‘If there is one Australian production that deserves to be seen by the rest of the world, it is this one. […It] alone makes me grateful that the Actors Company—however painful its birth-pangs, and regardless of the tantrums and tears along the way—was brought into existence.’
So wrote James Waites of Benedict Andrews’ radical reinterpretation of Patrick White’s The Season at Sarsaparilla.
The Actors Company was the visionary initiative of Robyn Nevin, Director of the Sydney Theatre Company, who in 2004 persuaded NSW Premier, Bob Carr, to fund an experimental ensemble. It had been Nevin’s dream but her major responsibilities soon drew her away and left the group to the mercy of itinerant directors. Personal crises, accident and frustration dissipated the original ensemble; they became hostage to crippling costs and the demands of the mainstage.
Those involved account Sarsaparilla, the eight-hour epic, The Lost Echo and The War of the Roses as their most rewarding experiences. Although the Actors Company gave their final performance in March 2009, within months a new ensemble was born, this one modelled by Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton. It is with comment on the Residents and a look to the future that the essay concludes.