Sydney skeds set

New Williamson play to preem at Ensemble Co.

SYDNEY — The small Ensemble Theater Co. has nabbed the right to host the world premiere of David Williamson’s new play “Birthrights” in 2003 — an honor bestowed on the high-profile Sydney Theater Co. every year for the past decade.

Sandra Bates, artistic director for the successful Ensemble, said Williamson, Australia’s pre-eminent dramatist of the chattering classes, readily agreed to the production because, “We’ve done quite a few (of his) plays the last 10 years that he’s been very happy with.”

“Birthrights” is the story of two sisters. One is infertile but desperately wants a family, so the other bears it for her. Years later the same sister wants to begin her own family but cannot conceive and so starts to compete with her sister for the child’s love. Cast, to be directed by Bates at the Opera House Playhouse, includes Lorraine Bayly, Michelle Doake, Glenn Hazeldine and Kate Raison.

Ensemble’s 2003 season also includes two other world premieres — John Misto’s “Harp of the Willow,” starring Marina Prior, which was slated for 2002 but axed when Prior pulled out to join “The Witches of Eastwick.” Henri Szep’s autobiographical solo “Why Kids” is the follow-up to his long-running production “I’m Not a Dentist.”

In a departure from recent years, the STC’s 2003 season features no world premieres. It will stage Hannie Rayson’s “Inheritance,” the follow-up to “Life After George,” which played well to Oz auds after debuting at the Melbourne Theater Co. but tanked in London’s West End this year. MTC chief Simon Phillips will direct preem for the Melbourne theater, and then the production will travel to Sydney.

Thesp Hugo Weaving returns to the stage after a two-year absence due to roles in “The Matrix” sequels and “Lord of the Rings.” He’ll headline Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing” for STC artistic director Robyn Nevin.

George Ogilvie will direct Jacqueline McKenzie and Barry Otto in David Auburn’s “Proof” and Ariette Taylor will direct Pamela Rabe in “Lantana” scribe Andrew Bovell’s “Holy Day.”

Not to be wholly without some Williamson B.O. gold, STC has commissioned Bruce Myles to direct classic football play “The Club,” which he first directed for the STC in 1977.

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