Current Issue #488

State Theatre Company to stage post-COVID comeback at Her Majesty’s Theatre

State Theatre Company
Ksenja Logos in Gaslight

After COVID-19 restrictions forced it to scrap over half of its 2020 program, State Theatre will return to the newly-reopened Her Majesty’s Theatre for its September season of Patrick Hamilton’s Gaslight.

“It’s not the time for the show to go on,” artistic director Mitchell Butel told The Adelaide Review back in March, fresh from cancelling the Sydney season of Belvoir St co-production Dance Nation. Having just wrapped its Adelaide Festival run, the first show of Butel’s tenure as artistic director had now become the last State Theatre show audiences would see for nearly six months, as bans on mass gatherings saw the pin pulled on The Gospel According To Paul, Single Asian Female, Euphoria, The 7 Stages of Grieving and The Writer.

Back in March, the state of South Australia’s COVID-19 report card by the time Catherine Fitzgerald’s reimagining of Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 psychological thriller Gaslight was due to roll around was anyone’s guess. But, with restrictions gradually easing, the call has been made to push forward with a new location: the newly reopened Her Majesty’s Theatre.

Fresh from a $66 million overhaul that substantially increased its capacity, the move will allow more people to safely enjoy South Australia – and mainland Australia’s – first major theatre production since March.

“To be the first large-scale show in this glorious reinvention of Her Majesty’s Theatre is historic,” Butel says of the news. “To be the first large-scale show to open in Adelaide, and possibly Australia, since the flattening of the COVID-19 curve in South Australia is exciting. To do this with a dynamic reinvention of a classic thriller in Gaslight is the cherry on top.

“Our hearts are with other states and theatre-makers who have not been as lucky and we hope that tides turn shortly, so they too can heal and entertain audiences with great works of art. But I’m happy we can dazzle South Australian audiences very soon.”

Chris Oaten
Tthe expanded capacity of Her Majesty’s will roughly double the amount of people who will be able to see Gaslight with social distancing measures in place

After a soft opening with Slingsby Theatre’s intimate family show The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy in June, Her Majesty’s will be subject to strict hygiene measures, abundant hand sanitiser and an every-second-seat ticket allocation that will halve the theatre’s new 1400-person capacity as per current government restrictions (roughly approximating the Dunstan Playhouse’s pre-COVID capacity).

Despite being exiled from the stage the State Theatre has hardly been idle, last week launching digital monologue series Decameron 2.0 with ActNow Theatre. But, the return to a physical stage represents a much-anticipated line in the sand for the South Australian cultural sector.

Gaslight’s an interesting one; with Geordie there’s been a lot of radicalised classics in the last few years,” Butel said of the play last year. “Which appeals to me too, but I thought it might be good to swing away from that for a moment, still do a show that’s a known quantity because of the Ingrid Bergman film, but flip it in a way that speaks to why it’s such a key term in the post #MeToo world. People will still get full frock value out of it, but it will challenge them in hopefully a new way.

“There’s a great speech in Gaslight, from an inspector who arrives to uncover this dastardly plan of the gaslighting husband,” Butel explains. “The husband asks who he is, and the inspector says, ‘I am a voice from the future, I’m here to avenge what you’ve done’. It’s quite spooky – there’s a notion of it being a voice from the future… coming to whip your arse.”

Perhaps come September that ‘voice from the future’ can also shed some light on any potential second waves to look out for.

4 – 19 September

State Theatre Company: Gaslight

Walter Marsh

Walter Marsh

Digital Editor
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Walter is a writer and editor living on Kaurna Country.

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