Wednesday February 21, 2024


By Diana Simmonds
August 8 2017

CELEBRATING 60 YEARS - ENSEMBLE THEATRE - 2018 SEASON; Photography by  Christian Trinder, above - Sharon Millerchip; below - John Howard and Chenoa Deemal; below again - Catherine Moore and Genevieve Hegney

Hard to believe that it’s season launch season again, but it’s August and not only is the Ensemble getting in first, but also it’s revealed a celebratory line-up to mark an amazing 60 years in business. 

Introduced via a chic short film by artistic director Mark Kilmurry, the highlights are many. Of the year’s ten plays, there are world premieres from Australian writers: David Williamson’s “new social comedy about legacy, entitlement and making good on past relationships”– Sorting Out Rachel. Starring John Howard and indigenous newcomer Chenoa Deemal, and directed by Nadia Tass, it’s bound to be a box office hit. Get in early.

Catherine Moore and Genevieve Hegney had written a six-part TV comedy series that was taking forever to go anywhere, so Mark Kilmurry said, “why don’t you turn it into a play?” It’s about a couple of young women who bump into each other at Centrelink and decide to start an employment agency – but with no employees, they have to do the jobs themselves. Hence the title: Unqualified. Janine Watson directs. 

Another comedy – of the bittersweet kind – is The Widow Unplugged, written and performed  by the adored and legendary Reg Livermore. Mark Kilmurry says of the show, “This has everything you expect from a Reg play – I had to stop reading in public as the laughter was attracting far too much attention. I am proud to be working alongside him.”


Diplomacy by Cyril Gely, a French play, is presented in March in a new translation and adaptation commissioned by the Ensemble from Julie Rose. Its Australian premiere will be directed by John Bell assisted by Anna Volska. It will star John Gaden as Swedish diplomat Raoul Nordling whose task it was in 1944 to persuade the Germans’ occupying governor of Paris, General von Choltitz, (John Bell) to not carry out Hitler’s orders to destroy Paris and slaughter its citizens before the Nazis retreated. James Lugton and Jennifer Hagan also feature in a chamber drama that loses none of its tension in our knowing that Paris survived.

A welcome crowd-pleaser: the return to the Ensemble stage of Sharon Millerchip. After the 2014 triumph of Bombshells, the six roles in a one-woman play by Joanna Murray-Smith, she decided “no more”. Since then Mark Kilmurry has been after her to take on another crowd-pleaser, Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine, and Millerchip has finally given in: that’s May taken care of. 

Two more Australian premieres follow: Marjorie Prime, an American play from 2014 by Jordan Harrison and directed by Mitchell Butel who says of it, “Memory, family, technology, love and loss and science fiction all combine in a powerhouse vehicle led by the incomparable Maggie Dence.” And we discover what happens when the memory of a beloved returns as a hologram to relive the past.

The second American play to be premiered at Kirribilli in 2018 is Luna Gale by Rebecca Gilman. First staged in Chicago and later produced successfully in London in 2015, it brings Georgie Parker back from TVland to play Caroline, a social worker faced with hellish dilemmas concerning the small child of the title. Susanna Dowling directs what will probably be the most challenging drama of the season. If anyone is feeling iffy about signing up for something challenging: remember how sorry were those who missed out on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf...


Finally, from October into November comes one of the masterpieces of 20th century English theatre: Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Conquests. The trilogy is uniquely Ayckbourn in the intricate interweaving of characters and place. Wikipedia very handily and accurately sums it up: “Each of the plays depicts the same six characters over the same weekend in a different part of a house. Table Manners is set in the dining room, Living Together in the living room, and Round and Round the Garden in the garden. Each play is self-contained, and they may be watched in any order, some of the scenes overlap, and on several occasions a character's exit from one play corresponds with an entrance in another.” Mark Kilmurry achieves a long-held ambition to stage the plays and his cast is sparkling: Danielle Carter, Rachel Gordon, Brian Meegan, Sam O’Sullivan and Matilda Ridgway, with Yalin Ozucelik as Norman.

Full details at www.



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