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Polly Simons

Polly Simons

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Meet the 25-year-old playwright taking over Australian theatres this year

Meet the 25-year-old playwright taking over Australian theatres this year

It’s safe to say that 25-year-old Thai-Australian playwright Anchuli Felicia King is pretty busy right now. After premiering her first (yes, first) play, White Pearl, at London’s Royal Court Theatre in June, she’s about to take it to Sydney Theatre Company in a co-production with the National Theatre of Parramatta and then Washington DC. Then there’s her play Golden Shield, which is about to open at Melbourne Theatre Company. Meanwhile, Slaughterhouse will premiere at Belvoir’s independent space, 25A, in October. “It’s definitely been a crazy year,” she says with remarkable understatement. If King seems a little relaxed about things, it’s perhaps because she is no stranger to the theatre, having worked as a dramaturg, sound designer and projection designer in Australia and New York before picking up the pen in 2016 during her dramaturgy studies at Columbia University. Written on her summer break from Columbia, White Pearl follows six Asian women after a racist ad from their company’s signature skin whitening product has gone viral, causing global outrage. Almost from the outset, King knew she had hit on something special.  White Pearl. Photograph: Rene Vaile. “Even at that point, I could tell that – particularly with the response that the Asian community was having to it, and the Asian actors who got to work on the play who felt really strongly about it – it felt really rewarding,” she says. The play went on to win a prestigious playwriting award at Columbia and was given a

Meet the 25-year-old playwright taking over Australian theatres this year

Meet the 25-year-old playwright taking over Australian theatres this year

It’s safe to say that 25-year-old Thai-Australian playwright Anchuli Felicia King is pretty busy right now. After premiering her first (yes, first) play, White Pearl, at London’s Royal Court Theatre in June, she’s about to take it to Sydney Theatre Company and then Washington DC. Then there’s her play Golden Shield, which is about to open at Melbourne Theatre Company. Meanwhile, Slaughterhouse will premiere at Belvoir’s independent space, 25A, in October. “It’s definitely been a crazy year,” she says with remarkable understatement. If King seems a little relaxed about things, it’s perhaps because she is no stranger to the theatre, having worked as a dramaturg, sound designer and projection designer in Australia and New York before picking up the pen in 2016 during her dramaturgy studies at Columbia University. Written on her summer break from Columbia, White Pearl follows six Asian women after a racist ad from their company’s signature skin whitening product has gone viral, causing global outrage. Almost from the outset, King knew she had hit on something special.  White Pearl. Photograph: Rene Vaile. “Even at that point, I could tell that – particularly with the response that the Asian community was having to it, and the Asian actors who got to work on the play who felt really strongly about it – it felt really rewarding,” she says. The play went on to win a prestigious playwriting award at Columbia and was given a reading at Roundabout Theatre Company, before being picked

I'm Spartacus! The Australian Ballet's men stand up in a new production

I'm Spartacus! The Australian Ballet's men stand up in a new production

When the Australian Ballet’s Spartacus toured America in 1990, it nearly brought New York to a standstill. Crowds in Times Square stopped to gawp at the giant poster of leather-clad dancer Steven Heathcote as the rebellious gladiator, while at ground level promoters were kept busy replacing posters stolen by overeager fans overnight. The tour was a triumph. Fast forward to 2018 and principal dancer Kevin Jackson is slightly relieved he won’t be following in Heathcote’s exact footsteps as he prepares to take on the role in a new version of Spartacus created by former company dancer and NIDA-trained director Lucas Jervies. “Every time someone thinks of Spartacus, it’s always that image. It really is iconic,” he says. Composed in 1954 by the Russian-Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian, the story is based on the historical figure of Spartacus, an enslaved gladiator who led a rebellion against the tyrannical Roman commander Crassus in the first century BC. Traditionally, it’s been a vehicle for a company’s male dancers to step out from behind the ballerinas and take a well-earned place on centre stage. But over the years, it’s become as much about the beefcake as the ballet itself, with critics lambasting the work for its campiness, its action movie score and its datedness. In Australia, while the 1990 Heathcote-led production was a resounding success, the company hasn’t presented a full-length production of Spartacus since 2002. Jervies’ version is slated as a Spartacus for the p

