With Toni Scanlan as Patricia Highsmith, renowned Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith weaves a torrid web of wit and mystery in this gripping psychological thriller.

Overview

Frigid winds of the Swiss Alps whistle past the cabin windows of best-selling crime author Patricia Highsmith as she retreats away from the world in her beloved fortress of solitude. Surrounded by a towering collection of books with only the company of cats, Patricia’s peace is disturbed when an intriguing young man from her publisher’s office knocks on the door. As he tries to coax out a final edition of the famed Mr Ripley series, a high-stakes game of words unfolds and Patricia’s fiction begins to teeter dangerously on the cliff of reality.

With Toni Scanlan (Belvoir’s THE WEEKEND) as Patricia Highsmith, renowned Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith (HONOUR) weaves a torrid web of wit and mystery in this gripping psychological thriller.

Ticket Prices

For group bookings of 10+, please call Box office on (02 8918 3400) or email boxoffice@ensemble.com.au

Prices correct at the time of publication and subject to change without notice.

2024 SINGLE TICKETSPREVIEWSIN SEASON
FULL PRICE$83$88
SENIOR CARD$80$85
PENSIONER$76$81
GROUP 10 - 19$76$81
GROUP 20+$71$76
30 OR UNDER$40$43
FULL-TIME STUDENT$40$43
MEAA/AWG$40$43
SCHOOL GROUPS$25$25
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Reviews

★★★★★ "SWITZERLAND is a good example of theatre noir, a genre that clearly director Shaun Rennie relishes and he comes up with a super tight production that grips the audience." Sydney Arts Guide

★★★★½ "The wit in Joanna Murray-Smith’s SWITZERLAND is remarkable, with an unrelenting acerbity that director Shaun Rennie uses to great effect, for a show that is as hilarious as it is thrilling." Suzy Goes See

★★★★½ "...the two performers step into their element, feeding off each other in a form of contrapuntal magic and take the production to the next level." MusicalTheatre.au

★★★★ "Joanna Murray-Smith’s imagining of a couple of days in the later life of literary anti-heroine Patricia Highsmith is a 90-minute tour de force." Stage Noise

★★★★ "a thought-provoking play that will mentally challenge audiences." Sydney Scoop

★★★½ "SWITZERLAND is an appealing tussle of temperaments and ideas, alternately tense and humorous, and an expertly calibrated piece of playwriting." Limelight

★★★½ "compelling... masterful" The Sydney Morning Herald

★★★½ “you definitely will be entertained” Cultural Binge

"This is the portrait of an artist in serious decline, and also a pastiche of a Highsmith novel with its capacity to create guilty unease - it succeeds in both directions." Stage Whispers

"Rennie has executed another stellar directorial feat." Broadway World

"Director Shaun Rennie has realised the tension between fear and humour in Murray-Smith’s script to great effect." City Hub

"It’s a privilege to see such a rich, sophisticated, utterly engaging work." Theatre Reds

"The combination of Murray-Smith’s sharp, engaging script and the stellar performances by the cast makes this a must-see. For those who appreciate theatre that challenges as much as it entertains, it offers a perfect blend of intellectual stimulation and emotional engagement." The Plus Ones

"An elegant and cutting cat and mouse thriller. Be prepared for wordplay, suspense and intrigue from the mastermind of The Talented Mr Ripley, Patricia Highsmith!" Theatre Thoughts

"A production that is close and fast, wittingly funny at times, brutally viscious at others." Carol Wimmer

"Scanlan’s performance alone is worth the price of admission." Arts Hub

“For all fans of Highsmith and for those who don’t know her work – the play is entertaining and engaging. Like Highsmith’s own work, Switzerland is a psychological thriller.” Theatre Now

“Edward, despite his somewhat diffident early overtures, rallies to Highsmith’s challenges. It’s a wonderfully chameleon-like performance from Boxhall – and makes for some great theatre.” Megaphone Oz

