Worldwide icon-chevron-right South Pacific icon-chevron-right Australia icon-chevron-right Sydney icon-chevron-right Virginia Gay unwraps a festive end to Belvoir's jam-packed 2021 season
Virginia Gay in a pink wig
Photograph: Supplied/Daniel Boud/Belvoir

Virginia Gay unwraps a festive end to Belvoir's jam-packed 2021 season

The year will come to a joyous end, with a pantomime written by and starring the Calamity Jane hero

By Stephen A Russell

After joyously reopening with Anita Hegh in the Carissa Licciardello-directed adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Belvoir has now uneveiled what the end of the year looks like at the Surry Hills institution. And it's going to be a whole heap of fun. 

September brings the glorious Festival of Everything, combining everything from stand-up to satire, cabaret to comedy, and feilding famous faces like Eddie Perfect and Judith Lucy. Then there are two fiercely brillaint plays by radical women writers in Alana Valentine's new work Wayside Bride, and the Caryl Churchill classic Light Shining in Buckinghamshire.

And last but certainly not least, Calamity Jane good-time gal Virginia Gay has fallen in love with the British art of pantomime, creating a peculiarly Aussie take on the Christmas cheer-bringing tradition that will have audiences rolling in the aisles with The Boomkak Panto.

Read on to find out more...


On stage at Belvoir

Pamela Rabe in a black dress leans on a wooden chair in The Cherry Orchard at Belvoir
Photograph: Supplied/Brett Boardman

The Cherry Orchard

Theatre Drama Belvoir St Theatre, Surry Hills

Flack takes the dramatic reins with a fresh look at one of his favourite classics, Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. The literary great’s final play depicts the troubled return of Russian widow Madame Ranevsky and her daughter Anya to their family estate. The joint’s been mortgaged to the max to pay for the high life she’s been living in Paris, which leads to more than a few difficult decisions in a time of great turbulence. The magnificent Pamela Rabe (The Children) stars as Ranevsky, alongside Keith Robinson (Twelfth Night) as her brother Gayev, Nadie Kammallaweera (Counting and Cracking) as adopted daughter Varya and Charles Wu (Enemy of the People) as their servant Yasha. It opens on May 29. “It’s close to my heart,” Flack says. “Who gets on board? Who doesn't? Who wins and loses? They’re all questions that everybody is living day in, day out at the moment. And I love that Chekov deals with this in a living, not didactic way.”

Michelle Law in blue winners sash, tiara and navy patterned dress in Miss Peony
Photograph: Supplied/Daniel Boud

Miss Peony

Theatre Comedy Belvoir St Theatre, Surry Hills

When Singe Asian Female playwright Michelle Law set her mind to conjuring a follow-up to that hilarious skewering of racist microaggressions, she landed on the idea of entering a beauty pageant for research. Sadly for her, she was prevented by age limit rules. How rude. But that little obstacle didn’t put her off the subject, which is ripe for lampooning. The result is Miss Peony, which will debut on July 3, 2021. Law stars alongside Mabel Li in an inter-generational story that features a take-charge Chinese grandma (who may or may not be a ghost) coach a would-be beauty queen, as directed by Courtney Stewart. “We know Michelle can write a gag, and oh my gosh, she can write a plot. So it was a no-brainer,” Flack says. The show promises “a glitzy, glamorous and slightly unhinged comedy about being caught between two generations and two cultures, and what happens when the ghosts of generations past come back to haunt you, for real,” and we can’t wait to sashay away with the winner’s sash.

At What Cost? playwright Nathan Maynard in a red flannel shirt and a navy duffel coat
Photograph: Supplied/Nick Hanson

At What Cost?

Theatre Drama Belvoir St Theatre, Surry Hills

Palawa man Nathan Maynard was named as Belvoir St’s 2019 Balnaves Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fellow and set to work on a modern tragedy set in his home state of Lutrawita/Tasmania. Now Belvoir audiences get to see the fruits of that collaboration when At What Cost? debuts on August 7, 2021. Directed by Isaac Drandic, the play centres on a young father and First Nations man, Dan, who’s focused on doing right by his family while also living up to his responsibilities to the land and his community. But he finds himself irked by others claiming to be Palawa that he hasn’t heard of before. The button-pushing play asks “Are they legit? Or are they ‘tick-a-box’? Who decides? And how?” Flack says it’s a remarkable work that reminds him a little of British-Irish playwright Martin McDonagh. “It’s damn fine. It’s almost impossible to write a true tragedy nowadays, and Nathan’s done it. It gets at human foibles, and a very vexed question for Indigenous Australia. There’s no one answer, and Nathan's written with great conviction about that.”

some of the stars of Belvoir St's 2021 program carry a flag and a paper sun on a ute
Photograph: Supplied/Daniel Boud

Belvoir's Festival of Everything

Things to do Fairs and festivals Belvoir St Theatre, Surry Hills

This September Surry Hills institution Belvoir St Theatre will unfurl a magnificent line-up of creative celebrations with not one paltry show, but an entire smorgasbord. Belvoir’s Festival of Everything will field exactly what it says on the tin: a little bit of everything.

