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Diverse voices and gutsy women: stage set for
Parramatta audiences

New voices and strong stories in store for Western Sydney audiences as part of Riverside Theatres’ 2016 program. Megan Anderson from ArtsHub reports below.

Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres is showcasing a different side to Australia with an ambitious 2016 program that explores diversity, forgotten histories and eccentric love stories.

The Western Sydney performing arts venue has already become a hub for diverse voices, as the largest theatre in one of Australia’s fastest-growing regions. Each year, Riverside stages more than 1,000 events as part of its theatre, education, screen and community hire programs.

Program manager Michelle Kotevski said Riverside audiences are after something a little different from what is on offer in Sydney.

‘They’re looking for stories that resonate and represent them and their experiences, which is not always on offer in town.’

The cultural diversity of Parramatta audiences is reflected in the 2016 season, with many productions addressing untold histories in Australia.

While Performance 4A’s production Yasukichi Murakami: Through A Distant Lens addresses the ‘collective amnesia’ surrounding the history of the Japanese in Australia, Country Song looks back through Australia’s recent past, inspired by the life of Aboriginal music legend Jimmy Little. Also in store for 2016 is Anne Brooksbank’s All My Lovewhich explores the forbidden love story between 19th century Australian poet Henry Lawson and literary radical Mary Gilmore.

Riverside’s new resident theatre company, National Theatre of Parramatta, will also begin its inaugural season in April by bringing Olivier Award-winning playwright Stef Smith’s Swallow to Australia, directed by former Force Majeure artistic director Kate Champion.

Kotevski is particularly excited by Daffodils from Auckland company Bullet Heart Club. Riverside is committed to bringing work from New Zealand to Australia, and has done so for the past three years. Also coming to Western Sydney audiences is a new production of Michael Gow’s Away by director Damien Ryan, which celebrates the play’s 30th anniversary.

Bangarra Dance Theatre will bring Terrain to Riverside, under the helm of choreographer Frances Rings.

‘I’m liking the Australia we’re representing on our stage this year,’ said Michelle Kotevski, noting in particular the ‘seriously brilliant gutsy and talented women’ in the program: including writers, directors, producers and even characters, like Antigone in the Sport for Jove adaptation of the Sophocles’ play, and Wuthering Heights’ Cathy Earnshaw.

Kotevski said the season was put together with the goal to take audiences somewhere, whether ‘out of their world or their culture, or to celebrate much-loved things like their favourite musicals or operas’.

‘Each show is some sort of journey,’ she said, ‘and without the cost of an airfare!’

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