Red Stitch Actors Theatre launched their 2015 season this week in their usual unpretentious and amiable style. The venue was Bromley & Co, an art gallery in Windsor brimming with eclectic and exciting pieces of furniture, antiques and contemporary art which appropriately reflected the character of this excellent theatre company.

The ever-friendly ensemble and creatives rubbed shoulders with eager and savvy subscribers and the theatre’s generous benefactors. It was inner-Melbourne hip and party fun.  The 2015 season is full of the theatre’s trademark work – Australian premieres of hard hitting realist dramas on an intimate scale that pack a powerful punch.

The tunes were pumping and champagne and cocktails were flowing as theatre lovers happily mingled bringing about a truly community spirit. Artistic Director Ella Caldwell, who has just completed her first year at the helm, introduced the next year’s season of eight plays and two special events.  As she took us through the program, ensemble members took turns in reading excerpts from each of the upcoming plays.

The year kicks off with the return of British playwright Dennis Kelly to the Red Stitch stage – his play Orphans in 2011 was a treat – with The Ritual of Gorge Mastromas. A story of a man born into greatness, or is it cowardice? We will follow Gorge on his journey from early promise to unfettered greed and twisted honesty. The play asks what happens when you are born to pursue success at any cost. Kelly is well known as the co-writer of the musical hit Matilda the Musical, and this promises to be a biting and darkly witty fable.

Wet House by 34-year-old Northern Irish playwright, Paddy Campbell sees despair and humour sit side-by-side. It is set in a hostel for homeless alcoholics who are indeed allowed to drink. A young graduate is assigned as a carer at this establishment and from this all manner of things occur. Will his idealism and ambition remain intact?

The next play which is schedule for autumn sees the return of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning play The Flick by Annie Baker. It enjoyed a sell-out season last year in Melbourne’s CBD and it is great that it is part of the season next year for those who missed it. It is a compelling tale of three individuals working at one of the last remaining film projector cinemas in Massachusetts. Avery is obsessed with film, Sam has an unrequited obsession with Rose and Rose just does what she likes. The last time we saw Baker’s work in Melbourne was Red Stitch’s production of The Aliens in 2011, directed by Nadia Tass with Brett Ludeman and Brett Cousins who were both extraordinary as outsiders holding court in an alley behind a café.

British playwright, Mike Bartlett, is familiar to Melbourne audiences after the MTC’s production of his play entitled Cock this year and Red Stitch brings us his latest work Love, Love, Love. It covers 40 years of relationship between two beguiling people, Kenneth and Sandra. Caldwell says of this play, “Bartlett’s sharp witted drama lets loose on the baby boomer generation whilst relishing their bygone era”. This is sure to be a popular script and it will enjoy a regional tour of Victoria to boot.

A highlight of the season will see Julian Meyrick directing a double bill of two short plays Dead Centre by Tom Holloway and Sea Wall by Simon Stephens. These two plays explore family, place and how we deal with change and are billed as companion pieces.

Judging by the hilarious excerpt at the launch, Detroit by Lisa D’Amour will also be one not to miss. Two couples become neighbours. They don’t have much in common but an unlikely friendship is struck. This Obie award winning play, which also was a finalist play for the Pulitzer, explores the class divide and lost aspirations of those trying to make a life in an American suburb.

Dan Giovanonni developed the next play Jurassica whilst he was Resident Writer at Red Stitch so it is fresh, home grown and by all accounts an amazing story of a woman who has fled war-torn Belgrade and settled into a new life in Melbourne.  The eighth and final play is written by Will Eno and is entitled Middletown and is touted to involve many of the regular ensemble cast on stage all at once. A woman struggles to make her mark and to live happily in a small American town but what lies beneath the veneer of this respectable small town is far from pleasant.

Last point to make on next year is that Red Stitch has got behind Melbourne’s Midsumma festival and is producing for one week only Jumpers for Goalposts
by Tom Wells. This romantic comedy covers the trials and tribulations of a LGBTI football league in the northern English city of Hull. Let’s hope this partnership continues for many year to come.