It’s been a challenging 12 months for Kip Williams, the artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company (STC). The pandemic shut the historic STC, which has seen acting royalty such as Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh and Toni Collette.
Williams, who had planned a bumper program for 2020, went into crisis mode to renew and revamp what the company could offer patrons during the lockdown.
“We started STC virtual shows with actors from their own living rooms, and we had more than quarter of a million views – it was just amazing and showed that the theatre industry is so responsive,” he says.
And with a bang, in September 2020, the STC drew open its curtains and turned on the spotlights, a welcome breather for what was a long six months with no shows.
“When we reopened with Hugo Weaving in Wonnangatta at Ros Packer Theatre … audience numbers were reduced to 12 per cent. Since it was about a ghost story, an almost empty theatre seemed appropriate,” Williams tells Explore.
“People have been cooped up for so long that they cannot wait to return to live performances with real audiences, laughter and the thrill of seeing actors in the flesh again. There is such a pent-up demand – you just cannot replicate live theatre with television shows at home.”
Today, live theatre is back – in a big way. Since 9 March, some performances have been playing to 100 per cent audience capacity. The Wharf kicked off with Playing Beatie Bow and Roslyn Packer Theatre will host Appropriate with Sam Worthington from 15 March, followed by Fun Home.
One of Williams’ most challenging projects was an adaption of Oscar Wilde’s play, The Picture of Dorian Gray, with a single actor performing the novel using six screens, five cameras and three mobile phones.
Williams comes from a long line of theatre greats. His grandmother, Wendy Playfair, has been an actor on television, radio and film. At 94, she stopped doing live theatre because she couldn’t remember her lines. She is best known as Minnie Donovan in the television series, Prisoner.
His sister, Clemence Williams is also a director and composer and is “the light of my life and very gifted – she is six-and-a-half years younger than me”.
For inspiration, Williams says he listens to lots of music, sees a lot of dance, theatre, cinema shows, and visits art galleries.
“I write music and play the piano to unwind and meditate. I adore live theatre and will be involved in it for the rest of my life.”
Strangely, he has never been attracted to the idea of becoming an actor.
“I believe in the power of storytelling and how it can change lives. As a director, I can use the visual effects and images to play out scenes. Theatre is a powerful medium.”
The return of live theatre also coincides with STC’s productions coming under one roof at the recently renovated The Wharf at Walsh Bay, which reopened in February.
The extensive renovations, at the cost of $60 million, have preserved the stunning heritage details of the building while modernising with contemporary finishes. Wharf 1 will seat up to 420 people and Wharf 2 up to 160. After almost three years off-site, Williams says it’s great to be “home” again.
To discover more cultural experiences, visit australia.com
ACT At the National Museum of Australia in Canberra learn the story of Australia’s 65,000-year-old history. This rich and diverse collection of historical material examines the land, our nation and its people.
NSW Learn more about Australia’s connection to the sea at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney. Learn about the nation’s maritime history which includes immigration and ocean conservation.
NT The 1930s National Trust cottages at Myilly Point Heritage Precinct in Darwin are a delight for lovers of architectural history. There are new tours around the precinct of Burnett House, the tropical gardens as well as Audit House.
QLD Go on a Spirit of Australia platinum tour at the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach. The three-hour guided tour of a Boeing 707 and a Boeing 747 includes a walk on the wings of the aircraft and you can also learn how to “arm the doors”.
SA Cricket fans will enjoy the adventure of a guided roof climb at Adelaide Oval. Taking you to the highest point of the stadium’s unique roofline, a RoofClimb experience rewards with fabulous views of the city and the grounds.
TAS Learn about the history of the Indigenous peoples at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in Hobart. Don’t miss the recently renovated Ningina Tunapri gallery which showcases 40,000 years of Tasmanian Aboriginal culture and heritage.
VIC The Arts Centre graces the waterfront hub of Southbank, Melbourne, and is home to performances from the Australian Ballet and Opera Australia. Nearby, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art is renowned
for its innovative exhibitions.
WA Perth Concert Hall hosts some outstanding performances, from soul singers to the melodious classical tunes of great symphony orchestras. This superb concert hall has excellent acoustics.