Actor Mitchell Butel named new artistic director of SA State Theatre Company
State Theatre Company South Australia has appointed acclaimed actor and singer Mitchell Butel as its new artistic director, and he has promised to entice big acting names to Adelaide.
- Mitchell Butel hopes to attract high profile names to the city
- He will replace Geordie Brookman
- His debut program for 2020 will be unveiled late next year
The 48-year-old Helpmann Award winner has a long list of television credits, including Rake, Wildside and All Saints, and has appeared in movies such as The Bank, Dark City and Two Hands.
Butel is also no stranger to State Theatre Company — appearing there for the first time 20 years ago in Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love.
He will replace Geordie Brookman, who has helped the company post surpluses and lift its subscriber base, before heading to Germany next year.
Butel was appointed after an intensive four-month process that included him submitting his vision for the theatre company and getting through three interviews with a selection panel.
The call from State Theatre Company’s chief executive came just after he arrived in London last week to perform in the play Rumpelstiltskin, ironically a co-production between State Theatre Company and Windmill Theatre Company.
“I found out when I got off the plane, here for Rumpelstiltskin in the cab on the way from Heathrow to London, I got the call from Jodi [Glass] so that trip was very joy-filled and probably the grey old London took on a new and delightful kind of appearance,” he said.
As for the vision that won over the selection panel, he said he would work to build on Brookman’s successful reign but with his own twist.
“Programming with a view to becoming the best multi-disciplinary theatre company in the country, in that text is still very important part of our company’s work, but in a way in which we make the work is also using as many kinds of different skills and different parts of the theatrical landscape as we can,” he said.
“So a lot more music, a lot more physical theatre, other disciplines, perhaps like puppetry.”
Plans to feature musical theatre
Not surprisingly for an award-winning singer, musicals will play a significant part in his first program in 2020.
“Definitely some music theatre will be a feature for my programming — it’s something I’ve done a lot of,” he said.
“Obviously they cost a lot of money so they won’t be huge scale ones, but I do think there’s a gap in the market in Australian theatre companies creating small chamber music pieces.”
Engagement with smaller Adelaide companies such as Vitalstatistix will also play a part, while he will investigate again setting up an ensemble of South Australian actors as Brookman did over two years.
Butel said he would use his extensive contact book to attract big names to perform in Adelaide.
He said he hoped to attract as many high-profile people as possible, with David Wenham, Damon Herriman, Richard Roxburgh and Kate Box all touted for the next few years.
“So I want Adelaide to be a place for the best of kind of South Australian talent, but also the best national talent in a way… like Chicago is to New York,” he said.
‘Real energy on the street’ in Adelaide
Butel said he would produce work that appealed to traditional State Theatre Company audiences, while also pushing the boundaries in a city he said now had one-up on his hometown of Sydney.
“I think Adelaide the city is quite vibey at the moment, there’s a kind of real energy on the street, the nightlife is very good certainly compared to Sydney, which is now quite moribund,” he said.
Mitchell Butel said he plans to push the boundaries in Adelaide — a city with ‘real energy’. (Photo: Brett Boardman)
Outgoing artistic director Geordie Brookman said he would depart knowing the company was in good hands.
“Mitchell is both an extraordinary performer and incisive director but, more than that, he is a storyteller of the highest order and a person I have the deepest respect for… South Australia is in for a wonderful adventure,” Brookman said.
The incoming director faces a challenging funding climate, with belt tightening across the nation, Arts SA disbanded, and cuts to the industry.
“Certainly a concerning situation, $32 million to the sector over four years is not insignificant, but I’m very interested to listen and learn more from people on the ground, both at the company and in the wider sector,” Butel said.
Butel arrives in Adelaide in March to begin his four-year contract.
He will spend a month in transition with Brookman with his 2020 debut program to be unveiled late next year.