Cast & Creatives
Joanna Murray-Smith

Joanna Murray-Smith

Playwright

Joanna Murray-Smith is a playwright, screenwriter and novelist. Her plays have been produced around the world, including on Broadway and the West End, the National Theatre, London and in many languages. Ensemble Theatre: adaptation of Chekhov’s UNCLE VANYA, adaptation of Ibsen’s A DOLL’S HOUSE, HONOUR, BOMBSHELLS, NINETY. Melbourne Theatre Company: BERLIN, THREE LITTLE WORDS, PENSYLVANIA AVENUE, TRUE MINDS, THE GIFT, SONGS FOR NOBODIES and many more. Playbox Theatre Company: RAPTURE, NIGHTFALL, REDEMPTION, HONOUR, LOVE CHILD, ATLANTA. Queensland Theatre: L’APPARTEMENT, SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE, SWITZERLAND. Sydney Theatre Company: JULIA, SWITZERLAND, FURY. West End, London: SONGS FOR NOBODIES, SWITZERLAND, SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE, THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES, HONOUR, BOMBSHELLS. Novels: SUNNYSIDE, JUDGEMENT ROCK, TRUCE.

Shaun Rennie

Shaun Rennie

Director

Ensemble Theatre: SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER, BABY DOLL, NEVILLE’S ISLAND (Assistant Director), LIP SERVICE (Assistant Director). Bell Shakespeare: THE LOVERS. Belvoir Street Theatre (25a): JESS AND JOE FOREVER. Darlinghurst Theatre Company: THE RISE AND FALL OF LITTLE VOICE. The Hayes Theatre: RENT, YOU’RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN, ONLY HEAVEN KNOWS, THE VIEW UPSTAIRS, CARMEN; LIVE OR DEAD, THE RISE AND DISGUISE OF ELIZABETH R.LPD Prouctions: RENT – National Tour. Neglected Musicals: IRENE, BRIGADOON. Opera Australia: GIANNI SCHICCHI (Upcoming), OPERA UP LATE, NEW YEARS EVE GALA 2023, MAD SCENES WITH JESSICA PRATT, LA BOHEME (Revival Director), AIDA (Revival Director), PHANTOM OF THE OPERA ON SYDNEY HARBOUR (Associate Director). Outhouse: TREVOR. Oriel Entertainment Group: I AM MY OWN WIFE. Sydney Opera House: RENT.  Sydney Philharmonia Choir: CONSIDERING MATTHEW SHEPARD. Benefit Concert: LIGHT THE NIGHT (2005-2014). Awards: THE SANDRA BATES DIRECTORS AWARD 2017. Training: NIDA.

Laurence Boxhall

Laurence Boxhall

Cast - Edward

Theatre: The Ninth Floor Productions: MILKED. Crossroads Live: THE MOUSETRAP. Melbourne Theatre Company: AS YOU LIKE IT, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, JUMPY (co-produced with Sydney Theatre Company). Patalog Theatre: PUNK ROCK. Australian Shakespeare Company: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. Film: BETTER MAN, SPIRIT OF THE GAME. TV: MAD AS HELL, NEIGHBOURS, TALKIN ‘BOUT YOUR GENERATION, DEADLINE: GALLIPOLI, RONNY CHIENG: INTERNATIONAL STUDENT, THE WORST YEAR OF MY LIFE, AGAIN. Audiobook/Narration: WE WERE NOT MEN, THE FREEDOM OF BIRDS, MAN IN ARMOUR, REPUBLIC OF DREAMS, SHADOW TOWN, HOUSE OF CLOUDS, DIGGER AND ME, KING COO series, THE GRUNTS series, VULGAR THE VIKING series, SUPER WEIRD series, THE TURN OF THE SCREW (for Melbourne Theatre Company). Training: NIDA.

