Debut season for Melbourne theatre leader

·2-min read

The Melbourne Theatre Company's new artistic director wants nothing less than to take the city's stagecraft to the world.

It is no exaggeration to say Anne Louise Sarks' work is internationally acclaimed as well as taking plays to the usual stages in London and New York, she has had hits in Helsinki, Mexico City, Warsaw and Mumbai.

"I can confidently say that Melbourne is a very special city, and that the theatre made here is world class," Sarks said.

Her first program as MTC artistic director was launched on Wednesday evening.

The 2023 season features 12 shows, six of them Australian, and opens with a new commission titled Sunday, starring Nikki Shiels and Matt Day.

The show looks at art patron Sunday Reed and her coterie at Heide, including artists Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker and Joy Hester.

Sarks describes their story, including Reed and Nolan's longstanding affair, as one of Melbourne's foundational myths.

"Who knows what happened in that in that room between Sunday Reed and Sidney Nolan? None of us know, but we want to imagine," she told AAP.

Following sell-out seasons in Sydney and Brisbane, Sheridan Harbridge reprises her award-winning role in Australian legal drama Prima Facie, while Sarks herself will direct the American comedy Bernhardt/Hamlet starring Kate Mulvany.

There is also Jacky by Declan Furber Gillick, described as an Australian first nations Hamlet, and comedian Judith Lucy makes her MTC debut in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days.

The season is not only ambitious, according to Sarks, it is an invitation especially for those who wouldn't usually be up for a night at the theatre, or have yet to return after pandemic lockdowns.

The first female artistic director in the company's 68 year history was not only thinking about audience diversity when shaping the 2023 program.

"It's the beginning of a new conversation about theatre, about the stories that we tell and about who tells those stories ... I really believe this is the kind of season that Melbourne needs right now," she said.

Just over a decade ago, Sarks herself was an emerging resident director at MTC, and part of her long term plan for the MTC is to promote upcoming theatre makers.

To that end, new resident director Tasnim Hossain will direct the Australian premiere of modern romance I Wanna Be Yours, starring Oz Malik.

Sarks hopes a forward-looking and more diverse company will lead to more shows that will tour internationally, as well as setting the agenda at home.

"I'm looking for works that will shift the theatrical landscape, that will shape a cultural conversation," she said.

Tickets for Sunday, Prima Facie, Bernhardt/Hamlet and Happy Days go on sale in December.