Canberra Theatre has emerged from the past two years of pandemic disruption to launch a 2022 season brimming with new productions and featuring international hits.
Canberra Theatre Centre Director Alex Budd said that although the days of COVID may be receding, the world was experiencing a particularly dark time from which theatre could offer some respite.
“Pandemic, floods, wars and deaths of heroes come in waves,” he said at the official launch at the Canberra Theatre Centre.
“It feels like a particularly big wave and dark time right now which theatre cannot solve, but we do offer a special kind of darkness in which we come together to escape the outside world to contemplate, to be moved, provoked and challenged, enthused and humoured by live performance.
“We’ve all had two years of being apart from those we love dearly but also apart from the excitement of a theatre full of strangers.”
He said that five arts companies would be making their debut this season, 10 productions would be coming to Canberra in their world premiere season, and two would be major musicals.
Leading the way will be the global smash musical Girl From the North Country (25 August to 3 September) starring Lisa McCune and featuring 20 Bob Dylan songs reimagined and set in a 1930s Minnesota guesthouse where a group of wanderers come to terms with who they are and where they are going.
The other big musical is the pop phenomenon Six (23 April to 15 May), the retelling in song of the six wives of Henry VIII from their point of view in an exhilarating display of girl power.
Dance returns in a big way with Bangarra back for a 10th anniversary tour of Terrain (28 to 30 July), which depicts the rise and fall of Kati Thanda/Lake Eyre; the Australasian Dance Collective’s Three (24 and 25 June), performing for the first time in Canberra works from renowned choreographers Jack Lister, Melanie Lane and the revolutionary Hofesh Shechter; and the Australian Dance Theatre’s new creation SAVAGE (29 and 30 September) from newly appointed artistic director, Daniel Riley.
Riley grew up in Canberra and is a former member of Bangarra. He is also the first First Nations director of a national dance company.
It wouldn’t be a Canberra Theatre season without Shakespeare, and this year it’s Hamlet (7 to 16 April) from Bell Shakespeare and A Comedy of Errors (30 September to 8 October), directed by longtime Bell Shakespeare collaborator Janine Watson.
Other dramatic productions include shake & stir’s adaptation of the Charlotte Brontë classic Jane Eyre; Whitefella Yella Tree (28 September to 1 October), a gay, First Nations love story by Canberra playwright Dylan Van Den Berg; Chalkface (9 to 12 November), a new black comedy about the teaching vocation from Angela Betzien; and White Pearl (27 to 30 April), a biting satire from the Sydney Theatre Company.
Back to Back Theatre, which features actors with a disability and challenge’s audience’s assumptions, will also visit Canberra for the first time with The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes (11 to 13 May), an award-winning, critically acclaimed theatrical revelation.
The already strong First Nations presence will be strengthened even more with the return of the Reconciliation Day Eve (29 May) concert featuring Christine Anu.
Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who shot to fame after his mesmerising performance at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, will perform for the first time in Canberra (14 August), joined by his family of prodigious musicians in a program featuring works by Schubert, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Shostakovich, Gershwin and more.
For muscular theatre, Australian circus company Gravity & Other Myths will mark its debut in Canberra with Backbone (13 to 15 October), and Jake Silvestro brings December (1 and 2 April), a world premiere physical theatre performance featuring astounding acrobatics.
Canberra Youth Theatre will celebrate its 50th anniversary with four productions, and the ACT’s QL2 Dance will present Terra Firma (26 to 28 May) with the Quantum Leap Ensemble.
For the kids, the Beanies’ new show for the stage, The Beanies Egg-straordinary Day (6 August), will delight young audiences with its catchy songs and the power of imaginative play and live theatre, while Roald Dahl’s The Twits (22 and 23 July) is packed with mischief and mayhem from shake & stir, the team behind the sold-out seasons of Fantastic Mr Fox and George’s Marvellous Medicine.
Arts Minister Tara Cheyne told the launch that the Canberra Theatre Centre played a central and pivotal role in the ACT Government’s ambitious plans to make Canberra the arts capital of Australia.
She said the blockbuster program offered something for everyone, as well as new local and regional opportunities, collaborations and partnerships.
“This is the theatre centre where many Canberrans had their first theatrical experiences and it is significant as being Australia’s first arts centre, and tonight’s program launch only serves to reiterate its importance, reflecting such a great diversity of shows and events being developed in Canberra, Australia and beyond,” she said.
To learn more, visit the Canberra Theatre Centre website.