Shane Anthony talks Anatomy of a Suicide ahead of its return

Director of Anatomy of a Suicide, Shane Anthony, talks with Theatre Thoughts about the return of the hit production.

“My mother always said to Live Big. Live as much as I could.”

Discover a startlingly beautiful and truly unique theatrical experience about three generations of mothers and daughters. For each woman, the chaos of what has come before brings with it a painful legacy. Three stories intertwine in such a way that every audience member will have their own unique interaction with the show.

A sensation at The Old Fitz Theatre in 2019 and nominated for four Sydney Theatre Awards, Anatomy of a Suicide returns in 2022 for a powerful, unflinching look at how one family struggles to live alongside the impact of pain passed from one generation to another. This is theatre doing what it does best: taking on the big taboos—guilt, loss, addiction, regret—and illuminating them beautifully to provide a shared understanding and relief.

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So, this obviously first premiered in 2019 and it was smash hit. It was nominated for four Sydney Theatre Awards. I wanted to know what it was like to bring back this show and to restage it?

I have to say that it’s been both as challenging and rewarding as the first time. It’s a pretty tricky script. Just the complexity of having three things onstage happening simultaneously at all times is kind of scored on the page like sheet music. So, it’s been a reminder in the last couple of weeks being in the realm of that technical challenge. One which is kind of terrifying, but also really exciting. It’s just at the point where it’s starting to sing again, which is lovely.

Is it surreal to kind of restage something after a couple of years?

It is a little bit. There are a few changes. We’ve got three cast members that could not return with us. It’s a cast of ten, so we’re all having moments of like, is this happening? It’s a flashback to pre-COVID times, where the world felt a lot simpler. But it’s been great. It’s such a rewarding script. It’s so satisfying to come to such great writing. Alice Burch, who is a writer on Succession, is just such a master. So, it’s absolutely rewarding to be working on her text.

Do you feel the production has changed or have you tried to reshape it since the 2019 production?

It felt like it was in a solid place in 2019. We’ve been working from an archival film version of that show. Then the new cast members, I’ve been encouraging them to find their own interpretation of the character and I think that’s important as well. So, it’s growing, really. We’ve discovered more. Things have grown or emerged in the rehearsal room and discussion on the floor in the last couple of weeks that we didn’t touch on in 2019. So, it’s lovely to make those discoveries.

The play itself deals with intergenerational trauma. Why do you think this idea of intergenerational trauma is important to discuss through theatre?

I think it’s quite recent research that is looking at epigenetics and how trauma can be passed on through DNA. So that’s both recent science and research into that area, which is fascinating. But it’s also been a brilliant character study to look at how characters and humans deal with trauma and either do or don’t pass that on. So, I think that’s an eternal human question that is fascinating. It relates in some capacity to everyone.

So, do you believe that the ideas that the play deals with make it less of a taboo topic?

Yeah, I really do. Theatre is an incredible form to promote discussion and dialogue, awareness and cultivate understanding. It sounds a little silly to say, but it encourages us to be more compassionate, to understand others.

This idea of taboo words and topics as well as sensitivity is very alive in the younger generation now, especially growing up on TikTok. So, words like “suicide” are being replaced with terms such as “unalived” to make it less impactful. Do you think it takes away from the ability to talk about these important topics?

Oh, that’s a really juicy question. That’s difficult to answer because it has many, many layers today. I think the sensitivity that has been encouraged is a healthy thing. Whether or not going to the extent that we start to mute things or censor things, for me that may be problematic. I think there’s something about being both generous and compassionate, but also robust and disciplined in your conversations. They’re words that I throw around in the rehearsal room frequently. Anyway, big juicy question, everyone’s got contradictory thoughts about that. The increased sensitivity is excellent, and the increased dialogue and discussion is fantastic. I think that’s important and balancing that is also really important as well.

If you were to summarize the production in a few short words on what it’s about and give a snapshot for audiences, what would you say?

I think it’s an incredible generational family drama that is at times hysterical. It’s really funny, but you wouldn’t expect that given the title. It’s also deeply poignant, there’s poetic passages in there that Alice Burgess crafted that are striking, that just really arrest you. I think it’s a satisfying look at a massive, epic family drama.

The last thing I want to ask you is, what do you think audiences will get out of either coming back to see the production or seeing it for the first time?

I think coming back, you’ll definitely catch things that you never saw the first time. For new audiences, you’ll love the ensemble of incredible talented actors and writing that’s on top of its game. As well as overall being a beautiful production.

Anatomy of a Suicide plays at the Seymour Centre from the 6th – 29th of October. Tickets can be booked at

About Shane Anthony

Shane Anthony is an award-winning director, dramaturg and movement director with a passion for interrogating stories of social justice and humanity, and an interest to create new work inspired by community driven process. Over the last 20 years, his work has toured nationally and internationally, with productions ranging from text-based work, to physical theatre and circus, to musical theatre and cabaret. He is a graduate of the Directing Program at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), Screenwriting for Feature Film at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) and has completed a BA in Theatre Studies at Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

Directing credits include Ulster American by David Ireland for Outhouse Theatre Co and Seymour Centre, Our Blood Runs in the Street by Chopt Logic and the ensemble, Anatomy of a Suicide by Alice Birch (nominated for four Sydney Theatre Awards), The Whale for Redline Productions at The Old Fitz Theatre (nominated for eight Sydney Theatre Awards in 2016), Lighten Up by Nicholas Brown and Sam McCool at Griffin Theatre, Songs for the Fallen for the New York Musical Theatre Festival (winner of Best Musical), Sydney Festival, Arts Centre Melbourne and Brisbane International Arts Festival, Altar Boyz, Calendar Girls and Avenue Q for Fortune Theatre (New Zealand), My Name is Rachel Corrie for La Boite Theatre and Donwstairs Belvoir, 3 Winters by Tena Štivičić, Love and Information by Caryl Churchill, Orestes, Trojan Women and Radio Hysteria for NIDA Open, Doctor Faustus and The Crucible for RCHK (Hong Kong), Mrs Bang: A Series of Seductions for the 32nd Stage Song Festival (Poland), Often I Find That I Am Naked for Critical Stages – (Australian National Tour), Motortown by Simon Stephens for 23rd Productions (nominated Best Show, Matilda Awards).

Shane also facilitates workshops, lectures and seminars for a vast range of companies, both nationally and internationally. He is a core tutor across several departments at NIDA including the BFA programs, Open Program, Education and Corporate. He also teaches and directs for Sydney Film School, UK-based International Schools Theatre Association, Australian Institute of Music, Sydney Theatre School and Sydney Actors School.

Shane is privileged to live and make work primarily on the unceded lands of the Gadigal and Guring-gai peoples of the Eora Nation and pays respect to their Elders, past and present.


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