A joyful, song-filled snapshot of a devastated community learning how to heal
Melbourne Theatre Company’s long-awaited production of The Heartbreak Choir will open on 29 April starring William McInnes (An Ideal Husband), Maude Davey (The Newsreader), Carita Farrer Spencer (Ladies in Black), Ratidzo Mambo (Escape from Pretoria), Emily Milledge (The House of Bernarda Alba), Louise Siversen (Noises Off) and Julian Weeks (Savage Rivers).
Originally programmed for the Company’s 2020 season, it is brought to the stage by The Architect director Peter Houghton. This emotionally resonant MTC NEXT STAGE commission is the last work from playwright Aidan Fennessy – a fitting final act of togetherness.
“For those of you who saw The Architect, you’ll know that you’re in for a rare treat with this playwright,“ Peter Houghton said. “He’s an artist who can make you roar with laughter one instant then reach for the tissues the next. Aidan’s play uses the choir to talk about synthesis, about how it takes many parts to make a whole.”
“His characters are works of art, clearly etched and reminiscent of an old friend, but still full of surprise. You’ll fall in love with this cast – you’ll laugh at them, and with them, as they lead you carefully into the midst of both the heartbreak and the joy,” Houghton added.
In the old CFA hall on the outskirts of town, a small group of locals come together to sing, and to connect. Aseni, Barbara, Mack, Savannah and Totty have splintered from their original choir on a matter of principle and are intent on forging their own path. With their latest recruit Peter along for the ride, they have a new name, a space to rehearse in and a public debut booked. All they need now is to right the wrongs of the past … and to find a song that pairs perfectly with the local winery’s Sangiovese.
Aidan Fennessy, who passed away in 2020, was a writer, director and dramaturg. In 2018, his play The Architect premiered at MTC to critical and popular acclaim. His play Chilling and Killing My Annabel Lee won the Wal Cherry Award and was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. His Melbourne International Comedy Festival play, The Trade, won the prestigious 2002 Barry Award.
Aidan was former Associate Director for MTC and a member of the 2012 Programming Team. His MTC directing credits include National Interest (which he also wrote), Circle Mirror Transformation, The Joy of Text, Boston Marriage, Ruby Moon, His Girl Friday and Things We Do for Love. Aidan was a founding member of Chameleon Theatre, a member of the Artistic Directorate of HotHouse Theatre, and Artistic Director of the Store Room Theatre Workshop.
Peter Houghton is an actor, director and playwright whose directing credits for MTC include The Architect, The Odd Couple, Boy at the Edge of Everything, True Minds, Hinterland, The Recruit and Art and Soul. Other directing credits include Footprints on Water (Griffin Theatre Company), Noises Off (Marriners), and Day One, A Hotel Evening (Black Swan State Theatre Company).
As an actor, he has appeared for MTC in Shakespeare in Love, Three Little Words, His Girl Friday, The Joy of Text, The Colours, The Female of the Species, Birthrights, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Misalliance and Sweet Bird of Youth. His solo show, The Pitch, played over 500 performances in Australia and the UK, winning Edinburgh Fringe and Stage UK Awards and The Age Pick of the Year. He has received Green Room Awards for Best Actor in The Pitch and Eleventh Hour’s Endgame, Best Play for The Pitch and Best Director for his body of work.
The Heartbreak Choir was commissioned through MTC’s NEXT STAGE Writers’ Program with the support of our Playwrights Giving Circle Donors, The Ian Potter Foundation, Naomi Milgrom Foundation, The Myer Foundation, Malcolm Robertson Foundation and The University of Melbourne.
For tickets and more information, visit the MTC website.