As we move into spring, MTC’s program turns to three major collaborations with other theatre companies and organisations. First up is a co-production with Arena Theatre Company of the family show Marlin, followed by the Broadway hit Once, a co-production with the Gordon Frost Organisation. In October, we present, Complexity of Belonging, our first collaboration with dance company Chunky Move, along with the Melbourne and Brisbane Festivals.
Such collaborations are not new. In 1955, we got together with the newly-formed Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust to stage a new Australian play, Ray Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. As theatrical history records, that artistic gamble paid out in spades. And for decades now, state theatre companies have regularly co-produced or toured productions to each other’s theatres. It helps defray production costs, while finding a larger audience for a play, especially Australian works.
But sound economics isn’t the only reason for collaboration. Our three up-coming productions are also attempts to expand the range of our theatrical product and draw new and more diverse audiences to MTC. For example, our co-production with Arena Theatre Company, our first for twenty-five years, is primarily an artistic exchange. They are specialists in imaginative, dynamic shows for young people, with a fifty-year history and a wealth of expertise in the field. We draw on their skills and their dedicated audience; they draw on our production facilities, our theatre and our mainstream audience. It is a win for everyone.
Musicals, with their large casts and crew, are expensive and risky for a subscriber-based company such as ours, so there are good economic reasons for joining with the Gordon Frost Organisation to stage Once. Yet the show still needs to be a good fit in artistic terms. And, with its quirky love-story, Irish folk setting and unforced charm, Once sits nicely with the slightly off-piste musicals that MTC have produced in the past, such as Next to Normal, The Drowsy Chaperone, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Tomfoolery and Urinetown.
Joining up with Chunky Move and the Melbourne and Brisbane Festivals to present Complexity of Belonging draws another type of audience to our theatre. But more than that, it allows our subscribers to see a type of hybrid performance, with text mixed with dance and music, that we would not otherwise program in our season. For many MTC stalwarts this show will seem radically new and experimental, but we are in safe hands with Chunky Move’s Artistic Director Anouk van Dijk and German director/writer Falk Richter, who have created many dazzling and acclaimed festival pieces over their successful fifteen-year collaboration.
The upshot of these three collaborations is diversity – attracting new audiences to MTC and presenting different varieties of theatre to our regular audience.