Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Annie Baker, is set to make her return to Red Stitch Theatre’ s season later this month with an Australian premiere of her latest work, The Antipodes. Baker’s plays are no strangers to Red Stitch, having previously premiered her works: The Aliens, The Flick and Uncle Vanya.
In fact, so welcoming is the company of Baker, that ensemble member, and actor in The Antipodes, Ben Prendergast, describes Red Stitch as arguably the Australian home of Annie Baker’s work.
“We have premiered a number of her plays or adaptations over the years so we’re always eager to read her new works and therefore it made perfect sense to produce The Antipodes this season,” he says.
Prendergast explains that the choice of play was influenced by a number of the ensemble members having seen the world premiere in New York and loving it dearly. “Annie never disappoints in bringing remarkably detailed and very human stories that are poignant and entertaining and The Antipodes is no exception.”
Like much of Baker’s work, The Antipodes is not what it may seem on the surface. A complex tale about the telling of stories and the power those stories have over thought, perspective and ultimately change. But Baker also likes to dabble in the esoteric, playing with our notion of time and space is her style, and The Antipodes is no different.
“To me, the play investigates the origins of mythology and story, and delves into how our current storytellers (in this case a TV writers room in Los Angeles) are biased toward the masculine form,” says Prendergast. “With the #metoo movement, diversity, and a general cry for equality across all industries being on the zeitgeist of progressive western thinking, I think Annie is saying there’s room at the table for everyone, but historically this wasn’t the case. Here Annie intentionally puts 7 men and 2 women in this world, traps them there, and illustrates how the patriarchy needs to find a new way. In fact I think it’s a beautiful, hopeful, and intelligent portrayal of a group of humans who find themselves blocked, and desperately attempt to find a narrative that resonates for everyone.”
Prendergast’s praise of Baker is high describing her as, in his opinion, the finest playwright of our generation. “…and like all great writers it’s not necessarily the structure or style (though she has this), the characters or dialogue (she has this too), or any one particular element, but rather the myriad feelings you experience when you encounter one of her plays,” he says. “Having performed in The Flick, Uncle Vanya, and now The Antipodes, it’s just uncanny how she finds the truth in every one of her plays. It is an actor’s delight to take on one of her characters, mine the text for the clues, and arrive at a living breathing human that reacts effortlessly in every beat, scene, and ultimately, performance.”
“Usually around week 3 or 4 of rehearsals something incredible happens with an Annie Baker play; and the music and arc of the piece reveals itself. As an actor it is one of the most fascinating and satisfying feelings. Like a trepidatious rope bridge crossing, you’re encouraged to step into each scene discover the next plank on that bridge, and miraculously at the end of your journey you find yourself somewhere completely new. Changed forever. An actors dream.”
Directed by Ensemble member Ella Caldwell and starring a cast of 9 – ensemble actors Ngaire Dawn Fair, Casey Filips, Darcy Kent, Ben Prendergast, Harvey Zielinski, and guest actors Christopher Kirby, George Lingard, Robert Menzies, Edwina Samuels – The Antipodes has already enjoyed rave reviews and extended seasons during its US premiere last year. It is provocative theatre that should not be missed.
Says Prendergast: “As a Pulitzer prize winning author, with an incredible canon of work, an Annie Baker production is unmissable. Red Stitch is excited to present this new work, and I think Annie’s vision and voice is clearer and more strident than ever. If you enjoy story, the creation of story, the mythology that surrounds story, or the current predicament that humanity finds itself in, then you’ll want to see The Antipodes.”
July 10 – August 12