FEATURE | The Age, Double Bill

All together now

by Robin Usher

A diverse array of new work will be on show in one place, thanks to an initiative offering the space and means to create.

MKA presents double bill Hose and Tinkertown as part of the program at St Kilda’s Theatre Works.

SOME of the brightest names in Melbourne’s independent theatre scene will present their new works at the one venue this year in a program introduced by St Kilda’s Theatre Works.

Artists and companies taking part include directors Daniel Schlusser and Adena Jacobs, the Hayloft Project under new artistic director Anne-Louise Sarks, Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Art and Richmond’s youthful MKA.

Schlusser has been directing his adaptation of the classic Russian satirical novel The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov for the past two weeks and will present its first public performance this Saturday.

Jacobs, who is Malthouse Theatre’s female director-in-residence after spending last year at the Melbourne Festival as the Harold Mitchell Foundation fellow, is presenting an adaptation of the renowned Ingmar Bergman film Persona.

The May production will be the first new work by her company, Fraught Outfit, since it debuted with Elektra in 2010.

NIDA will present two works in repertoire, O’Neill’s Thirst and an adaptation of Ginsberg’s Howl from March 7 at the start of a regular collaboration.

Theatre Works’ program has been put together by the company’s new creative producer, Daniel Clarke, after being selected for an Australia Council triennial grant, together with existing money from Arts Victoria.

”The venue needs to be owned by the artists,” Clarke says. ”The key purpose is to enable new work to be produced and to help it have an extended life through touring. Many of the artists taking part are important contributors to Melbourne’s independent scene and it will be great if we can help them talk to one another.”

He is particularly pleased to include work by MKA because of the strength of the company’s output in its first year. It is presenting a hard-hitting double bill, Hose and Tinkertown, from February 23.

Clarke’s success in winning the Australia Council grant means that $50,000 is available to pay artists to develop and present new work.

He was appointed to the newly created part-time position after a review by the Theatre Works board, which also led to the hiring of Mark Crees as general manager.

Clarke spent five years in England until 2007, when he returned to Adelaide as a producer of such shows as My Name Is Rachel Corrie and cabaret group the Wau Wau Sisters.

Melbourne’s theatrical vibrancy led him to move east when the Theatre Works position became available. ”I usually go to the Edinburgh fringe festival every year and it is always tempting to return to Britain. But I decided to come here instead.”

He was assistant director to Simon Phillips on The Importance of Being Earnest at the Melbourne Theatre Company in December and will be directing the Anglo-German play Pornography at the State Theatre Company of South Australia in October.

He says the Theatre Works board has been moving to increase curatorial control of the venue for the past decade.

The importance of the initiative was brought home with the delayed funding announcement from the Premier’s office last month, which revealed that neither Schlusser nor Hayloft had been selected for grants.

”We are now in a position to work with them and other companies on strategies to raise money,” Clarke says. ”Our Australia Council funding means there is $10,000 to pay the artists on The Master and Margarita.”

Schlusser will transfer to the Malthouse later this month to start rehearsals for his main-stage show, The Histrionic by Austria’s Thomas Bernhard, which is a Sydney Theatre Company co-production.

After spending three years in Berlin, he attracted attention with three versions of European classics at the Victorian College of the Arts – Calderon’s Life Is a Dream from 17th-century Spain; and two Ibsen works, A Doll’s House and Peer Gynt. He restaged The Dollhouse last year.

Another big project is Room of Regret by the Rabble in Residence in July, which explores themes of voyeurism and narcissism in a show by Emma Valente and Kate Davis that is part installation and part performance, based on Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Three works will be presented in the regular Selected Works program – Robert Reid’s This is a Door, which will be staged as a video-gaming event in July; Hello My Name Is by Nicola Gunn in September, which will then transfer to Perth; and The Margaret Fulton Musical by the collaborative Present Tense in November.

Daniel Schlusser’s adaptation of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita will be presented in development at St Kilda’s Theatre Works on Saturday. Book online where there are details of the complete season.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/theatre/all-together-now-20120212-1szk1.html#ixzz44NiVzeUb