Benedict Andrews “misses terribly” the actors he has worked with in Australia. The 43-year-old Adelaide-born director and writer is now based in Reykjavik, with his partner, the Icelandic choreographer Margrét Bjarnadóttir.
So he is pleased that Marta Dusseldorp, who he directed as Queen Margaret in The War of the Roses for Sydney Theatre Company in 2009, sought the lead in his latest play, Gloria, which will open at Sydney’s Griffin theatre in 2016.
Gloria will premiere with an eight-strong cast directed by Griffin artistic director Lee Lewis. Dusseldorp, a “very brave and captivating and muscular actress”, plays a fading actor aloft in a penthouse as a civil war breaks out in the street below. The location is unspecified, with actors changing roles, says Andrews, in a kaleidoscopic rather than linear narrative.
Lewis insists Gloria is more than yet another meta play about theatre: for her, it’s an allegory for Australia’s “widening gap between the haves and have-nots”, and the potential of any society to tip into authoritarian control.
Andrews is less interested in binary debates or fashions for directors’ theatre versus writers’ theatre – Griffin hews to the latter, with its focus on exclusively Australian writing – aspiring instead to theatre that gives actors the chance to do “extreme and interesting” new work.
“I don’t write well-made, easily digestible plays,” he says. “All my plays have a kind of proposition about the theatre. The play will demand or suggest or invite with big questions from the people making it.”
Why premiere Gloria at the roughly 105-seat Griffin and not in bigger theatres such as Belvoir or STC’s Roslyn Packer?
“It’s been read by different companies. I think it’s important the play stand on its own two feet, so I don’t want to direct it in the first instance. I had conversations with other directors who really loved it, but Lee had a great passion for it and we both agreed the extreme intimacy of Griffin could offer wonderful things to the play.”
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