Toni Scanlan

Toni Scanlan

Cast - Patricia Highsmith

Ensemble Theatre: RICHARD III, LET THE SUN SHINE, A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, I’M NOT RAPPAPORT, ALL MY SONS, THE PRICE. Belvoir Street Theatre: THE WEEKEND, OPENING NIGHT, STOP GIRL, RUBEN GUTHRIE. Black Swan Theatre: HIR, ANGELS IN AMERICA – PART ONE. Darlinghurst Theatre: GOOD WORKS. Eternity Playhouse: ALL MY SONS. Griffin Theatre: KING TIDE, BACK BEAT. Her Majesty’s, Perth: ANNIE. Hole in the Wall Theatre: IN HIS OWN RIGHT, UNDER MILKWOOD. Playhouse Theatre: FIELDS OF HEAVEN. QTC: ONCE IN ROYAL DAVID’S CITY, THE CHILDREN, THE FAMILY, TOO YOUNG FOR GHOSTS. Q Theatre: DAYLIGHT SAVING, KID STAKES. Riverside Theatre: HAMLET, KING LEAR. Sydney Theatre Company: BLOOD WEDDING, OUR TOWN, TROUPERS, KING LEAR, CUCKOO’S COUNTRY, MADRAS HOUSE. TN! Theatre Company: PRIVATE LIVES, BOY’S OWN MACBETH, CLOUD 9, THE CONQUESTS OF CARMEN MIRANDA. Awards: 2014 Sydney Theatre Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role in an Independent Production: ALL MY SONS. Sydney Theatre Awards winner: KING TIDE.

Veronique Benett

Veronique Benett

Set and Lighting Designer

Ensemble Theatre: THE MEMORY OF WATER, RHINESTONE REX AND MISS MONICA, A BROADCAST COUP, THE CARETAKER, A DOLL’S HOUSE, NEARER THE GODS (set and costume). Lighting design credits include: Belvoir St Theatre: THE JUNGLE AND THE SEA, TELL ME I’M HERE, THE WOLVES. Circa: SACRE. Darlinghurst Theatre Company: NATASHA, PIERRE AND THE GREAT COMET OF 1912. Griffin Theatre Company: THE SMALLEST HOUR. Hayes Theatre Company: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, THE LIFE OF US. Outhouse Theatre Company: A CASE FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD. Red Line Productions: BURN WITCH BURN, HAPPY DAYS, CHORUS, ANATOMY OF A SUICIDE. Pinchgut Opera: PLEASURES OF VERSAILLES.

Kelsey Lee

Kelsey Lee

Costume Designer

Ensemble Theatre: THE MEMORY OF WATER, A LETTER FOR MOLLY, UNQUALIFIED 2: STILL UNQUALIFIED, KILLING KATIE, OUTDATED. Australian Chamber Orchestra: THERES A SEA IN MY BEDROOM, WILFRED GORDON MCDONALD PARTRIDGE. Australian Theatre for Young People: APRIL AARDVARK. Bell Shakespeare: COMEDY OF ERRORS. Belvoir Street Theatre: A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN, Associate Designer: BLUE, AT WHAT COST. 25A Belvoir: AN OX STAND ON MY TONGUE, DESTROY SHE SAID, EXTINCTION OF THE LEARNED RESPONSE. Force Majeure: GURR ERA OP. Griffin Theatre Company: THE LEWIS TRILOGY, SEX MAGICK, WHITEFELLA YELLA TREE. Hayes Theatre: TELL ME ON A SUNDAY, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. Marrugeku: MUTIARA. National Theatre of Parramatta: QUEEN FATIMA, Set Designer: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO SELF DEFENCE, NOTHING. Sydney Dance Company: SOMOS.

Kelly Ryall

Kelly Ryall

Composer and Sound Designer

Ensemble Theatre: SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER. Bell Shakespeare: ROMEO AND JULIET, AS YOU LIKE IT, TARTUFFE, MACBETH, JULIUS CAESAR. Belvoir St Theatre: TITLE AND DEED, NORA, HEDDA GABLER. Griffin Theatre Company: THE HOUSE ON THE LAKE, EMERALD CITY, THE BOYS, THE FLOATING WORLD, DREAMS IN WHITE. Malthouse Theatre: NOSFERATU, EDWARD II, THE SHADOW KING. Melbourne Theatre Company: THE ALMIGHTY SOMETIMES, MY SISTER JILL, CYRANO, BERLIN, A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, WORKING WITH CHILDREN. Queensland Theatre: HEDDA, SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE. Sydney Theatre Company: THE TRIAL (with Malthouse Theatre), BOYS WILL BE BOYS, TRIPLE X.

