Theatre's Dream Team Keeps Nevin In The Act
Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday September 8, 2007
WHEN Robyn Nevin steps down as the formidable boss of the Sydney Theatre Company in December she will not be straying far.Nevin is to star in the acclaimed play The Year of Magical Thinking, a one-woman show performed on Broadway by Vanessa Redgrave and directed by David Hare.The play, based on Joan Didion's autobiographical tale about the anguish and necessity of grief, is part of the STC's 2008 season, to be announced on October 12.In a surprising role reversal, Nevin will be directed by Cate Blanchett, who assumes artistic control of the flagship drama company with her playwright husband, Andrew Upton, in January. Contracted for an initial three years, their first season will be produced in 2009.It is believed the company's full-time ensemble, the Actors Company, will be extended for a further two years, until the end of 2009. The troupe includes John Gaden, Pamela Rabe, Peter Carroll and Colin Moody, although a number of line-up changes are likely.Nevin has developed a close working relationship with Blanchett and Upton. She directed Blanchett in Ibsen's Hedda Gabler three years ago and has championed Upton for several years. She directed his first play, Hanging Man, in 2002. Their alliance will not only make for a smooth transition but is being prevailed upon to make Nevin's last program next year memorably rich, while signalling the generational change and star power in store.There is little doubt Australia's biggest theatre company is on the threshold of its most adventurous and potentially cashed-up phase to date, given the lucrative sponsorships and international publicity that is sure to be generated.Blanchett and Upton are not taking anything for granted, particularly given their awareness that a number of experienced directors were dismayed about the board not advertising the prestige post of artistic director. Some claim it has set a worrying precedent.One accomplished director, who declined to be named, told the Herald he "may as well go back to NIDA to study acting to get a clear shot at leading the STC".The lack of transparency over the package deal has faced sour grapes behind the scenes, but industry sources insist Blanchett and Upton are determined to prove they have the dedication and drive to deliver the goods.It can hardly be a coincidence that Upton's new play, Rifleman, directed by the Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman and starring Hugo Weaving, premieres at Wharf 1 next month, or that Blanchett directs her first full-length play, David Harrower's acclaimed Blackbird, in December. It's as if they're on fast-track apprenticeships - he as writer, she as director - to show where their priorities lie, no matter the allure of high-paying Hollywood movies or the distraction of red-carpet openings. The 2008 season is expected to include the premieres of at least three new Australian plays and the revival of an Australian classic starring Hugh Jackman, who has long wanted to work with Nevin.