Tim Winton’s epic and award winning tale of two families – the Lambs and the Pickles – is about to come to stunning life at the Malthouse. Under the expert direction of Matthew Lutton, Winton’s timeless Australian work will leave audiences simultaneously howling with unexpected laughter and gripped by emotion so powerful it will hurt.

A work that spans tumultuous  events that impacted and changed the world –  World war II, the Korean War and the assassination of John F Kennedy – it  is a profound study of two families bound together beyond their differences. It is also a tale of hauntings and grim reminders of what might be if certain warnings are not heeded.

Lutton acknowledges that Cloudstreet is the first novel that had a deep and enduring impact on him so much so that directing a new interpretation of the play has been one of his ambitions for many years. “I find the characters and their journey over 25 years deeply moving, and Tim Winton’s vision of the supernatural in Australia chilling and transporting,” he says.

Winton’s themes are universal and thus relatable. A celebration about community and the search for connection are strong themes. On this, Lutton elaborates: “We live in a haunted country, and we need to be better at listening, acknowledging and living with our ghosts. When you create borders in any country, community or family, those borders become powerful and are frequently dangerous. We all want a sense of belonging, even if we don’t have a home or belong here.”

Winton’s great strengths as a writer is the gift to create an overwhelmingly powerful sense of place as well as giving the watcher (and reader) potent and real and incisive characters that are as flawed and diverse as the landscape they traverse.

For Lutton, the power of the work lies in how concisely human lives are portrayed, in all of their glory and ugliness, and how Tim Winton is able to switch between the everyday and the supernatural. “His ability to communicate that we live in the real world, and a dream-like world where the past is ever-present, all the time, is incredibly moving for me,” says Lutton.

Winton’s brilliant piece is both epic in form and structure attributing, at least partly,  toward some of the challenges faced by Lutton and other creatives.

“One challenge is the scale of the work,” says Lutton. “It is 102 scenes, that span 25 years, with over 5 hours of theatre. Another challenge is how to create a theatrical experience that has so many contrasts: the domestic and the epic, comedy and tragedy, horror and beauty.”

Lutton’s love of making theatre started at high school where he convinced other students at school to put on plays. He cites his greatest influence and inspirations as his parents and brother.

As a director, Lutton has always been interested in stories that make you feel small and humble. “Stories where characters encounter a community, society, spirituality, or history, that is much, much larger than them. The terror and comfort of feeling small,” he says. “Cloudstreet has this in spades, and a lot of my work as a director focuses of stories of this nature.”

Lutton has been making theatre since 2002 and has, over that time, formulated a strong rehearsal room etiquette that generously stimulates all creatives while serving the work.

Acknowledging that every show is different, and Cloudstreet requiring a unique rehearsal process due to its scale, Lutton, gives insight into his process which is to prepare a lot so he can swiftly change his mind “…and be spontaneous, to respond to everything the actors offer to make sure they own the show, to insist on detail and precision, and to ensure that the process is always pleasurable, fun, safe, and rigorous.”

Adapted by Nick Enright and Justin Monjo from the award-winning novel by Tim Winton, Cloudstreet is brought to life in this monumental new production unprecedented in scale and ambition for Malthouse Theatre. 

With over five hours of onstage activity, audiences can experience the event as a one-night extravaganza with dinner included, or a two-night saga where the story can be savoured over two evenings. 

Says Lutton: “Cloudstreet on stage will only come along once every two decades. This is a chance to experience a monumental Australia play, in a way that you might not expect to see an Australian story told. “

May 6 – June 16