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Inside the creative minds at the Malthouse

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Rhonda Dredge

The Malthouse Theatre has scrapped its subscriber model so that it can bring fresh plays and create more versatility in the program, a move that has been lauded by industry sources.

Instead of announcing a year’s program at once and be locked in by a commercial system, the Malthouse will announce plays in stages.

“We’ve never had a chance to do this before,” said artistic director Matthew Lutton, who confided in critics and industry people at a small launch of the new program.

He said the lockdown had given the theatre the chance to work with new ideas, nurture writers and focus on “what’s best told on stage”.

One new idea trialled during this long period of complications was an immersive play that ran all 2021 and allowed audiences to be less “passive”.

While some observers are critical of audience participation, the play Because the Night took over the entire theatre and was artistically successful, while complying with the audience density rules of the lockdown.

 

“You didn’t have to wear a cloak,” one observer told Southbank News. “You could stand at the back and watch without getting too involved.”

 

The Malthouse announced five new plays that went on sale in September, with priority given to patrons who wish to pay $50 for the privilege.

“The new system will allow us to keep the program fresh,” Mr Lutton said. The model is based on one from the UK.

He said that most of the new plays will be debuts by writers nurtured during the lockdown. The Malthouse put in extra effort to connect with writers during this period, he said, and actively sought them out.

Industry sources applaud the move and say that the past few years of programming at the Malthouse have been “hit and miss”.

The observer said that the new system would mean that plays were not rushed onto stage before they were ready.

One of the more exciting ideas, a one-person show called Made in China, will be created at the Malthouse by director Wang Chong, and premiered in Boston.

“Wang Chong is in great demand,” Mr Lutton said, and referred to Boston as an outer city for the Malthouse.

Made in China will provide rare insight into what happens inside China by looking into the mind of an artist and provocateur.

The moves will also create more space in the program for another immersive event in the last part of the year to be held in the Merlin, which will once again create a number of alternative worlds for audiences.

The director’s tips for the first part of the 2023 program are Loaded, a play based on Christos Tsialkas’s novel, a production that had to be released in audio during the lockdown.

Also coming up is Nosferatu, “a symphony of horrors in a subverted vampire narrative” set in Tasmania and directed by Bridget Balodis.

“It has the same talented director as K-Box which was a sell-out,” Mr Lutton said. •

 

Caption: Because the Night (image 1), and Made in China by Wang Chong (image 2).

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