Melissa CantwellMel Cantwell speaking at the launch of PTC's 2009 season. Artist featured - Alyce Bunton. Photo - Ashley dePrazer

At the launch of Perth Theatre Company’s 2009 Season “Transformations” General Manager Tony Bonney described 2008 as both ‘annus horribilis’ and 'annus mirabilis'. It was an apt analogy; on the horribilis side there was the death of long time artistic director Alan Becher, who passed away in August. On the mirabilis side, in 2008 PTC had the largest subscriber base in WA, played to 29,000 people, and earned more from its box office than from grants and sponsorship. 

It was a suitably touching and reaffirming introduction for the 50 strong crowd on stage at His Majesty’s. Bonney then introduced Melissa Cantwell, the first (ever) new Artistic Director.  Interestingly, Melissa is also the first West Australian in over 20 years to be appointed to an Artistic Director position in Perth.

Transformations, Cantwell explained, is a fitting theme for the 2009 season, not only because the company itself is undergoing continuous transformation (they are expected to move into the new theatre in 2010), but because “the heart of theatre is powered by transformations – of character, space, actor and audience.”

Six productions make up the season including two WA premieres, an Australian premiere and an Australian exclusive.

John B Keane’s The Matchmaker opens the year Downstairs at The Maj. Directed by Michael McCall and featuring Nicola Bartlett and Ingle Knight it is a touching Irish tale about matchmaking and love.

The Big Picture written by Jennifer Compton and co produced with Agelink Theatre Inc is the story of three country women Joy, Fran and Mandy, whose lives are irreversibly changed when Joy’s brother Guy rides into town. Directed by Jenny McNae (Glorious) this is a double bill with Martin Sherman’s Rose.

In June, actor / writer Kate Mulvany, originally from WA, stars in her play The Seed. A co-production with Company B (a first for PTC), it is based on a true story of a 30 year family reunion. The Seed received a 2007 Sydney Theatre Award for Best Independent Production and is at the Playhouse for six shows only.

Arguably the highlight of the year will be the production of Peter Shaffer’s classic play Equus. In a coup for the company and two years in the making, they have secured the Australian Exclusive and will be presenting it on the main stage at His Majesty’s Theatre. Directed by Melissa Cantwell, the cast includes Khan Chittenden (Clubland). 

Baby Boomer Blues, one of Alan Bechers’ last plays, was a hit in both 2007 and 2008. In 2009 the play tours nationally for three months to towns in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.

The Oak Tree, written by Tim Crouch is an “absurdly comic play about how we fill the gaps in our lives”. The trick to this play is that there are two actors, one of whom has never read or seen the play – until they’re in it. Expect no two nights to be the same as Luke Hewitt (Speed the Plow) is joined by a multitude of special guests.

For a company with only six core staff, PTC has launched an exciting, challenging and thought provoking season. It looks like it will be one to remember. 

For more information, visit Perth Theatre Company -

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