing his reputation as enfant terrible programming yet another year of works set to challenge, shock and awe audiences in 2018. Even though the program promises some lighter relief (even if it’s in the form of a musical about cancer), it’s pretty dark at first blush.
“It’s probably got more extremities,” qualifies Lutton. “There’s one or two works that are dark in the fact that they look at controversial topics or parts of the world that we want to look away from, or offer hope, even though they’re looking at a world that’s in trouble. But in many ways, there’s also more comedy. A lot of the new writing are works that use comedy as their primary tool to talk about ideas, but the works that are darker are darker.”
Indeed, late UK scribe Sarah Kane’s work Blasted fits squarely within the latter description. The play, which incorporates atrocities ranging from rape to an ex-soldier sucking out one of the protagonist’s eyes, was first performed in the ’90s and had critics shrill in their outrage. Later, many recanted (especially after Kane committed suicide), hailing it as a morally significant statement about war. Undoubtedly, its content is shocking, but it’s also a punchy way to bring certain unpalatable realities closer to home and is still horrifyingly relevant.
“A play like Blasted can be confronting for an audience,” Lutton concedes. “But it’s confronting because it’s asking you to look at atrocities and violence in the world that we shy away from looking at. For those of us who aren’t in a war zone, we can have a sense of the violence being played out from afar and therefore have a detached way of talking about it. This play explores what happens when that distance is removed and you’re suddenly in that situation.”       
At the opposite end of the spectrum comes The Pacifists Guide to the War on Cancer, the said cancer musical by Bryony Kimmings, which explores everything from the combative language around the topic to the phenomenon of pink ribboning and the inevitable wrestling with body image. That said, it begs a question around whether people, especially those who’ve never suffered cancer, can laugh about the big C without guilt.
“Bryony’s aiming to make a musical that can engage with people, like some of the people she’s making the work with who are serial cancer survivors, but also with those who have not had cancer but had family members or close ones with cancer and are still in the circle of people that cancer influences and affects,” Lutton explains. “She’s aiming to bring a lot of honest observations around those experiences, but do it in a way that’s still entertaining. It’s not making fun of or parodying cancer at all, but trying to look at it from a different point of view: humour allows you to see things from a side angle.”
Then, there are the works which fit somewhere in between, like Lutton’s take on Peter Carey’s Aussie classic Bliss, the tale of beleaguered ad-man Harry Joy who’s revived after a heart attack only to find himself in his own personal version of hell.The play comes about as part of Lutton’s ambitious project, which sees him diving into Oz lit in order to build a new canon of Australian theatrical works. “You could pick many of Peter Carey’s novels, but I find Bliss very theatrical because it has at its centre a raconteur, a storyteller, someone who is just brilliant at making up new myths,” Lutton explains of the choice. “There’s someone on stage who keeps talking to the audience and who enlists the audience to spy on other cast members thinking they’re all actors in hell. I also love that it’s a piece set in the ’80s and looking at it thirty years on and asking what has changed. Carey wrote the story in a time that predates many of the big social and economic issues that are pressing today, but somehow Harry Joy seems to anticipate them.”  

Malthouse Theatre's 2018 Season Passes are on sale now, visit malthousetheatre.com.au for more information.