Australian playwrights have provided leading voices in the development of Australia’s cultural identity – and this year Flinders University’s graduating actors from the Drama course are examining the impact of these works with an anthology performance of landmark coming-of-age stories in Australian theatre.
The new production, Coming of Age in Australia, is being performed in the Matthew Flinders Theatre at Flinders University’s Bedford Park campus from July 25-29, and is directed by Wayne Harrison AM, one of Australia’s leading directors and former Artistic Director of the Sydney Theatre Company.
Embracing key scenes from Ray Lawler’s landmark 1955 play The Summer of The Seventeenth Doll through to seminal works by David Williamson, Dorothy Hewitt and many others, the new production runs the gamut from laugh-out-loud comedy to heart-breaking tragedy as it provides a commentary of how Australia views its own coming-of-age experiences.
Flinders Drama lecturer Dr Christopher Hurrell says it’s an appropriate time for Australia to re-examine its cultural identify through such an inquisitive performance, as the nation moves into a new era shaped in the aftermath of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Drama students are not only shedding new light on the stories, but also questioning what Australian theatre’s preoccupation with coming-of-age stories says about our evolving national character,” says Dr Hurrell.
“The students have chosen works that embrace both political and personal themes, our migrant and multicultural experience, and the struggle for gender equality and freedom of self-expression.”
The coming-of-age stories chosen by the nine graduating actors have drawn together key moments from Lawler’s ‘Doll’ and its prequel play Kid Stakes, Michael Gow’s Away, The Chapel Perilous by Dorothy Hewett, The Peach Season by Debra Oswald, and others to create an innovative and intriguing theatrical experience.
The 2022 graduating actors at the Flinders Drama Centre are: Chrissy Miller, Dion Lopresto, Ella Tinsley-Le Fournour, Elvy-Lee Quici, Jack Cummins, James Starbuck, Milica Damjanovic, Rhys Griffin and Zoe Mills.
Director Wayne Harrison – who was also Creative Director of the New Year’s Eve Celebrations on Sydney Harbour from 2005 to 2007, and the Director of the Closing Ceremony for the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games – has issued high praise for the way these graduating Flinders actors have infused with their own lived experience of the joys and struggles of growing up in Australia, to present a fresh and timely theatrical perspective.
“The plays selected by the graduating students capture the richness of the ever-evolving Australian experience,” says Harrison. “With intelligence and artistry, and remarkably generous dedication to their ensemble, they are bringing these plays to life with a unique voice.
“Through these stories, these young actors mark their own coming-of-age as important new voices in South Australian culture.”
Coming of Age in Australia has been designed for the stage by Kathryn Sproul, with lighting design by Tom Kitney.
Coming of Age in Australia
Venue: Matthew Flinders Theatre, Flinders University Bedford Park Campus
Performances: July 26-29, from 7.30pm
Content: Coarse language, adult themes
Age Guide: 15+
Run time: 2 hours 20 mins (including 15-minute interval)
Tickets available online from: flinders.edu.au/events