SYDNEY — Eight years ago, the idea of forming a permanent actors’ ensemble at the Sydney Theater Company was just a twinkle in the eye of new artistic director Robyn Nevin.
Now that troupe is a reality thanks to a pledge in 2004 by former N.S.W. Premier Bob Carr worth A$2.5 million ($1.9 million) of state government support over five years.
The well-received debut production from the actors company of Brecht’s “Mother Courage,” currently under way, has been extended from seven to eight weeks, through July 2.
Crix were mostly glowing, and the ensemble is pulsing with confidence, a good way to begin a two-year collaboration that could stretch further, until the end of 2010.
Nevin, who was a member the Old Tote ensemble in the 1970s, says it’s 30 years since such a large, exclusive company of thesps worked in Oz.
“This is a very specific mode; it’s within a state company, and it has access to those resources,” Nevin tells Variety.
Company has its own manager, voice and movement coaches. Thesps include Deborah Mailman, Dan Spielman and Marta Dusseldorp.
“They will work continuously and exclusively until the end of next year,” says Nevin, at which time the ensemble will be renewed, though some members may remain.
It ispractically unheard of for Aussie thesps to remain in the exclusive employ of a company for such a long stretch, with the exception of performers in those rare hit tuners that enjoy long runs. And Nevin admits some actors, despite being eager for the employment security, had to be convinced of the plan’s merits.
The only senior female thesp in the ensemble, Nevin directed “Mother Courage,” which stars Pamela Rabe.
After working on five consecutive productions, including helming the “Hedda Gabler” tour that played the Brooklyn Academy of Music earlier this year, and now busy planning for the upcoming season, Nevin has elected not to appear in the ensemble’s next productions: the two-parter “The Lost Echo,” which marks the Oz returnof Barrie Kosky as writer, director, designer, musical director and piano accompanist.
The adaptation of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” co-penned by STC associate Tom Wright, promises to be vast, with a cast of 40 onstage. Cabaret icon Paul Capsis and second-year students from the National Institute of Dramatic Art will join the ensemble.
Nevin says “The Lost Echo” is a festival-style show and the only reason it wasn’t programmed in the Sydney Festival is that Kosky was unavailable at that time.
Is Nevin nervous about pouring so much of the company’s resources into those productions? “God no, I love Barrie Kosky, I think he’s a rare beast, a huge talent and very good for our culture. He investigates it like no one else can.”
Ideally, the shows will continue to provide a strong showcase for the company’s talents as STC hunts for an additional $150,000 a year in philanthropic funds to support the company.
“It’s the old story of costs rising,” Nevin laments.
STC last week posted an A$124,000 ($93,000) deficit, its first in nine years, despite registering the second-highest B.O. in its history and record sponsorship in 2005.