Featuring a slate of seventeen productions and the return of the Chamber Music Festival, fortyfivedownstairs has announced its theatre program for 2024.
“What excites me about this program is the ambition of the artists involved,” says Artistic Director of the Theatre, Cameron Lukey. “Whether it’s a writer telling their life story or their family’s story; an actor creating/playing multiple roles; a collaboration with an international company; or a company taking on a two-part epic, a double bill, or revisiting past successes to push them even further, each show represents an inspiring challenge for its creators.
“For the audience, I hope we deliver the diversity they’ve come to expect. That’s certainly been the goal in putting together a program that includes two Australian premieres of international works, three return seasons of recent Australian works, seven new works, three new adaptations of classics, an opera, and a chamber music festival. It’s going to be a BIG year at fortyfivedownstairs!” said Mr Lukey.
17 January – 11 February
fortyfivedownstairs presents the Australian premiere of the epic two-part Tony and Olivier Award winner for Best Play. Inspired by E. M. Forster’s Howards End, directed by Kitan Petkovski (The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven), and featuring a stellar cast of 13, The Inheritance spans generations in an “exquisitely truthful and funny” (The Telegraph UK) exploration of love and legacy. Playwright: Matthew Lopez.
15 – 25 February
In this story of courage and bravery directed by Maryanne Sam (Coconut Woman, Yirramboi Festival), a tip-off sparks a journey of Indigenous family survival, made by horse and cart under the cover of dark. Set against the racialized backdrop of 1940s Australia, a Ngarrindjeri family must make the impossible choice to leave home and country forever. “I wanted to write this play to honour family, legacy, the stories of survival of people from South Eastern Australia, and to honour my Nan and her journey” says playwright Brodie Murray.
28 February – 10 March
Paul is trying to find a job. Snowy is trying to find himself. Fate, in the form of a cow named Sandy, has other plans. Iain Sinclair (A View From The Bridge, MTC) directs the Australian premiere of Longman’s heartfelt black comedy, featuring Laurence Boxhall (The Mousetrap, Comedy Theatre) and William McKenna (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child). Playwright: Simon Longman.
CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL
12 – 24 March
Following the success of the inaugural Chamber Music Festival in March 2023, renowned pianist Coady Green has again curated a diverse program of 14 events, including multiple Australian premieres, collaborations with Lyric Opera and the Wilin Centre, and performances from an incredible lineup of artists such as pianist Michael Leslie, soprano Antoinette Halloran, actors Helen Morse and Paul English, and ensembles Songmakers Australia and the Divisi Chamber Singers.
THE EXACT DIMENSIONS OF HELL
18 – 28 April
It’s 1998. Deep in the Australian suburbs, we meet a fourteen year old girl who wants to be a witch, and an older man who claims he can teach her how. Directed by Alice Darling (The Fence, Darebin Speakeasy), and featuring Matilda Gibbs and internationally acclaimed theatre-maker Daniel Schlusser, Mackey’s unflinching play demands a new narrative of gender, agency, and power. Playwright: Bridget Mackey.
1 – 12 May
Written and performed by Sally McKenzie (Apple Cider Vinegar, Netflix), directed by Sean Mee (Box the Pony, Sydney Opera House), with sound design by J. David Franzke, WAY (2024 VCE Drama Playlist) uses filmed sequences and live performance to interweave the fictional journey of a documentary filmmaker with the lived experiences of four homeless women.
WE’RE BANKING ON IT!
16 – 26 May
Ten years after the MUST production that launched the Bloomshed ensemble, these award-winning theatre companies are collaborating again to create a world class pyramid scheme with this reprised corruption of Gogol’s The Government Inspector. A live theatrical seminar for the savvy entrepreneur, this is the only show that promises to double your investment (disclaimers abound)!
100 REASONS FOR WAR | CARPET AND SAND
30 May – 16 June
Two plays, one cast, a gorilla, and a dozen or so sheep. Presented by Calamity Practice, directed by Green Room Award winner Bob Pavlich (The Winter’s Tale, La Mama), and performed by a cast of eight, this double bill of Australian plays blends the dramatic and the absurd in a search for truth and reason within the chaos. Both plays will be performed back-to-back on Saturdays and Sundays. Playwrights: Tom Holloway and Robert Reid.
