One of Australia’s great playwrights takes on the big questions in an intriguing, moving and life-affirming work.

Gow, the former artistic director of Queensland Theatre, has crafted a story that is both epic and intimate in Once in Royal David’s City.

It’s the story of Will, a theatre director whose father passed away six weeks ago. Will wants to give his widowed mother a relaxing Christmas by the ocean at Byron Bay, but when she arrives, it becomes obvious that she is ill herself.

Spending Christmas by his mother’s bedside, Will is forced to make sense of his life, questioning how he can continue to think keenly, feel deeply and fight for change, while keeping his curiosity and faith intact.

It’s a story that tumbles from the 1950s to the present, from West Berlin to Byron Bay, from brief encounters to the cycles of history.

It’s a story about mothers and sons, lost innocence and facing mortality; about faith, rage and the brilliant possibilities of life and art.

It’s a story brought to the stage by Sam Strong, the new artistic director of Queensland Theatre, making his heavily anticipated directorial debut with the company.

Strong, who most recently directed a sold-out production of Jasper Jones for the Melbourne Theatre Company that garnered five-star reviews and six Green Room Award nominations, couldn’t resist the chance to bring his predecessor’s play to life.

“Michael’s writing tackles challenging material, dealing with the unenviable task of saying goodbye,” he says.

“What’s fantastic is that he is unafraid to dive into the profound existential crises that arise at such moments — daring to ask the biggest questions around what gives our lives meaning and how we recover from loss.

“If this sounds like heavy going, it isn’t. Once in Royal David’s City is as entertaining as it is affecting or thought-provoking. Michael has a uniquely gentle sense of humour and a compassion that shines through.

“He creates characters of such warmth and complexity that we cannot help but recognise ourselves in this deeply personal story. On top of all this, he is a writer with a wicked sense of invention. Once in Royal David’s City plays with our understanding of what it is to tell a story in the theatre in a way that forces us to pay attention as well as delights us.”

The show’s exceptional ensemble cast is led by Brisbane stage powerhouse Jason Klarwein (Macbeth), and features some of the country’s most experienced actors in Penny Everingham, Kaye Stevenson, Adam Booth, Toni Scanlan, Adam Sollis and Steve Turner.

Once in Royal David’s City is the fourth production in Sam’s inaugural season with Queensland Theatre, which has already broken season ticket and single ticket records.

Once in Royal David’s City will play at the QPAC Playhouse from Saturday 22 April to Sunday 14 May. For tickets, visit

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