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Sydney theatre responds to Netflix effect

AAP logoAAP 8/09/2016 By Danielle McGrane

It's not just cinema that has been affected by the onslaught of TV streaming services such as Netflix and Stan.

As the Sydney Theatre Company released its upcoming program for its 2017 season, there was a notable abundance of original, political productions.

Australian plays concerning race (Black is the New White, by Nakkiah Lui) modern journalism (Talk, by Jonathan Biggins) and immigration (Australian Graffiti) are all being shown for an audience that's growing hungrier for contemporary theatre that challenges them, as opposed to the on-demand entertainment they have at home.

"We have the era of Netflix where you can binge-watch TV, so the case that we have to make to audiences is to get them out of their home and into the theatre," Kip Williams, the interim artistic director of the STC told AAP.

"What we find is, audiences want to leave their home to have a political conversation with us, they don't just want entertainment, they can get that from television. They want a debate. They want questions to be asked of them as a society and as an individual," he said.

Along with original Australian political dramas, the STC is also bringing the Australian premiere of British playwright Lucy Kirkwood's Chimerica to the Roslyn Packer Theatre, a 21st century play that explores the complex relationship between the two global superpowers, China and the US.

Older stories are told with a modern twist, including Robert Icke and Duncan MacMillan's stage adaptation of George Orwell's classic novel, 1984.

There's also been a concerted effort to address the gender balance on the stage with female playwrights such as Caryl Churchill (Cloud Nine), Kirkwood, Moira Buffini (Dinner) and Lui all showcasing plays in the season.

With such positive moves being made in the Australian movie industry, including schemes such as Screen Australia's Gender Matters program, which is pushing for a 50/50 gender split in creatives in the industry, Williams said the STC is keen to follow suit.

"I think the company and the industry in general doesn't have a great track record with diversity and it's a very conscious movement across the board and, certainly here at STC, to have a conversation openly about how we can increase diversity," he said.

Williams also said that the STC is looking into creating a similar framework to Screen Australia's and aiming for specific quotas regarding gender and diversity.

"The notion of quotas is certainly something we're discussing," he said.

"I'm a passionate believer in affirmative action being the great gateway towards change happening, so it's certainly something we're discussing."

The STC program for 2017 also features the return of seminal stage actor John Bell to the stage in The Father by Florian Zeller and a musical version of the hit 1994 film Muriel's Wedding written by PJ Hogan.

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