“The idea is simple,” Belvoir’s artistic director Eamon Flack told us. “It’s just to bring as many artists and audiences together as we can in a three-week period, so there’s nine different acts, and they’re giving 24 performances between them.”

So you can expect to laugh outrageously until you snort-hiccup with absolute royalty comedians like Zoë Coombs Marr, Judith Lucy and Dilruk Jayasinha. The Masked Singer guest star Eddie Perfect will get up close and personal with his one-man show Introspective, talking about his time conquering Broadway, while Triple J’s sex and relationships host Hannah Reilly will spill the beans in song and storytelling show Direct Eye Contact.

Then dive into 44 Sex Acts in One Week’s encore season of the apocalyptic rom-com for our times, and get cultural with the latest smooth moves from Western Sydney outfit Lingalayam Dance Company in Kuruntokai – The Interior Landscape. Eishan Ensemble will present Iranian folkloric elements with sweet jazz harmonies in Afternoon Tea at Six.

There’s also an outing of musical mystery comedy Curtains from the team that brought you Virginia Gay in Calamity Jane. And the best news? Each gig is only $35, so you can see a bunch of them in a joyous pick and mix, choosing your own adventure. Tickets go on sale May 3.

“After everything that’s happened, we just wanted to celebrate the performing arts, you know, throw a bit of a party,” Flack adds. “The great thing about the corner stage at Belvoir St is that it’s good for almost everything, so to celebrate the irreplaceable joy of live performance we’ve invited artists from across the spectrum. All of it is really joyful work.”

Love Belvoir? Check out the rest of the 2021 program here

Two women, one holding a burning flag
Photograph: Supplied/Daniel Boud/Belvoir

The Rep Season

Theatre Drama Belvoir St Theatre, Surry Hills

Why choose between two great plays when you can have both? That’s Belvoir artistic director Eamon Flack’s thinking behind their very first repertory season. The idea is simple: the same cast – including Sacha Horler, Rebecca Massey, Brandon McClelland and Angeline Penrith – appears in both plays, using the same set, as staged on alternate nights for the duration of the run, from October 7 to November 14. Wayside Bride is a brand-new Australian play by the brilliant Alana Valentine. It was written with a lot of help from the local Cross community about Sydney institution the Wayside Chapel and Reverend Ted Noff, who created a space for those who might not find a place elsewhere. It’s about the radicalism in the 1970s and the quietly revolutionary act of marriage in the face of fierce resistance from family, society and the church hierarchy. It’s in the mix with Caryl Churchill classic Light Shining in Buckinghamshire. It’s set in 1649, and after England’s bloody Civil War. “The question of the play is: When you cut your king’s head off and overthrow the system, what do you replace it with? And how do you win that battle to not just replace it with more of the same?” Flack adds. “That feels like a very pertinent question. And, much like Wayside Bride, it’s also about the idea that if a society only takes care of its winners, then it’s bankrupt.” Tickets go on sale May 3, and all you have to decide is to jump on one or both.

Virginia Gay in a pink wig
Photograph: Supplied/Daniel Boud/Belvoir

The Boomkak Panto

Theatre Musicals Belvoir St Theatre, Surry Hills

Christmas is undeniably camp. All that glittering tinsel. And what could be camper than Calamity Jane star Virginia Gay leading an all-star Aussie pantomime for Belvoir’s dramatic flourish of an ending to 2021? Pantos, as they are more affectionately known, are known for fielding massive stars in super-camp stagings of (usually) fairytales, with lots of gender fluidity, booing at bad guys and general audience hilarity. The Boomkak Panto will see out the year in style. And it addresses one of the most Aussie stories of all: a big developer muscling in on a small community that is not having a bar of it. This regional outpost launches into a David and Goliath battle to save their town, which is full of happy families, refreshing diversity and the occasional rivalry. They all draw together in a battle for survival and, in a meta-textual twist, fight back by staging their own pantomime. “It’s a suitably ridiculous plotline, but completely on theme for Belvoir,” Flack says. “My nickname for it is the panto panto, because it is a panto about putting on a panto. It’s just an excuse to pack as much theatrical joy into one plot as you can possibly stretch to, which is a pretty good way to end the year.”


Find out what's on at STC in 2021 too


    You may also like