I'm Spartacus! The Australian Ballet's men stand up in a new production

I'm Spartacus! The Australian Ballet's men stand up in a new production

When the Australian Ballet’s Spartacus toured America in 1990, it nearly brought New York to a standstill. Crowds in Times Square stopped to gawp at the giant poster of leather-clad dancer Steven Heathcote as the rebellious gladiator, while at ground level promoters were kept busy replacing posters stolen by overeager fans overnight. The tour was a triumph. Fast forward to 2018 and principal dancer Kevin Jackson is slightly relieved he won’t be following in Heathcote’s exact footsteps as he prepares to take on the role in a new version of Spartacus created by former company dancer and NIDA-trained director Lucas Jervies. “Every time someone thinks of Spartacus, it’s always that image. It really is iconic,” he says. Composed in 1954 by the Russian-Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian, the story is based on the historical figure of Spartacus, an enslaved gladiator who led a rebellion against the tyrannical Roman commander Crassus in the first century BC. Traditionally, it’s been a vehicle for a company’s male dancers to step out from behind the ballerinas and take a well-earned place on centre stage. But over the years, it’s become as much about the beefcake as the ballet itself, with critics lambasting the work for its campiness, its action movie score and its datedness. In Australia, while the 1990 Heathcote-led production was a resounding success, the company hasn’t presented a full-length production of Spartacus since 2002. Jervies’ version is slated as a Spartacus for the

How citizenship dramas stopped Inua Ellams from attending his Sydney Festival debut

How citizenship dramas stopped Inua Ellams from attending his Sydney Festival debut

When Barber Shop Chronicles opens as part of Sydney Festival next month, it will do so without one very important person. Instead of seeing the accolades that will almost certainly be lavished on the play on its first outing outside the UK, writer Inua Ellams will be in London. He's currently prevented from travelling due to an ongoing immigration issue that refuses to recognise the 32-year-old or his family as British citizens, and forces him to renew his residency every three years. “It’s been my life for 21 years now,” says Ellams, who was 12 when his family arrived in Britain after leaving Nigeria and its escalating religious tensions. “It’s a frustration I’m used to [that] flares up now and then. But for the most part I’ve learnt to cope with it.” In fairness, Ellams has spent quite a lot of time in Australia over the past few months. Most recently, he presented his award-winning one-man show, An Evening with an Immigrant at Sydney Opera House’s Antidote Festival, and prior to that, Perth Festival. “To return to Australia a third time might push my already precarious carbon footprint over the edge,” he says. Nonetheless, his exasperation at this state of affairs is evident. Not surprisingly, belonging and displacement are ongoing preoccupations for the poet and theatre maker. In An Evening with an Immigrant, he drew on his experiences growing up in London and as “the only black boy” at his school in Dublin to examine the contentious issue of immigration. In Barber Shop

See Sydney actor Brendan Cowell in one of London's hottest shows

See Sydney actor Brendan Cowell in one of London's hottest shows

Brendan Cowell may have left the Inner West behind when he moved to London last year, but Sydney has not seen the last of the actor, writer and director. In fact, when Cowell appears as part of National Theatre Live’s broadcast of the London production of Yerma, there is likely to be quite a crowd at his beloved Dendy Newtown. “My sister, Belinda – the legend – has booked out an entire cinema for friends and family. She got in early, riled everyone up and now I think we have the full Cowell empire there,” says Cowell, from a cluttered meeting room at the Young Vic theatre, where the Olivier Award-winning production, directed by fellow Aussie expat Simon Stone, is in the middle of a sold-out return season. Based on the 1934 play by Spanish dramatist Federico García Lorca about a woman’s desire for motherhood, Stone’s radically re-imagined production transports the action from rural Spain to modern day London, where a couple (played by Cowell and former Doctor Who actress Billie Piper) are struggling with their inability to conceive. Haunting and heartbreaking, the production sold out when it premiered at the Young Vic last August, with Piper winning an Olivier Award for Best Actress. This year’s revival also sold out, with fans queuing around the block each night in the hope of scoring a return ticket. The much-anticipated NT Live broadcast will be screened in more than 2,500 cinemas in 60 countries, including in theatres across Australia. “It’s such an incredible thing becau

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