17 December 2013

What Melbourne loved in 2013, part 15

What Melbourne loved is nearly over.

But today's a goody with a crooner Mikelangelo, critic Chris Boyd an writer Fleur Kilpatrick.

Artist, Entertainer, Impresario

Mikelangelo: My favourite moment in 2013 was being asked to be Santa at the PBS Switched on Twistmas last weekend at Bella Union. They said you can go without the beard and comb your hair into your best quiff, then gave me the most lush velvet santa suit one could imagine. I never had any particular desire to be Santa, but posing for photos with a bevy of excitable men and women over the course of the evening truly did put me in the spirit for Christmas.

Often the best theatre is that which is found in life, and I certainly got theatre au naturale in spades on that velvet evening.

What Mikelangelo is looking forward to in 2014 at issimomag.com.

SM: Could it really be a year in which I wasn't serenaded by Mikel? Come on 2013, that's not good enough. But we crossed paths in the Arts Centre one afternoon. He was at a Melbourne Music Week conference, I was at the Melbourne  Ring Cycle. Such music extremes, but all in the one place and all loved – and neither of us could consider reaching a Wagnerian high C.

Chris Boyd

CHRIS: Favourite theatre moment. Hmm. Most of mine have already been mentioned. (You know who you are!)

I think it was Jane Howard (from Part 2) who said that the shows that blow your mind – that leave you not knowing what you think – rarely end up in posterity’s junk pile.  They usually turn out to be highlights of your year, of your life. My Melbourne Festival was ruined (in a good way) by one the first festival shows I saw.

M+M was like a supernova that made everything that followed invisible. It shut me down like one of those unkillable little SvcHst.exe files that hog 99% of cpu time when you’re on a deadline.

Room of Regret caused a similar kind of flash-blindness, but in a single evening. It started with a tiny supernova and most of what followed was barely visible. I liked being veiled, especially in a show with audience participation. And I’m pretty good with the role playing thing. So, when I ended up in a confessional-sized room with an equally veiled actor, I played my part ... even though I felt like a Big Brother inmate, sure that everything I did was visible in the dark! Anyway, my anonymous lover for a minute or two turned out to be Emily Milledge (from Part 13), who gave one of the most sustained, most raw and intense performance I saw this year.

But my fave moment of the year came in the dying scene of Das Rheingold, the first opera in the Melbourne Ring Cycle. When the squad of rainbow showgirls pranced on with their feather wings for the finale, I recognised Benjamin Hancock in the front ranks. I doubt than many noticed there was a cuckoo in the nest. When I emailed Opera Australia just to check it was Ben, they politely denied it. Mocked the suggestion even with a “we're pretty sure all the showgirls are girls”.  You know, “brackets, dickhead, close brackets”. It looked like the denial was going to be the story.  (I got a groveling apology a day or two later.) Anyway, I felt weirdly proud: for Ben, for director Neil Armfield, for Opera Australia.

I loved loved loved what the Sisters Grimm did with the gender- and race-blind casting in The Sovereign Wife too. It helped them reach the highest and most dizzying euphoric peak of 2013.

SM: The hard-core reviewers see a lot of each other. If I'm at an opening night and Chris isn't there, I wonder what I'm missing.

I'm often in awe of newspaper reviewers because they usually have to file hours after seeing a show. To be awake at 3 am (after opening night drinks) is a skill; to be articulate and intelligent and not make typos, swear or confess undying lust to a performer is an art.

Chris has been reviewing since the 80s. That's longer than some of the people he now reviews have been alive. And  every one of those shows is stored somewhere in his memory.

I read his reviews (The Australian), especially for shows I haven't seen. In relatively few words, he consistently gives an evocative picture of the work and an honest opinion, and tends to throw in an obscure fact that helps to understand the piece or a metaphor that the artists will be quoting for years. (I mean, "M+M was like a supernova that made everything that followed invisible."!)

He inspires me to write better, or at least to not settle for the obvious adjective.

He also fights for independent theatre to get mainstream reviews.

Fleur Kilpatrick
writer, director

FLEUR: A highlight for me was MTC’s NEON Festival. It wasn’t even about the individual shows (although Schlusser’s Menagerie had me hyperventilating). Rather, it was about seeing the MTC really embrace what it is that makes our hometown so vibrant and unique. It was truly affirming and, regardless of the recent controversy, I was so, so proud of our community.

Giving standing ovations was another highlight. They feel so good. I gave four this year and each time it was such a joyful celebration. I love loving theatre. I love telling people how much I love their theatre. This year I stood for Matilda (in London), Einstein on the Beach, The Shadow King (Malthouse) and Sun (Melbourne Festival). These were all big shows. They urged me to leap out of my seat. The sheer scale demanded my entire height.

But there was other shows I loved no less that I had to love quietly. I had to sit with them. Tommy Bradson’s Sweet Sixteen or The Birthday Party Massacre, They saw a thylacine and Jon Bennett’s My Dad’s Deaths all left their mark on me. A reading of Patrick McCarthy’s Grief and the Lullaby also made the cut. The actors stood with scripts in hand and I was still shaking with sobs. I can’t wait to see Patrick’s work grow.

Personally, 2013 has been an incredible year for me. Returning to university to work with Raimondo Cortese and Rob Reid has thrilled me and has helped me find my voice not only as a playwright but as an arts writer. I’ve so very much enjoyed writing about theatre not as a reviewer but as an artist responding to the work I love with consideration and relish.

SM: Read Fleur's blog. Bookmark it and go back to it a lot. It's called School for Birds. It's passionate and her arts writing is an artist responding to what she loves.

When I feel my own writing slipping into formula, Fleur's writing reminds me to be passionate and to show that I care about what's happening on a stage – even when the pieces didn't fit together for the artists who made it.

She reminds us all to go into every show wondering what it's going to give us, wondering if it's going to be one of those shows that changes your life, and, at the very least, respecting the people who created it for you.

Her own theatre writing is pretty cool, too. My favourite moment was the look on her face when I said that she's one of the few people who can over write and I love for doing so. I could see her brain trying to figure out if it was a compliment or an insult. It was a compliment.

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