opinion

From Barbie to Succession, Australian entertainment is having a global moment. And there’s more to come

Michael Cassel
The Nightly
Sarah Snook won the Emmy for best actress in a drama series for her role as Shiv Roy in Succession.
Sarah Snook won the Emmy for best actress in a drama series for her role as Shiv Roy in Succession. Credit: AP

Along with most of the country, I watched on with enormous joy and no little sense of parochial pride as Australians swept the pool at the first part of this year’s award season.

From the Golden Globes to the Emmys and the Grammys, it seemed every other name being read out belonged to an Australian. And rightly so — the talent in this country is formidable and has been for decades.

The era of peak Australian entertainment has been growing for years, but I think right now is a particularly special time when you look at the global landscape across the creative arts.

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Of course there’s the incredibly high profile achievements that earn plaudits on televised ceremonies – like Margot Robbie’s wonderfully life affirming Barbie and her star turn in it. Elizabeth Debicki’s searing portrayal of Princess Diana in The Crown. Kylie Minogue becoming a two-time Grammy winner. And, of course, Sarah Snook’s award-dominating turn as Shiv Roy in Succession.

I am fortunate enough to be producing Sarah’s return to the West End stage in Sydney Theatre Company’s astonishing The Picture of Dorian Gray, and I can assure you that her performance of Kip William’s masterpiece has all of London standing to attention.

A notable producer said to me just last week that the buzz around Sarah’s performance and the innovation of the show made it the West End event of the year, which is humbling to hear.

Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin in HBO's Succession
Sarah Snook in a scene from Succession with co-stars Jeremy Strong and Kieran Culkin. Credit: AP

Australia is really in the midst of a brilliant moment where we aren’t just an import market for the creative arts – we aren’t just bringing in films from overseas and live theatre from overseas, we are also making things and creating talent that the whole world wants to see.

On Broadway, Australian production house Global Creatures continue their success with Moulin Rouge. Around the corner at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, Daniel Assetta is embarking on his Broadway debut in & Juliet, while The Notebook is currently in previews with maestro Carmel Dean putting the final touches on the musical arrangements for the hotly anticipated production.

They follow in the footsteps of the likes of Ainsley Melham, who starred in Aladdin in New York or Marika Aubrey who at a moment’s notice made her Broadway debut in Come from Away when COVID struck the cast, and Eddie Perfect whose darkly hilarious musical production, Beetlejuice, based on the ‘80s movie, became a cult hit. And, of course, there’s Suzie Miller’s incredible play Prima Facie that has not only conquered the West End and Broadway, but will now become a film starring Cynthia Erivo.

On the other side of the Atlantic, another Aussie cult hit is about to take on the West End when Fan Girls premieres in London and until recently if you saw Les Misérables here you’d have seen an Australian Jean Val Jean in Josh Piterman -- their contemporaries are on stages all over London.

Of course, as the Emmys and the Golden Globes attest, it isn’t just in live performance that Australians are finding success, and it isn’t just in front of the camera.

Australia has become a post-production powerhouse, with some of the most spectacular films of the last few years having their special effects added in one of the numerous post-prod studios dotted around the country from Sydney to the Gold Coast to Adelaide and beyond.

Some of the best technical crew for film and television are based in Australia plying their trade on films like Pirates of the Caribbean on the Gold Coast before Disney took over Fox Studios and began shooting some of their most technically incredible films right in the heart of Sydney.

The cast of Beetlejuice performing at the Tony Awards in 2019
The stage production of Beetlejuice, with music by Australia's Eddie Perfect, has been a massive hit. Credit: AP

When you skip through the listings of series available to watch on BVOD services in the UK, the shows we know and love back home are regularly ranked among the top shows here. The Traitors is a ratings smash in Britain, and they are filling the gap between series with the Australian version. The Tourist, which was a smash hit for Stan, is a smash hit here. And of course, Neighbours’ demise created a national day of mourning when it was announced and viewers have flocked to the reboot.

Australians punch so far above their weight in terms of international success against population size, and rightly so –- we are a small country but we are a great country and we work as hard, if not harder, than anyone I have worked with anywhere in the world.

We need to continue nurturing our creative artists –- both those we see and those we don’t –- because the future is only going to be brighter.

Michael Cassel is CEO of Michael Cassel Group, a global stage production and live entertainment group.

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