 

Linda Nicholls-Gidley

Linda Nicholls-Gidley

Dialect Coach

Ensemble Theatre: ALONE IT STANDS, THE MEMORY OF WATER, SUMMER OF HAROLD, BENEFACTORS, CLYDE’S, SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER, BOXING DAY BBQ, THE CARETAKER, PHOTOGRAPH 51, BLACK COCKATOO, BABY DOLL. Belvoir Street Theatre:  COUNTING AND CRACKING. Crossroads Live: CINDERELLA, 9 TO 5. Darlinghurst Theatre: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, ONCE, A CHORUS LINE. Gordon Frost: THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, SHREK, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, THE BODYGUARD, DIRTY DANCING. Griffin Theatre: PONY. GWB Entertainment: JAGGED LITTLE PILL, GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. Hayes Theatre: MURDER FOR TWO. National Theatre of Parramatta: FADE. DreamWorks: HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. Television: SHANTARAM, WELLMANIA, YEAR OF, MARY: THE MAKING OF A PRINCESS. Film: JUNGLE.

Nigel Poulton

Nigel Poulton

Intimacy & Fight Director

Ensemble Theatre: THE MEMORY OF WATER, MR BAILEY’S MINDER, SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER. Bell Shakespeare: TWELFTH NIGHT, ROMEO AND JULIET, MACBETH. Belvoir St Theatre: THE MASTER AND MARGARITA, MISS PEONY, PACKER AND SONS, THINGS I KNOW TO BE TRUE, STOP GIRL, BLESSED UNION, AT WHAT COST?, THE JUNGLE AND THE SEA. Melbourne Theatre Company: BERNHARDT/HAMLET. Sydney Theatre Company: OIL, ON THE BEACH, DO NOT GO GENTLE, FENCES. Film and TV: DEADLOCK, NAUTILUS, POKER FACE, THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER, SPIDERHEAD, DING DONG I’M GAY, OCCUPATION 2, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN V, DEADLINE GALLIPOLI, THE WATER DIVINER, THE BOURNE LEGACY, VIKINGDOM AND WINTER’S TALE.

Lauren Tulloh

Lauren Tulloh

Stage Manager

Lauren is Ensemble’s Resident Stage Manager. Ensemble Theatre: ALONE IT STANDS, THE MEMORY OF WATER, MR BAILEY’S MINDER, CLYDE’S, A BROADCAST COUP, THE CARETAKER, THE ONE, A LETTER FOR MOLLY, KILLING KATIE, THE WOMAN IN BLACK, THE APPLETON LADIES’ POTATO RACE (2021 regional tour), OUTDATED, THE LAST WIFE, THE LAST FIVE YEARS, MARJORIE PRIME, THE PLANT, BETRAYAL. Hayes Theatre Company: REWIRED: MUSICALS REIMAGINED, AMERICAN PSYCHO, HIGH FIDELITY, ASSASSINS, THE FANTASTICKS, VIOLET, CALAMITY JANE. National Theatre of Parramatta: QUEEN FATIMA, THE THINGS I COULD NEVER TELL STEVEN, JESUS WANTS ME FOR A SUNBEAM (Belvoir season). Training: NIDA.

Jemima Greenwood

Jemima Greenwood

Assistant Stage Manager

Australian Theatre for Young People: REEBOOT. Opera Australia: HANDA OPERA ON SYDNEY HARBOUR: WEST SIDE STORY. Hazlitt Theatre United Kingdom: VINCENT SIMONE: TANGO PASSIONS, ORDINARY PEOPLE, MICHAEL STARRING BEN, GARY & ROBBIE, UPTOWN JOEL, BUBLE MEETS SINATRA, YOURYTHMICS, ROLLING STONES STORY, IRELAND THE MUSICAL, DISCO INFERNO, FLEETWOOD MAC: GO YOUR OWN WAY, THE LADY BOYS OF BANGKOK, FORBIDDEN NIGHTS,  LUCY PORTER: WAKE UP CALL, DANNY BAKER: AT LAST THE SAUSAGE SANDWICH TOUR, , RAY BRADSHAW: DEAF COM 1, THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE. Film: GROUNDED, LARP: BEHIND THE SHIELD. TV: THIS IS PORTSMOUTH. Education: UNIVERSITY OF PORTSMOUTH.

