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: most of the same actors – including Sacha Horler, Rebecca Massey, Brandon McClelland and Angeline Penrith – appear in both plays, using the same set, as staged on alternate nights for the duration of the run, from April 2 to May 29.
“We wanted to find new ways to work, because if you always work the same way, you’ll always end up the same kind of outcome,” Flack told us. “We had two plays that we were working on as a company during shutdown, and we love them both, so we thought, ‘let’s just do both, and let’s do them together.”
Wayside Bride is a brand-new Australian play by the brilliant Alana Valentine. It was written with a lot of help from the local Kings 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.
“Every city has to make sure that there are these little bubbles that are a haven for people. And what Wayside is. I think it’s what Belvoir is at its best as well,” Flack says. “Alana’s a very special writer, and she mixes pieces of verbatim and dramatisation, and it really paints a picture of Sydney. Let’s talk about our city after everything that we’ve been through.”
It’s in the mix with Caryl Churchill classic Light Shining in Buckinghamshire. “She’s possibly the greatest living playwright in the English language, into her fourth or fifth decade of being ahead of the game,” Flack says.
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 are on sale now, and all you have to decide is to jump on one or both. “They’re very, very different plays, but they’re both by these by great, radical women writers. And even though they’re set hundreds of years apart, they’re about the same thing, which is, how do you make sure that you create space inside society for everyone, not just the strong?”