Favourite moments in 2018
Brother’s Wreck by Jada Alberts at Malthouse located you inside a very difficult and unguarded family dynamic,. Taking place during the Darwin build up, it was interrupted with bursts of rage in a powerful performance by Dion William, deep grief just able to be weathered with community, and tough warmth of the auntie kind dispensed by Lisa Flanagan. All finally released as the rain came. Moved and shook me.
Trustees by Belarus Free Theatre at Melbourne Festival and Malthouse. There were moments in this layered work where you had to hold your breath, particularly the charged exchanges between Tammy Anderson and Daniel Schlusser dredging up the underlying colonialism which still snakes between us all and underpins everything in this country. Schlusser stood in for the dominant white men like John Howard and Anderson demanded that we really see her as a black woman comfortable in her own skin and a playwright, while dismissing and tolerating his extravagant and vocal guilt. The sequence that most struck me was driven by Niharika Senapati who started from a very relaxed place but then was able to escalate and carry the whole audience with her exuberance until they were nearly dancing out of their chairs before she was brutally thrown down and oppressed.
Aurum choreographed by Alice Topp, Australian Ballet. Dance so intoxicating that I couldn’t take in enough with my eyes; unlike anything I’ve ever seen the Australian Ballet make.
Nether choreographed by Lauren Langlois for Next Move 11 at Chunky Move. Like witnessing a new language take form and be articulated through the body. (Reminded me of the film Arrival )
Calamity Jane from One Eyed Man, Arts Centre Melbourne. Recklessly hectic, hugely joyous and delightfully queer, though I badly wanted Calamity to make a home with Katie and depart wildly from the original, heteronormative ending! Seeing it again soon when it moves to the Comedy Theatre. Can’t wait!!
The Crucible at VCA directed by Adena Jacobs. They rediscovered the motif of contamination in witchcraft through a design element of something strange and viscous that looked like maple syrup dripping dow; made me apprehend this play in an utterly new way. Potent gender-blind casting too, Sam Rowe as Mary Warren was quite remarkable, as was Lucy Ansell as John Proctor.
The Nightingale & The Rose, by Little Ones Theatre at Theatre Works, for the astonishing dynamic between Jennifer Vuletic as the Nightingale and Yuchen Wang as the Rose; a strange, sexy impossible yearning between an older woman and younger man (which reminded me of Simon Callow’s book Love is Where it Falls)
Strangers in Between by Tommy Murphy at fortyfivedownstairs for Midsumma directed by Daniel Lammin. It felt so much like Sydney in the 90s, so movingly honouring the families we find for ourselves.
I also really dug Morgan Rose’s The Bachelor S17 E5 at Mechanics – totally inspired. I was there crushed in on the closing night and really loved having the space to contemplate the absurdity of the culture of giving the alpha male so much space and pitting all the female-identified characters against him. Will Bride’s absent minded sense of natural entitlement was absolute gold.
Although I worked on both of these last two shows, I can’t keep from sneakily mentioning them as they were amazing pieces of theatre incorporating music and sound in totally new ways.
Dybbuks from Chamber Made at Theatre Works, conceived and directed by Samara Hersch. This layered work was a truly extraordinary and haunting exploration of how we can live with the dead drawing on the Jewish myth of the Dybbuk who possesses a living person and uses their voice to resolve what can never truly be resolved. Incredible vocal and physical improvisation, it was both visually and aurally overwhelming. A truly unique work to experience, it persists in the memory for its complicated beauty and concentrated consideration of difficult, dark and erotic areas of human experience.
Lorelei by Victorian Opera. A feminist opera featuring gorgeous frocks to make Ru Paul drool by Marg Horwell illuminated by Paul Jackson, directed with virtuosic talent and a superb sense of humour and humanity by Sarah Giles, libretto by Casey Benedetto and Gillian Cosgriff and lush, liquid music by Julian Langdon performed brilliantly by literal sirens Ali McGregor, Antoinette Halloran and Dimity Shepherd.
Looking forward to in 2019
Finally getting to see Blackie Blackie Brown at the Malthouse!
Control by Keziah Warner on as part of Red Stitch; I read some earlier drafts so am really interested to see the final work.
The Australian Premiere of Escaped Alone by Caryl Churchill directed by the formidable and phenomenal Jenny Kemp
Also very excited to see Mr Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn at fortyfivedownstairs as I’ve been wanting to see it for a while.
Lady Example by Alice Will and Caroline as I missed it in Next Wave and heard such good things.
Biladurang by Joel Bray sounds really intriguing, performed in a hotel room. I liked his work Dharawungara in Next Move 11.
I’m looking forward to seeing The Selfish Giant for Victorian Opera composed by Simon Bruckard, based on Oscar Wilde’s fairytale.
At MTC, A View From the Bridge directed by Iain Sinclair; heard great things about his production of this play in Sydney.
Also keen to see Golden Shield by Anchuli Felicia King.
And I might be lured back to Arts Centre Melbourne for the return of Merciless Gods.
SM: My favourite thing from Cathy this year is this looking forward to list. A list like this – including shows that are indie, funded, emerging, established, huge, intimate, scripted, developed, adapted, sung, danced – reminds us just how vast and diverse theatre and performance is in Melbourne. If you're looking for a list of shows to see, start here.