 

Renata Beslik

Renata Beslik

Costume Supervisor

Ensemble Theatre:  THE GREAT DIVIDE, ALONE IT STANDS, THE MEMORY OF WATER, SUMMER OF HAROLD, MR BAILEY’S MINDER, BENEFACTORS, RHINESTONE REX AND MISS MONICA, CARETAKER, PHOTOGRAPH 51, THE ONE, OUTDATED, CRUNCH TIME, BABY DOLL, FULLY COMMITTED, FOLK, THE BIG TIME, LUNA GALE, SHIRLEY VALENTINE, THE KITCHEN SINK and many more. Bell Shakespeare: HENRY V, THE WINTER’S TALE, MACBETH. Belvoir St Theatre: FANGIRLS. New Theatricals: DARKNESS. National Institute of Dramatic Art: THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR, STAY HAPPY KEEP SMILING, THE TEMPEST, WOYCECK, A LIE OF THE MIND, PORT, THE THREESOME. Pinchgut Opera: RINALDO, MÉDÉE, ORONTEA, PLATÉE and many more. Sydney Festival: BETTY BLOKKBUSTER RE-IMAGINED.

Writer's Note

As a little girl, not yet able to read, on summer holidays, I would lie next to my mother in bed and watch her consume fiction, from Jane Austen to Georges Simenon. She was never more compelled by her paperback than when reading the work of the late, great Patricia Highsmith. I was fascinated that one writer, wielding only these black and white hieroglyphics on the page, could pull rank on everything and everyone else vying for the attention of my effervescent mother. Decades later, whilst in rehearsals for a play in LA, I wandered into a crime bookshop and saw a new biography of Highsmith written by the New Yorker Joan Schenkar. Remembering my mother’s obsession, I read it in one fell swoop and was immediately hooked. Highsmith was not only, arguably, the most psychologically astute writer of the second half of the 20th century, but a thoroughly unpleasant misanthrope whose arch tongue and acidic pen could and did destroy most of the relationships of her life. Living as a recluse in Switzerland in her later years, Highsmith continued to write disarming and sadistic stories featuring characters such as her famous (and talented) serial killer, Tom Ripley. No one was as good as Highsmith at exposing the nuances of the criminal mind and packaging them in such a way as to excite and incite the moral ambivalence of the reader. Horrified by her stories, as readers we are seduced into wanting their evil protagonists to get away with their murderous plans. What more fascinating creature was there to put on stage than the terrible and wonderful Miss H?

Joanna Murray-Smith

Director's Note

Edward: You know, only you pulled it off – at least in modern times: the complete corruption of the reader.

Patricia: It’s called good writing.

Joanna Murray-Smith’s SWITZERLAND is a captivating exploration of Patricia Highsmith, the literary titan who enthralled readers with tales of murder, intrigue, and the darkest corners of the human psyche. SWITZERLAND delves into the complexities that shaped both Highsmith’s life and her work.

Murray-Smith delves into the mind of a master. Highsmith’s brilliance is undeniable, but so is the fascinating tapestry of her personality. A nuanced portrayal that captures her reclusiveness and the challenges she faced, all while showcasing the captivating intellect that fuelled her writing. The play explores the contradictions that defined her – a charming wit with a sharp edge, a genius shrouded in secrecy.

However, SWITZERLAND isn’t just about Highsmith, it’s a mirror reflecting our own societal fascination with darkness. Why are we drawn to stories of murder and violence, even as they repel us? The play delves into this paradox, prompting us to examine empathy, morality, and the strength of the human psyche when confronted with violence. Can we truly stare into the darkness, or does it lurk within us all?

SWITZERLAND is also a testament to the power of storytelling and the enigmatic nature of creativity. The act of creation is akin to playing God. One gets to create worlds, people, and circumstances. What would you do if you had that power?

It has been such joy to work on this play, at this theatre, with two brilliant actors and an incredible creative team. I want to thank them all for bringing their sharp intellects to the project every day and for their faith and trust.

Shaun Rennie

Watch the trailer

Special performances

Audio Described

  • Wed 22 May 11am

Q&A Sessions

  • Sat 11 May 8.15pm
  • Tue 21 May 11am

Free Teen Night

  • Wed 5 Jun 6.15pm
SPECIAL THANKS

Julian Colman Rehearsal Observer

Partners & Supporters

This production would not be possible without the continued support of our partners and our valued supporters. Thank you.

For more information on how to support Ensemble, contact Stephen Attfield, Philanthropy & Partnerships Manager, on stephena@ensemble.com.au or call 02 8918 3400.