16 December 2013

What Melbourne loved in 2013, part 14

Today's moments are from Poet Laureate Telia Nevile, Fringe Laureate Felix Preval and Jordan Prosser, one of the writers of Kids Killing Kids, who was told off by the UN for writing Batallia Royale and popped his Sisters Grimm cherry this year.

Telia Nevile
poet laureate
Photo by Max Mine. I know it's from last Christmas, but how could I resist it.

TELIA: My ultimate show for this year is the Sisters Grimm’s The Sovereign Wife. It just blew me entirely out of the water.  It was truly, utterly, epicly incredible. 

The scope of the show, the vital and deft comedy, the beautiful stage pictures, which leave Tracey Moffat in the dust, the rave scene at the end. It was widescreen, surround sound, technicolour theatre full of detail, nuance, intelligence and humour. I was, and remain, in awe.

Other highlights of the year include:

Post’s appearance at Last Tuesday Society’s Don’s Party. That piece seared itself irrevocably into my brain and while I was half-covering my eyes for a lot of it, its impact was like a freight train.

Nicola Gunn’s In Spite of Myself. Hugely funny and intellectually rigorous; a puzzle box of a theatre show that absolutely fascinated me.

Dan Savage at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. I am a Savage acolyte; he is amazing and articulate and funny and warm, if you don’t already listen to his podcast then download it immediately. 

Pat Burtscher’s show at the comedy festival. Pat’s take on the world around him is a loving vivisection, and although his shows can be a bit shambolic, when he sticks the dismount it is a fierce kind of joy.

And lastly, on a personal note, I am forever grateful for the chance to appear at Women of Letters. The love in that room made my heart swell till it was too big for my chest and I can say with all true sincerity that it was one of the best afternoons I’ve ever had.

SM: Every Poet Laureate Telia Nevile poem is my favourite, but his year's is her performance at Last Tuesday Society’s Don’s Party. She described the Williamson play and its politics with the kind of wit and intelligence that we crave in our writers, while constructing a Coon, Cabana and pickled onion orange. You don't get classier than that.


Felix Preval
Producer, Festival and Artist Services, Melbourne Fringe


FELIX: Given that it’s a full year’s work in the making for me, the Melbourne Fringe Festival is definitely my annual theatre highlight. 2013 was no exception with an incredible array of works from some of Australia’s (and New Zealand's) most exciting emerging artistic talents. My highlights include: They saw a thylacineRun Girl RunHomage to Uncertainty and Black Faggot.

Outside of the Festival, 2013 was a fantastic year for independent theatre with great programs on both sides of the river. If I only had time to gush about one show, it's Sisters Grimm’s The Sovereign Wife for its ambitious scale and sheer audacity. It was one of the best re-tellings of the Great Australian Story ever, as well as provoking near constant, gut-aching laughter and asking a lot of complex and relevant questions about race, sexuality and gender in Australia today. I loved all three hours of it.

SM: The Melbourne Fringe isn't like the Adelaide or the Edinburgh ones. Without big producers trying to make money with proven shows, it's an intimate festival that's still about supporting emerging artists and encouraging artists to take risks with what they make and audiences to take risks with what they see. Felix is often the person who encourages creators and artists to make that first step, to take that risk and to be a part of this festival. I love that.

And see what Felix is looking forward to in 2014 at issimomag.com.

Jordan Prosser
writer, director, member of the Too Many Weapons collective

Photo by Ben Hamey

JORDAN: I think my favourite moment in a theatre in 2013 was during The Rabble's Story of O. I went in having heard all the buzz that it was pretty full on, but I didn't realise how inventive or beautiful the production would be in the depiction of its story; there were moments where I was simultaneously mortified by what was happening on stage, while also revelling in a completely intellectual way at the ingenuity and economy of the theatrical devices at work.

I, and I'm sure a lot of people, have seen the whole gamut of sexual violence in films and shows, more often than not depicted fairly brutally and always quite naturalistically, to the point where you can all-too-easily become numb to it, but The Rabble made it seem more real, and more haunting and sickening than I'd ever imagined possible – using only a bunch of rolling pins and some industrial glad-wrap. And for the most part, everyone was fully clothed.

And the sound design and the fucking script on that thing. Fucking genius.

On the opposite end of the dramatic spectrum, but no less sensational, was Summertime in the Garden of Eden. Having missed out on The Sovereign Wife during the NEON festival (and berating myself for it ever since), I was curious and excited for my Sisters Grimm initiation, and they did not disappoint.

I can't even ... I think ... I think what blew me away about that piece was that it was such an intense clusterfuck of different performative styles, physical and verbal comedy, music, melodrama. There was just so much going on – and yet not once was I ever snapped out of it. It was one of the funniest, sweetest things I've ever seen. I actually could have watched it forever.

Also, The Honeytrap had a really fucking great little show called Scarborough about a teacher-student relationship, where the action was repeated but the genders and roles reversed in the second half. A dead simple premise, but in a beautifully-designed space (I'm glad we're not quite yet done with filling our theatres with sand) and acted pretty flawlessly. It's nice experiencing those plays you would never have read or seen or even heard of if somebody smart hadn't gone out on a limb and programmed it.

And last but not least, I had a fantastic time during MTC's The Beast. There were some really spectacular character performances in there. And I just loved being in that auditorium, surrounded by what you might consider to be your more traditional, mainstagey, MTCish kind of subscriber audience and yet there they all were, absolutely pissing themselves over a joke about fucking a dugong.

The last thing is something I experienced. During the run of our show Kids Killing Kids at Melbourne Fringe, probably the most excellent part of the whole experience was people's immediate reaction to it. And I don't mean reactions in reviews or articles, but rather people physically grabbing us in the bar after the show and sitting down with us, sometimes literally for hours, to talk it through.

I've felt at times like local audiences (Melbourne audiences? Australian audiences? Western audiences? I don't know), while they can be really appreciative of something at the time, maybe lack follow-through; like a sort of what-happens-in-the-theatre-stays-in-the-theatre mentality. But the conversations we were having with people during the Fringe, and even now, proved me wrong. It was very humbling and wonderfully exciting.

SM: Jordon's one of the Kids Killing Kids writers and performers.This show is one of the most favourite of these favourites and created a discussion during the Fringe that I haven't seen before. I was in private and public conversations that ran the gauntlet from "most important piece of theatre ever made" made to "atrocious crap that should never have seen the light of a stage".

I loved this show and I understand every criticism. My moment is easy. I saw it on the opening Friday, before word had got about. I sat in the front row with a very good friend. At the end I hung back to give Glyn (the producer) a hug. My friend went straight outside and I'll never forget the look she gave me when I joined her. I did wonder why she wasn't clapping. No matter what you think about a work, the people next to you are rarely seeing the same show you are.


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