Sydney Theatre Company’s Kip Williams makes his mark
September, 21 2017        Posted By Veronique        Comments Off on Sydney Theatre Company’s Kip Williams makes his mark

The Harp in the South cast members Contessa Treffone, Rose Riley, Helen Thomson, Tara Morice, Guy Simon and Anita Hegh with Kip Williams (centre). Photo: Louie Douvis

Next year’s Sydney Theatre Company season will all be the work of Kip Williams and he couldn’t be more delighted to put his stamp on the company’s program.

“It feels fantastic. I was able to take what was already cooking away and then add a whole host of ideas that I had myself to create this season,” says Williams, who last year became STC’s youngest-ever artistic director following the shock resignation of British import Jonathan Church.

“It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work and a lot of collaboration. I’m very excited to finally be able to share it with everybody.”

The centrepiece of Williams’ 16-play season is a new adaptation by Kate Mulvany of Ruth Park’s classic The Harp in the South trilogy.

The sprawling tale of the Darcy family’s lives in Surry Hills will be told over the course of two standalone plays, which can be seen separately, however, audiences are “encouraged” to see both together.

“It’ll be an epic theatre event and a chance for audiences to sit with the characters and watch them grow up over five-and-a-half hours of theatre,” Williams says.

“I read Ruth Park a lot as a kid and fell in love with her writing. She mythologises Sydney and the people of Sydney in a way similar to what Dickens did with London. She provides a real insight into the culture of Sydney and Australia at large.”

The Harp in the South is one of 11 Australian shows in the line-up that has a deliberate “Australian focus”, Williams says.

Earlier in the year, Bertolt Brecht’s classic The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, starring Hugo Weaving, takes a timely look at demagogy and democracy.

“Trump had just been elected when Hugo and I were talking about Arturo Ui,” Williams says. “It’s a play that has been on both our lists for some time and if anything the serendipity of the political movements around the world of the past 18 months gave us pause of thought, thinking ‘is this too relevant?’

“The real hook for us with Arturo Ui is that Tom Wright has done an adaption that probes the psychology of that individual – why does that person hunger for that sort of power and attention?”

Williams says Arturo Ui also neatly illustrates one of the key motifs of his new season.

“Leadership is a big theme,” he says. “In Arturo Ui we are examining the construction of a political identity and how certain types of leaders rise to power.”

June’s production of George Bernard Shaw’s St Joan, starring Yael Stone, also illustrates the theme, while the season opener, Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls, addresses leadership in a radically different context as lead character Marlene (Helen Thomson) “grapples with her sense of responsibility”.

Williams says he has tried to present a broad selection of works, taking his cue from former artistic directors Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett.

“I’ve found in my time at STC that audiences like a great balance of entertainment and meaty political discussion in the works they come to see,” he says.

“I’ve taken all the lessons I have learned from watching Cate and Andrew put together their seasons.”