Ken Longworth | Stage set for big 2018

REVIVAL: Alex Travers revisits her Crack Theatre Festival hit Sleep, Perchance to Dream at the Civic Playhouse in August.
REVIVAL: Alex Travers revisits her Crack Theatre Festival hit Sleep, Perchance to Dream at the Civic Playhouse in August.

WHEN Alex Travers put together Sleep, Perchance to Dream as a short play for a Tantrum Youth Arts triple bill at Newcastle’s 2017 Crack Theatre Festival, she didn’t envisage the enthusiastic audience response it received.

Travers played Ophelia, the troubled heroine of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and the reception encouraged her to develop a full-length version of her story, which looks at the way female ambitions are questioned, with the line between fantasy and reality blurred.

Tantrum will stage Sleep, Perchance to Dream at the Civic Playhouse from August 29 to September 2, in what promises to be another impressive year in Newcastle and Hunter theatre.

Other new works will include Emma Wood’s The Third Act (Newcastle Theatre Company, October) in which a woman estranged from her husband faces meeting him with his new partner at their daughter’s wedding. And theatre companies will introduce audiences to acclaimed overseas plays, with Knock and Run Theatre staging the Australian premiere at the Royal Exchange from January 31 of American playwright Olivia Dufault’s Year of the Rooster, a dark comedy about a young man secretly training a barnyard rooster to be a cockfighter - with an actor seen as the rooster, Odie.

The year will include engaging musicals with new company High Street Productions staging The Drowsy Chaperone in October Lindsay Street Players’ musical Little Women set for February, Opera Hunter’s The Sound of Music in June-July, and Metropolitan Players’ We Will Rock You (August-September). Youth theatres also have good musicals on their agendas, including Aladdin Jr (Hunter Drama) and Disney’s Alice in Wonderland Jr (Young People’s Theatre) in April.

Fans of Madame Butterfly will see two very different stagings: Opera Australia’s original Puccini opera at the Civic Theatre in August, with John Bell as director, and a Melbourne City Ballet dance version at Cessnock Performing Arts Centre in September.

Then there’s Agatha Christie’s A Murder is Announced at Newcastle Theatre Company in March and The Hollow at Maitland Repertory Theatre in May.

The Civic Theatre’s program has a lot of promising stand-up comedy, including Barry Humphries: The Man Behind the Mask in May, while Cessnock Performing Arts Centre has a focus on bright musical performers, among them Bosom Buddies: Nancye Hayes and Todd McKenney in April.

The Newcastle Fringe Festival will be staged March 21 to 25, and Tantrum’s Hissyfest 2018 in November will have Newcastle’s postcode, 2300, as the theme.

For more, see the Herald’s 2018 Theatre Calendar on January 24.