Jane Austen’s drawing rooms and country estates will be switched out for the dizzying dancefloors and leafy avenues of post-plebiscite Sydney in Lewis Treston’s outrageously funny Hubris & Humiliation, showing at Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf 1 Theatre from January 20.
Presented in association with Sydney WorldPride and directed by Dean Bryant (Fun Home), this modern homage to the celebrated, nineteenth century English novelist – which had a development at STC as part of the Rough Draft program (2021) and won the 2021 Australian Theatre Festival New Play Award in New York – is a high-camp exploration of love, family and commitment topped off with a twist of Regency period charm.
Playwright Lewis Treston, a former STC Patrick White Playwrights Award-winner, describes his play as “ajumbo-sized serving of Austen-inspired queer joy” from a uniquely Australian perspective.
“The whole process of developing this play has been an attempt to understand the function of marriage under late capitalism; what has changed and what has remained the same since the Regency period,”Treston said.
“It was also an opportunity to interrogate what is considered valuable and desirable within the queer community.”
He said, while no one play could meaningfully represent all aspects of the queer community, that Hubris & Humiliation was a “camp comedy powered by a distinctively queer aesthetic which finds joy and humour in the face of hardship”.
“WorldPride is an incredible opportunity for the LGBTQI+ community to converge and celebrate what makes our lives unique, and I hope members of the community from all over the world will enjoy it. I hope audiences have a big laugh and leave with their hearts recharged.”
Bryant has assembled a fantastic team, including Designer Isabel Hudson (Fun Home), Lighting Designer Alexander Berlage (RBG: Of Many, One), Composer & Sound Designer Mathew Frank and Assistant Director Natali Caro, alongside a fabulous cast of Henrietta Amevor (A Raisin in the Sun), Mathew Cooper (City of Gold), Andrew McFarlane (Grand Horizons), and Roman Delo, Celia Ireland, Melissa Kahraman and Ryan Panizza who are all making their STC debuts.
Bryant said he was drawn to the project because of “Lewis’ brilliant updating of the classic Austen ‘marriage plot’ to modern day Sydney, and how he marries the language and tropes we all adore from Austen’s world with an up-to-the-minute Australian rom-com”.
“Lewis is outrageously funny and manages the Wildean trick of being very silly about very serious matters,” Bryant said.
“The play also has a few comic setpieces that I’ve never seen onstage before and cannot wait to stage with our glorious cast, led by the riotous Celia Ireland (returning to the stage after 12 years) and awkward, delightful Roman Delo as our hero, Elliott. To premiere this camp and cutting comedy during WorldPride is a perfect piece of timing we hope to replicate onstage every evening during this summer delight.”
Hubris & Humiliation plays STC’s Wharf 1 Theatre from 20 January – 4 March 2023.
Header photo by Rene Vaile