Malthouse Theatre have enjoyed a stellar year, being responsible for some of the most talked about and indeed most magical experiences seen on the main stage over the past year. In continuation with the company’s rebellious and at times subversive reputation, moving forward they will continue to present work that push the envelope through a program that rebels against the ideals that what we as a society have come to expect and rely upon, at times to our detriment. TAGG spoke with Artistic Director Matt Lutton ahead of their 2017 season launch.
Matt, tell us what we can expect from Malthouse in 2017?
It’s really following on from Malthouse’s idea of disrupting ideas and expectations but doing it in a really entertaining way, so next year we’ve got 12 productions and a lot of them are about either rebelling against of challenging the status qo but a lot them are also about seeking out passion or heart in unexpected places.
Talk to us about the concept behind “propositions for revolution, radical empathy and unbridled farce”
I think with that sort of tag line, I think all the sort of propositions for revolution are about taking some of the ideas about gender and the ethics about when to intervene in society, ideas of feminism, looking at a lot of these ideas and how to take that conversation further forward, I think allot of that is making sure that we are resisting complacency.
Talk to us about Little Emperors, how did it come to be that Malthouse would be presenting a new work by Wang Chong?
This is one of the first times certainly on the main stage where we are seeing a work in Mandarin and English being performed. It has come from a conversation with Wang Chong who is a really inventive, really prolific, subversive director from Beijing. We were talking about making a new work with Chong, and that turned into writing a new play, instead of him directing an existing classic. It’s about this is family who are deeply influenced by the one child policy and its spread between Melbourne and Beijing, it looks at a series of family secrets really, of a family who had two children under the one child policy, and the controversy that caused and how it divided the family.
Are there any other works you’re presenting next year that could be perhaps as controversial?
There is all different types of controversy, I mean The Homosexuals Or Faggots at the beginning of the year, is certainly looking at a lot of ideas about power and privilege within the LGBTI community and the ideas of offense, and how offensive or not we have permission to be in Australia but does it with comedy. The Testament To Mary at the end of the year, is certainly a piece that digs into the idea of how religion and how story of religion are constructed, it looks at a very different view or idea of mother of Jesus.
Being a local company, do you engage with local writers and how will these collaborations be showcased in next year’s program?
Yeah that’s a real key that we are constantly collaborating with a lot local artists, we’ve got five new works that have really come from local artist. We are working with Nicola Gunn at the beginning of the year with Ghetto Blaster, even though Wang Chong is a Beijing based director his teaming up with an Australian writer. Margret Harvey and John Harvey from Brown Cat productions are doing Heart is a Wasteland which is one of our other key works. One of the other really interesting local works is Wild Bore by Melbourne based comedic theatre performer mavericks Zoe Commbs Marr who won the Barry Award at Comedy Festival.She’s teaming up with like-minded performers from the UK and New York to create a sort of really caustic piece, about their response to how they view critics responding to their work, but again using a lot of comedy as its weapon.
What do you think defines Malthouse Theatre?
We are a mainstage company so that means that in many ways we are wanting to open our doors to as many people in Melbourne as possible but at the same time we have always been a company established on the main stage but as the rebellious anti-establishment company. That means that we are looking at ideas of disruption, how we can generate conversation, debate and change by disrupting your social assumptions and your assumptions about politics, but also about theatre and the form of theatre, and what that theatrical experience can be. We are always a company that is trying to champion an alternative view all the time.
What will be some of the strengths experience by the company in 2016 that will continue through into next year?
We had a really strong response to Picnic At Hanging Rock, and this will be something that is absolutely continuing this years, we will keep going back and looking at stories from the Australian cannon, stories that are familiar, but trying to see them through a new and more disruptive sort of lens. That work was a realy exciting for the company because we really thought there was a large new audience coming to the engage but who were also having a new experience that we hope they carried with them. Edward II was certainly a piece that we were really pleased with, but also particularly because it bought a new audience into the theatre, and hopefully we see that next year with Black Show Girls.
I think the work that invites diversity into our foyer and bring with them a different kind of voice are the works we are really proud of.
For more information on Malthouse’s 2017 season click here