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Arbus & West

21 Jan 2019

Diana Glenn (The Slap) stars as enigmatic photographer Diane Arbus opposite Melita Jurisic (The House of Bernarda Alba) as the formidable Mae West in the world premiere of Stephen Sewell’s Arbus & West, opening on Thursday 28 February at Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio.

Jennifer Vuletic (Merciless Gods) completes the cast of this intimate three-hander directed by MTC Associate Artistic Director Sarah Goodes (A Doll’s House, Part 2).

In 1964, sassy blonde bombshell Mae West was captured on film by Diane Arbus, the most fêted female photographer of her generation. Drawing from real events, Arbus & West contemplates what might have transpired between these two extraordinary women in a powerful rendering of beauty, regret, independence and longing.

Sarah Goodes said, ‘Stephen Sewell is one our most celebrated playwrights and has written a beautiful play filled with humour and mystery. The meeting of Mae West and Diane Arbus dives a lot deeper than each woman is expecting, their shared mistrust shines light into each woman’s inner life in a way that is both exciting and terrifying.’

When Diane turns up at Mae’s glistening LA apartment in 1964 to take her portrait, tensions quickly flare. Mae’s amplified version of herself is very different to the one Diane wants to catch on film. But whose version wins out when a master of illusion meets a master of truth?

Stephen Sewell is one of Australia’s most celebrated and experienced writers. He has won great popular and critical acclaim as a playwright, screenwriter and novelist, as well as directing for both theatre and film over a career that has spanned 30 years. He is the recipient of numerous awards and his work has been performed in most major Australian theatres and in New Zealand, the US, the UK and Europe. Stephen is best known for his film and theatre work, including his AFI Award winning screen adaptation of The Boys, his role as script editor on the feature film Chopper and his numerous plays such as The Blind Giant is Dancing, It Just Stopped and the highly awarded Myth, Propaganda and Disaster in Nazi Germany and Contemporary America: A Drama in 30 Scenes. In 2016 Stephen made his film directorial debut with Embedded. Stephen is currently the Head of Writing for Performance at NIDA.

Melbourne Theatre Company Associate Artistic Director Sarah Goodes previously directed for MTC Astroman, A Doll’s House, Part 2, The Children, Three Little Words, John and Switzerland. Sarah’s reputation as a leading director of new Australian and international work has been built on widespread praise and multiple award nominations. Formerly Resident Director at Sydney Theatre Company, Sarah directed The Hanging, Disgraced, Orlando, Battle of Waterloo, The Effect, Vere (Faith), The Splinter, and Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness. Her other directing credits include Elling, Black Milk, The Sweetest Thing, and The Small Things (B Sharp Belvoir); The Colour of Panic (Sydney Opera House); Vertigo and the Virginia, The Schelling Point, Hilt, and What Happened Was (Old Fitzroy Theatre); and The Unscrupulous Murderer Hasse Karlson Reveals the Gruesome Truth about the Woman Who Froze to Death on a Railway Bridge (Darlinghurst Theatre Company). In 2015 she was the recipient of the Gloria Payten Travel Scholarship. 

Cast Diana Glenn, Melita Jurisic, Jennifer Vuletic    

Director Sarah Goodes
Lighting Designer Paul Jackson                                                   
Set & Costume Designer Renée Mulder 
Composer & Sound Designer Clemence Williams
Voice & Dialect Coach Jean Goodwin

Season Dates
22 February – 30 March

Opening Night
Thursday 28 February

Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio

03 8688 0800


This is rated 0 out of 5 stars

‘No one had more fun with the double entendre than Mae West.’ 

Chicago Tribune
This is rated 0 out of 5 stars

‘Diane Arbus was one of the most powerful American artists of the 20th century.’

The New York Times

Published on 21 January 2019

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