18 – 23 June
A celebration of performer Natalie Gamsu’s (A Very Jewish Christmas Carol, MTC) strange and fearless life journey as she searches for meaning through diabolically funny and deeply personal anecdotes of tsuris, the yiddish word for pain. An evening of touching and highly entertaining storytelling presented by Kadimah Yiddish Theatre, directed by Stephen Nicolazzo (Vampire Lesbians of Sodom), and featuring songs performed in Yiddish, Spanish, and English. Playwrights: Natalie Gamsu and Ash Flanders.
26 June – 7 July
Olivia, a mother, pieces her late teenage daughter Molly’s life into a perfume. Directed by Cathy Hunt (Little Brother, Big Sister, La Mama), Ketels’ beautiful new play will be brought to life as a sensory experience for audiences, employing scent to capture the play’s touching exploration of death, decay, and blossoming. Playwright: Georgia Ketels.
25 – 28 July
Based on the true stories of Holocaust survivors Krystyna Zywulska, a Polish dissident, and Gad Beck, a Jewish gay man, this production of renowned composer Jake Heggie’s Two Remain is an exciting collaboration with Nightingale Opera in the USA, and an important reminder of the enduring power of love and humanity.
1 – 11 August
This delightfully self-aware adaptation transforms Wilde’s irreverent satire into a salacious display of gross indecency. Welcome to the Wilde side in Bloomshed’s latest take-down of high society. From the collective behind 2023’s acclaimed, high-octane productions of Animal Farm (Darebin Speakeasy) and A Dodgeball Named Desire, Earnest is a delicious mix of diatribe, dance breaks, and debauchery.
MILK and BLOOD
15 August – 1 September
Following the success of kerosene and SIRENS, Benjamin Nichol continues his anthology series exploring love and loneliness across Australia with two new works written for and performed by Brigid Gallacher (In The Club, Theatreworks) and Charles Purcell (Apokalypsis, The Substation). Milk and Blood both present unflinching examinations of violence and desire, shame and self-sabotage, and the power of redemption.
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA
5 – 22 September
Melbourne Shakespeare Company presents a gripping tale of power and passion, and the tragic sequel to their 2023 smash hit production of Julius Caesar. Director Richard Murphet will again take the helm, supported by an outstanding cast and creative team to be announced in 2024. Playwright: William Shakespeare.
26 September – 6 October
The team behind the acclaimed production of RUNT – writer Patricia Cornelius (Do not go gentle…), director Susie Dee (Savages), and performer Nicci Wilks (SHIT) – present a bold, tough, and powerful new work tackling the enormous issue of misogyny and domestic violence. Wilks will inhabit the character of BAD BOY; a female actor openly playing a male role. Much of BAD BOY is in the power of what is unspoken, but what is said is electrifying.
31 October – 17 November
Spinning Plates Co. re-teams with director Cassandra Fumi and the creative team behind their enormously successful production of THE CROCODILE for the second instalment in their ‘Beast Trilogy’. Brought stampeding into the 21st Century, Ionesco’s absurdist classic locks horns with conformity and responsibility as a town is thrown into chaos when, one by one, its residents begin transforming into Rhinoceroses. Playwright: Zinnie Harris (after Ionesco).
21 November – 1 December
Featuring a live choir and original songs by Ro Bright (Daffodils, Edinburgh Fringe Festival) and Pat Irwin (SUSS, The B-52’s), this ceremonious and candid story about unconditional love and the power of community is presented by Bullet Heart Club, directed by Kitan Petkovski (In the Club, Theatreworks), and features stage luminary Jennifer Vuletic (Looking for Alibrandi, Malthouse Theatre).
5 – 15 December
Written by Amarantha Robinson (Oshun, La Mama) and presented by Quiet Riot, this lyrical ensemble experience fuses Afro-Caribbean mysticism and history with dance and drumming to give a transmission of awakening and power. It is ok to go back and get what you have forgotten…
For more information about fortyfivedownstairs’ 2024 theatre program, visit: www.fortyfivedownstairs.com for details.
Image: The Inheritance – photo by Benny Capp