Sarks says the play captures the physicality of the game. “There are a lot of similarities between theatre and football,” she says. “It’s all about story and drama. Ten men on stage, and their hunger for victory, felt like something that would be infectious for an audience.
“The Matildas recently swept people up in their vision of their game, and AFLW is the same. It’s different when you start to see yourself in the game, or on the stage.”
Australian stories have been a hit for the MTC in 2023. The percentage of the audience who are first-time MTC attendees is at its highest point since 2018. Fifty-two per cent of audiences for the aged care musical, Bloom, had never been to an MTC show before.
There are also four American plays, all Pulitzer winners, on the program. Straight from its off-Broadway debut and Pulitzer triumph in 2022, Sanaz Toossi’s English, about four Iranian adults preparing for their English exam in a school near Tehran, is an Australian premiere. Suzan-Lori Parks’ Topdog/Underdog (Bert LaBonté’s first time directing a production for the company) and Martyna Majok’s Cost of Living are also making their MTC debut.
Tennessee William’s perennial classic, A Streetcar Named Desire, will get a new lease of life.
“It’s set in a post-war society that’s still trying to rebuild, during a seismic redefinition of gender and social expectation,” says Sarks. “That struggle has real resonance to me.”
Sarks says much of the program is about how we define ourselves through stories. “We can experience these stories together, and leave the theatre and wrestle with these ideas,” she says.
My Brilliant Career has form as a story by which we measure our national identity.
Miles Franklin (born Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin) is one of Australian literature’s great figures.
Her debut novel, My Brilliant Career, (1901) centres on Sybylla, an indomitable teenage girl living in staid rural Australia. The novel was released just one year before women were granted the right to vote in Australia.
Today, two of Australia’s premier literary awards – the Miles Franklin Literary Award and the Stella Prize – are named after her.
In later years, Franklin’s politics drifted to the right, and her diaries indicate that she was heavily involved in the pro-Nazi “Australia First” group in Sydney from 1936 to 1942.
Harbridge says her debut novel is a far cry from this later ideology.
“It isn’t in the world of that novel,” says Harbridge. “She’s not there yet. Sybylla is very aware of the disenfranchised around her, and is aware of racial inequality. It’s about a young woman exploding with frustration and asking: why isn’t there more?”
Harbridge wants to harness that rage and contradiction in this new musical version.
“It’s a chaotic first novel, and we’re trying to embrace that,” she says. “That’s what’s wonderful about it.”
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