A play within a plague...

With Covid-19 spiking over Christmas, our 12th Summer Season was a period of heartbreaking absence for us…but we have not been idle. In fact, we undertook perhaps our most exciting project ever, bringing theatre and cinema together, and it’s on its way … 

A world premiere of our feature film

Venus & Adonis


The work is borne of the 2020 lockdown, a brand new film by SFJ’s Artistic Director Damien Ryan, whose previous adaptations included the multi-award winning Antigone and Cyrano de Bergerac, published by Currency Press. Venus & Adonis is a thrilling collaboration with local filmmakers SOAP Productions, just about the most exciting young film company in Sydney, lead by Jerome Meyer, Andre Vasquez and Adele Querol. 


To set the scene… 


In June 1592, London’s theatrical scenic artists, poets, musicians, players, prop makers, apprentices, milliners and shareholders lost their livelihoods for 18 months to plague, shadowed by debilitating recession lasting several years. Sounds familiar… 


Some toured provinces, others taught, some died, some went missing, all suffered.  


In April 1593, with houses bolted, whole streets cordoned and people fearing each other’s skin, touch and breath, Shakespeare published an epic work about intimacy, heavy breathing and all-too-human touch. That new work took him from common player and jobbing playwright to Europe’s most talked about classical poet. Venus and Adonis, the founding Greek myth of why and how human beings are cursed with love’s agony, was the most acclaimed work by Shakespeare in his own lifetime, running through more than 10 editions, outstripping sales of all his plays, even the most revered. It was scandalous, dazzling in its dialogue and deeply erotic, and prompted nuanced speculation about the possible model for the boy Adonis – Southampton himself? – and Venus’ groping, ugly desire as Shakespeare’s own.  

Our story… 


theatres are closed, players are out of work, Shakespeare is syphilitic and dangerously bored. So, ever-seeking relevance, he stages his most scandalous poem at court before the Queen and puts a rival and a revelation in the leading role – Emilia Lanier - the woman who would become the first professional female poet ever published in the English language. Her incredible work, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, is a feminist revision of Genesis and an attack on the literary poisons that proved lethal to female freedoms since the earliest days of myth making. It was published in 1611, not long after Shakespeare’s famous Sonnets and many believe it was partially a response to them. Emilia, a Venetian Jew, has long been speculated upon as the Dark Lady of those Sonnets.  


This new play is her story – and that of a company of players seeking a new fix, a woman taking the stage, rehearsing and unlocking a masterpiece about intimacy, beauty and love – “and in a world f***ed by plague, death and isolation, intimacy is a rare gawd”.  


It is about the need to speak, the right to love and the power of the printed word. It is about artists and their value.  

Every arts company and every artist has a unique yet shared story of resolve and solution borne of the past 2 years. Sport for Jove’s involved the loss of productions and  jobs for fellow theatre makers. Shakespeare’s company was lucky, it survived. Ours is lucky too. We still exist and can try to come back. So we looked back from our global plague to that 1590s experience in order to think forward. But it hasn’t been easy and we need your help. The screenings for Venus & Adonis are Fundraising events for the past two years being shut down by the plague.

Starring: Adele Querol, Anthony Gooley, Belinda Giblin, Jerome Meyer, Bernadette Ryan, Dinitha Senevirathne, Akasha Hazard, Christopher Tomkinson, Edward McCullough, Thom Blake, Max Ryan, Oliver Ryan and

Claudia Elbourne. 

Warning: Venus & Adonis contains flashing imagery and loud noises that may cause sensitivity for some audience members. Viewer discretion is advised.