In 1909 Maxim Gorky wrote Vassa Zheleznova, a savage comedy about a Russian family at war over money, entitlement and the march of progress. But Vassa Zheleznova also relates to one of the great Australian themes: how we hauled ourselves out of our working class past and set out on the road to a relaxed and comfortable future.

Jonathan Gavin is one of Australian playwriting’s best-kept secrets. The Business is his transplantation of Gorky’s wonderful monster into the engine room of modern Australia: the small business.

Our central character is a woman who grew up poor, clawed her way out, and built an empire in the outer suburbs. But her salad days in middle Australia are under threat. The world is accelerating into the future, her husband is on his last legs, and the kids smell blood. Now is the time for a spectacular generational showdown over who gets the prize.

Following her charismatic turn in Gethsemane in 2009, Sarah Peirse returns to Belvoir to play the redoubtable matriarch of The Business. Cristabel Sved makes her directorial debut Upstairs with this gripping family battle which asks what all the hard work is for.


Kate Box
Grant Dodwell
Thomas Henning
Jody Kennedy
Russell Kiefel
John Leary
Sarah Peirse
Samantha Young


Writer Jonathan Gavin
Based on Vassa Zheleznova by Maxim Gorky
From a literal translation by Karen Vickery
Director Cristabel Sved
Set Designer Victoria Lamb
Costume Designer Stephen Curtis
Lighting Designer Verity Hampson
Composer & Sound Designer Max Lyandvert
Dramaturg Eamon Flack
Stage Manager Mark Lowrey
Assistant Stage Manager Edwina Guinness



…a rambunctious and riveting production.

Gary Smith | The Daily Telegraph

…seriously entertaining night of bourgeois bashing. I loved it.

Diana Simmonds | Stage Noise

In working from Gorky’s Vassa Zheleznova, Jonathan Gavin has created a play that is his own, one finely realised by his collaborators and, sadly, a play for and of our times.

Keith Gallasch | Real Time