Sydney Theatre Company and Black Swan State Theatre Company Present

The Torrents

By Oriel Gray

After rave reviews at Black Swan Theatre Company in Perth, Oriel Gray’s forgotten Australian classic The Torrents will move to the Drama Theatre at the Sydney Opera House for the Sydney Theatre Company this July.

Described by Limelight Magazine as “Hysterically funny” and The Australian as “Thoroughly entertaining”, The Torrents tells the story of J.G Milford who has hopped off the train in the goldfield’s town of Koolgalla in the 1890s to take on a job at the local paper. She’s smart, she’s savvy, she’s incredibly qualified, but nobody knew the J stood for Jenny!

Inspired by the ideas-driven comedies of George Bernard Shaw, Oriel Gray’s The Torrents is a newsroom drama married to a screwball comedy. On the one hand, debate is raging about whether the town should give up mining for a more sustainable economic future. On the other, newspaper editor Rufus Torrent and his son Ben are vying for Jenny’s favour, even as she pulls apart their chauvinistic assumptions.

In the role of Jenny, award-winning comedian and actor Celia Pacquola (ABC’s Rosehaven) will put the spotlight back on this rarely seen Aussie play. 

The Torrents was written in 1955. That year, it was joint winner of the prestigious Playwrights’ Advisory Board Competition with Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. Both plays were promised productions, but only one was produced. The rest is history. Summer of the Seventeenth Doll has travelled the world and become central to our Australian theatrical identity, whereas The Torrents was not published until 1988 and did not receive a professional production until 1996 at Adelaide Festival of Arts.

Comedian Celia Pacquola stars in The Torrents, presented by Black Swan Theatre Company and Sydney Theatre Company
(Photo by Rene Vaile)

Celia Pacquola has cemented her position as one of the most in-demand comedians both in Australia and the UK, charming audiences and critics alike. She has won numerous awards in comedy and acting, including the Amused Moose Laughter Award at 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and two nominations for the Most Outstanding Show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. She has performed at the renowned Montreal Just for Laughs Festival and on the BBC’s Live At The Apollo, and recorded her own stand up special The Looking Glass as part of the One Night Stan series. Celia won the 2014 Best Supporting Actress AACTA for her role as Dolly Faraday in the acclaimed ABC1 drama The Beautiful Lie. She also starred in the AACTA award-winning Laid, Logie Award winning drama Offspring and in all four seasons of Working Dog’s Utopia, for which she won an AACTA Award in 2015.

Her wit will be familiar from guest appearances on Spicks and Specks, The Project, Have You Been Paying Attention? and more. Internationally, Celia has been a guest on Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Chelsea Lately and The Rob Brydon Show. In 2016, Celia became the youngest woman to host the Oxfam Gala for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival/Network Ten. That year she also co-created, co-wrote and starred in the smash hit sitcom Rosehaven with Luke McGregor for ABC-TV, for which she won the 2017 Best Performance in a Television Comedy at the AACTAs. Season three of Rosehaven returned to the ABC earlier this year. In 2018, Celia made her feature film debut in the smash hit NZ film The Breaker Upperers, created by Madeline Sami and Jackie van Beek and produced by Taika Waititi. She also returned to the stage with a brand-new show All Talk, selling out theatres across Australia and winning the 2018 Helpmann Award for Best Comedy Performer. The Torrents is Celia’s theatrical debut.

Oriel Gray had more than fourteen theatre scripts produced in almost every capital city in Australia between 1943 and 1960. She won many awards, was arguably the first playwright-in-residence in Australia’s history and one of only a few Australian playwrights to make a living from her work. In 1954, Gray’s play The Torrents shared the renowned Playwright’s Advisory Board Prize for best Australian play with Ray Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. Gray’s last play, Burst of Summer (produced by Irene Mitchell), won the J C Williamson Theatre Guild Competition in 1958. She has also written scripts for television, including episodes of Rush and The Sullivans, the half-hour dramas Antarctic Four and The Brass Guitar and many others, as well as working for twelve years as a script writer on Bellbird. Her autobiography Exit Left: Memoirs of a Scarlet Woman was published in 1985 and her only novel Animal Shop was published in 1990. She died in 2003.

Director Clare Watson
Designer Renée Mulder
Lighting Designer Lucy Birkinshaw
Composer and Sound Designer Joe Paradise Lui
Dramaturg Virginia Gay
Assistant Director Emily McLean

With: Emily Rose Brennan, Luke Carroll, Tony Cogin, Gareth Davies, Rob Johnson, Geoff Kelso, Sam Longley, Celia Pacquola, Steve Rodgers

18 Jul – 24 Aug
Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Pricing and ticket information:
Mon – Thu performances: Adult $99, Seniors cardholder $91, Concession $80, Under 30 $73.
Fri & Sat performances: $104
Preview performances: All tickets $73
Box Office: 02 9250 1777