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Short but sweet for PTC
Short but sweet for PTC

The Perth Theatre Company will produce one play, co-produce another and present an art installation in its 2013 season as it marks its 30th anniversary.

The season is a short one, spanning just one-third of the year from April to July, starting in the Studio Underground with the WA premiere of British writer Caryl Churchill’s dystopian cloning fantasy, A Number.

A Number stars Australian comedian and actor Kim Gyngell as a father who banishes the mother from the reproductive process and replicates his sons in the laboratory.

When the sons, all played by Brent Hill (and by James Bond star Daniel Craig in the original 2002 London Royal Court production) meet they are thrown into a nightmare of identity confusion.

“It is a beautifully compact piece in terms of everything that Churchill tells us, ” PTC artistic director Melissa Cantwell says.

“But she has always got that incredible intelligence sitting underneath her work. It is so dramatically interesting.”

The Guardian newspaper wrote of Churchill’s nature-v-nurture play that it probes questions about the relationship between sexism, capitalism and war.

Cantwell will move outside the theatre for the company’s second act for the year, Operation Zebra, a series of visual installations deriving from her long-term collaboration with Triple J Hack host, Sophie McNeill.

Inspired by McNeill’s time as an SBS Dateline foreign correspondent, Operation Zebra unites Cantwell with visual artist Fleur Elise Noble (2 Dimensional Life of Her), and other artists, including Tina Torabi and theatre group DADAA’s Tracksuit Ensemble.

Over a five-week residency at the Central Institute of Technology, they will create installations exploring themes of displacement, identity and overcoming the odds. Cantwell says it is the latest step towards a finished theatre production designed by Noble.

“We are looking for some public interaction with the installations and we will develop them and bring in some performers and then the next stage will be a full-scale theatre work, ” Cantwell says.

The year concludes in July with Alienation, an X-Files alien abduction survivor tale made with Sydney’s Q Theatre Company and written by Lachlan Philpott, the award-winning writer of Silent Disco and Truck Stop.

Alienation is inspired by interviews with Australian reported alien abductees, a topic that Cantwell and Philpott arrived at quite independently until they got talking at a recent theatre conference.

“We were both abducted by the same idea in completely different parts of the country, ” Cantwell says.

“I thought he’s the perfect writer to bring on board.”

The production was developed further at the Month in the Country residency through Albury-Wodonga’s innovative Hothouse Theatre.

“Of the abductees we spoke to, some had really supportive partners and families and others kind of lose their entire life, ” Cantwell says. “Lachlan and I are playing with all those different experiences.”

PTC also has instituted an artist-in-residence program, with Tim Watts (of Alvin Sputnik fame) taking the inaugural year-long position through the Ian Potter Foundation. Watts’ latest work with Arielle Gray and Chris Isaacs, It’s Dark Outside, is touring to the Sydney Festival next month.

PTC began operating in 1983 as the Fremantle- based Swy Theatre Company before moving to Perth and being rebadged as the Perth Theatre Company in 1994.