Said to be "the most important American play of this century", Matthew López's The Inheritance is making its way to Melbourne for Midsumma Festival. Directed by Kitan Petkovski, this seven hour play (told in two parts) brings together three generations of gay men living in New York City decades after the height of the AIDS epidemic while exploring what it means to honour the past and those who came before us.
Petkovski has been aware of the play and its prominence but it wasn't until he was approached by Cameron Lukey, Artistic Director at fortyfivedownstairs, that this production started to gain traction. "Earlier last year, Cameron asked if I had heard about The Inheritance and if I'd be interested in reading the script. I had known about the play, mostly that it has won the Olivier and Tony awards 2019-2020, and that it was a work inspired by E. M. Forster's Howards End but that was about it," Petkovski tells me. "I read both parts over a weekend and remember feeling a sense of catharsis that I don't usually experience after reading most plays. I guess it's because it's a story connected to my queer community, and it reminded me of the history that has been lost and was never passed down from previous generations, and how upsetting that still is. It is up to our generation of LGBTQI+ communities to ensure that our history and stories in the making are not erased."Petkovski has directed a number of critically acclaimed and award-winning productions over the last few years including The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven, BURGERZ and the recent Patricia Cornelius work, In The Club, but The Inheritance is a whole new ballgame, and one that he is excited to be involved in. "In terms of scale and length, this is absolutely the most ambitious project I have worked on! I mean, how many seven hour plays exist, let alone get presented on our stages?" he says. "I haven't seen the West End or Broadway productions, but have spoken to a few that have and I'm aware of the impact the work can have on an audience. It's important to note that we are staging an American play in Australia, and we are doing this on an independent scale, so I hope those who have seen the show, come to fortyfivedownstairs with an open mind and understanding that this is a new production, performed by a stellar Australian cast in a very intimate setting."
Petkovski is building a name for himself as someone with unique creative visions that draws audiences in, and for this production he is joined by a number of highly skilled and equally inspiring designers with Bethany J Fellows, Katie Sfetkidis and Rachel Lewindon. "It's been a true pleasure working with Bethany, Katie and Rachel again. We have collaborated on a number of shows together, and I knew that The Inheritance could benefit from a design team who knew and trusted each other, and could work in shorthand if and when required," he explains. "Matthew López uses narration to transport us between locations and time periods, so a lot of the world building is beautifully expressed in the writing. Set, costumes, sound and lighting design will guide the audience symbolically and more on a subconscious level. When I think about the overall design right now the words that come to mind are queer, lush, delicate and hilarious."
And of course, behind every great show, or in this case, in front of every great show is a great cast, and Petkovski could not be more thrilled with the ensemble of thirteen actors that has been assembled. "We have completed the fifth week of our six week rehearsal period and I don't think
any of us have worked harder or faster on any other project. In saying this,
rehearsals have been an incredible joy and every day I'm in awe of the cast
and our creative team," he says. "I still don't know how actors can remember so
many words and actions, and perform them each time with freshness and
authenticity. The number of times I have laughed at the same jokes, and
cried in the same moments, in the play will make me sound like a mad
person, but it's true - the cast are able to do this, time and time
again. I can't wait for audiences to see them and celebrate their brilliance."
We end our chat with how we began this interview, reflecting on how The Inheritance has been referred to as "the most important American play of this century" and how this can translate for Australian audiences. Petkovski is looking forward to presenting this local independent production and have audiences understand how critical it is to value the past in order to live for the future. "I hope this play encourages people to remember, to partake and to celebrate queer history. We need to cherish inter-generational exchanges between gay men and appreciate the battles fought on our behalf. We need to not take our queer freedoms for granted, uplift our LGBTQI+ communities and look out for future generations."
1) My favourite meal is ... pizza because who doesn't love melted cheese?
2) A TV show I would like to be cast in is ... The Block because who doesn't love a make-over?
3) A little known skill I have is ... I can speak to cats (ccrrrttttsssstppeop - for my cat pals that might be reading this)
4) My proudest professional moment is ... driving a car through a theatre stage door (guess the show!)
5) Happiness ... lies in your own hands, it took me much too long to understand (Madonna, 1994).
Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Season: 21 Jan - 11 Feb | 7pm
This is a two-part production. Date pairs are pre-determined by the venue and cannot be altered or mixed. The assigned date pairings can be viewed by clicking on the bookings link below.
Duration: Each part runs for approximately 190 minutes
Tickets: $109 Full | $99 Concession
Bookings: Midsumma Festival
Main image credit: Benny Capp