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

Melissa Cantwell is excited. As the new artistic director of Perth Theatre Company talked via phone to Australian Stage’s Anna Locke about the 2009 season, her enthusiasm and excitement for the future was evident.

The 2009 Season Transformations, comprising six productions including two WA premieres, an Australian premiere and an Australian exclusive was launched on Tuesday. “I’m very proud to be leading the company and leading the program” Cantwell states. 

The late Alan Becher, the first (and until now, the only) Artistic Director of Perth Theatre Company still looms large in the minds of industry people and audiences. Much of the 2009 season had been programmed by him, but Cantwell appears more than capable of continuing his vision for energetic, adventurous and ‘exciting’ work. 

Cantwell is a multi-tasker; a writer, performer and director with a Bachelor of Communications (Film) and Bachelor of Performing Arts (Directing) from WAAPA. Her recent play Marmalade and Egg (PTC and JUTE Theatre Company, QLD) was awarded Best New Play at the 2007 Equity Guild Awards. Her directing credits include Edward Albee’s The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia? (PTC – Best Production, 2007 Equity Guild Awards) ; St Nicholas (PTC); Animal Farm (WAAPA); The Proper Shoes (DADAA WA and ABC Radio); States Of Shock (PICA); (Winner, Best Production 2005, The Blue Room); and After The Fair (Best Premiere Production 2003 WA Fringe Festival).

“I love work of contemporary theatre, I love new work and I really like work that takes a new look at a classic. Work that has some relevance and relevance to now is my focus”. She continues to write, saying “I’ll always be a writer ... I’ve got a few pieces that I’m working on”.

Cantwell hasn’t stopped learning either, even as she takes on one of the most influential roles in the Perth theatre scene. “I think it’s important to keep looking up and learning and exposing yourself to other (directors) work ... and yes performers too. I like to work collaboratively in the room, so everyone is a part of the process ... I’m interested in opening up to different kinds of collaboration within the full spectrum of the arts world”.  A fair point, given Cantwell’s background in film and photography.

So what can Perth audiences expect in 2009 from PTC? “Alan always had a really interesting mix of shows when he programmed and 2009 is no exception.”

Peter Shaffer’s Equus is one such piece.  “Equus is just massive, it will be one of the biggest pieces of theatre nationally next year, let alone here in Perth ... (I’ve) never seen it before, so I’m looking forward to bringing a new perspective to it.” 

Tim Crouch’s An Oak Tree is also a play Cantwell is looking forward to. Written for two actors, one of whom is “contractually obliged to have never read or seen the play until the night they have to perform it.”  It will be a surprise for the audience, not knowing who they will get as their guest each night. In other productions; “People have walked away with, I guess, a new perspective of what theatre is.”

Which is what theatre is all about; creating new perspectives, challenging, and entertaining, all things Cantwell seems willing to embrace in her new position. And change – not only within the programming, but the company itself. The new theatre in Northbridge is slowly rising out of the rubble, and PTC expected to move there in mid 2010. “It’s exciting; every time I go past there to have a look you can see more of it. We’re looking forward to having a new home that we can make work.”

“We’re very excited about the future and we’ve got a great team ... I think you’ll see an eclectic and contemporary mix of work from us in the future.”

For further information, visit

Related Articles

Wesley Enoch Wesley Enoch
As Wesley Enoch chats with Australian Stage’s Sarah Wells from sweltering Melbourne in the wake of the successful first run of visual theatre company ERTH’s The Nargun and the Stars, the award...
Tom Wright Tom Wright
In the lead up to the Sydney Theatre Company’s Perth season of The War of the Roses, the ensemble’s jubilation is growing. “There’s a whole range of reasons why there’s a lot of excitement...

Most read reviews

TakeOver | Bangalow Theatre Company

The audience for any one night is divided into five groups of twelve people, each of which walks between the venues, so that there is only a Covid-safe number of people in any venue at any one time.

Gaslight | State Theatre Company South Australia

Gaslight is an entertaining, non-convoluted, engaging and superbly written piece, so that it stands up well after 80 years, especially when its traditional strength is imaginatively blended with some non- traditional contemporary casting.

QPAC Unlocked: An Evening with Amy Lehpamer

The night progressed, Amy showcasing her many talents, singing and playing the violin, and then indulging us, inviting her partner to perform alongside for a few songs on the acoustic guitar.

Ash Grunwald | NORPA

Intimate and interactive, Ash Grunwald showed us a small part of what he is made of, musically. Ash has written a book ‘Surf by Day, Jam by Night’ and has also, with his wife, created Earth Bottles, dealing with problems of single-use plastics, encompassing drink bottles, coffee cups and straws. So much talent wrapped up with so many guitars.

Most read news

Victoria’s Dance Studios Under Siege

Ausdance Victoria reveals an alarming 92% of studio owners are worried their business won’t survive to March 2021. 

Sydney Theatre Company Returns to the Stage

Sydney Theatre Company today announced its current plans for the remainder of the 2020 season including a return to the stage with a COVIDSafe, socially distanced season of Angus Cerini’s Wonnangatta.

ACO to resume live public performances at City Recital Hall

The Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) has today announced its musicians will return to the concert hall for the first time in six months.

New research shows arts increasingly important to Australians

Australians increasingly recognise the vital role of arts and creativity in almost every aspect of our lives, from education to mental health to strengthening local economies.

New grant initiative for disadvantaged and POC artists

Be You Inc. have recently launched a new grant initiative to provide financial assistance for disadvantaged and POC artists auditioning for tertiary performing arts programs this year.