18 December 2013

What Melbourne loved in 2013, part Tobias

Some described their favourite moments of 2013 with a mere few sentences, but MKA's Tobias Manderson-Galvin has seen too much long-form theatre this year.

Tobias Manderson-Galvin
Creative Director, MKA

TOBI: Professor Lenore Mandeson gave the opening keynote address at the Australian Theatre Forum (in Canberra) with her colleague, futurist Kristin Alford. It had nothing explicitly to do with theatre and it was wonderful to think about theatre in relation to something else/everything else. One of the highlights was Lenore riffing on Brecht's Threepenny Opera and miming swinging a plastic bag of shit above her head and then throwing said pretend bag in our general direction as a part of her description of conditions in South African slums, but really as a part of a bigger critique of the culture we're more directly a part of.

Also turning up each day to the forum and discovering she and I had worn matching outfits yet again, a sort of superficial confirmation of the synchronicity in having my medical anthropologist mother as the headline act at a peak industry event in my current field. It was like bring your son to work day, which was actually lots of days. If anyone ever wants to know about Giddens or Weber, I've been going to lectures since I was six months old.

Being Dead (Don Quixote) was my favourite show this year, hands down no questions asked. It was Kerith Manderson-Galvin's reworking of a classic book she didn't read via Kathy Acker's reworking of the same text (who knows if she read it or not).

Kerith spearheaded the work but Soma Garner and Amy Lever-Davidson pulled off some design coups. It was only on for two nights in a university, so if you missed it well ok I guess you didn't have much of a chance – but when it returns, make sure you get a ticket or you will be missing one of the most genuinely accomplished works of queer theatre made in years.

I don't know if Kerith'd call it that, but it was that. I've noticed that 2013 was a big year (maybe the last few years even) for calling shows 'queer' or 'feminist' or 'theatre', whether they were any of these things or not. I think this is all them.

A Supple Beauty. When asked, Kerith (from Part 4) also mentioned this as one of her favourite moments and even though Mark (from Part 8) didn't, I'm sure he thought it. MKA went to the Adelaide Fringe and didn't really have the best time audience wise. (We took three shows, one averaged an audience of perhaps 25 a night and the others averaged three to four). So, when I saw there was an anarchic, cabaret/variety night at 3.00 in the afternoon on a Saturday, we were first in line to get on the bill.

The night before the performance Alexis Dubus (aka Marcel Lucont), a burlesque darling (who wishes to remain unnamed) and me were thrown out of the Fringe Club for taking our clothes off on the dance floor to Nelly's "Hot in Here" (a DJ coincidence, as we were getting naked anyway in an effort to promote the event). On the day of the show, Mark Wilson, Kerith and I performed totally naked, save for a leather belt I kept on, and we deconstructed the only State Theatre Company of South Australia show we saw all year.

Kerith did a death scene that went for about 20 minutes. Mark performed a harrowing edited version of the Beethoven inspired Tolstoy novella The Kreutzer Sonata re-written by himself, and I played Chris Brown and Rihanna songs. And why not. Then we spent about six minutes doing a Q&A with ourselves and drinking bottled water. Apologies for not inviting you Geordie Brookman, but, fair warning, we'll be back.

Einstein on the BeachI saw it two nights in a row. First night, apologies to Andrew Fuhrmann who I went with, I was fidgety and bored. I wanted to be a hero, so I didn't take a break in its 4.5 hours and had a less than great time. Yet, slit my wrists and draw a hot bath, I went back the next night and only left the room for four minutes – because that's how long it takes to take the piss you planned in advance and they know that bit is a little less interesting – but when I realised I'd mistimed and the first ballet had started, I raced back to my seat because this show is in a league (albeit a sort of vintage museum league) of its own. I spent weeks singing "Knee Play 3".

Life and Times. Not only being there, but that they made all the burgers for the audience themselves and we all watched it and it took like 10 hours and Kerith didn't go to her 10-year high school reunion so she could see it (and she went to the most elite girls school in Victoria, not me I went to a public school and even that I got expelled from and then went to another public school, but enough) and Lenore asked Kerith and I to dinner with her and Pat Galvin and also invited Nature Theatre's Pavol and Kelly and wait, omg, I haven't even started telling you about how I got four free VIP tickets and went to a Limp Bizkit concert and got soft tissue damage, tearing my cartilage and ligaments around my spine, sternum and ribs from moshing like I was 17/partying like it was 1999/doing it all for the nookie and that Fred Durst was like "nice jacket dude'" to me and I break danced while I was crowd surfing!!! As in: on people's heads!!! And how when MKA took The Economist to Brisbane Powerhouse for World Theatre Festival there was a girl who came late one night and stood in the back row and was wearing what seemed to be a Norwegian flag as a skirt and she was the perfect image of what I always imagined the lead lady role would be (though it's always been played inimitably by Marcus McKenzie) and then I met her by chance in the basement of the theatre and she had the same name as the character and Kerith didn't believe she even existed and thought maybe I was having another episode but we're friends on Facebook now, so that's as real as it get. And then, oh, working with Shian Law on Psycho for Balletlab was the start of a dream come true – my return to ballet which isn't really theatre, is it?  and this is about theatre isn't it? And also you know Katie Noonan, well she's beautiful isn't she? Have you ever seen her perform? And then there was that time – no I – but maybe that's not what's important now but I don't want to leave anything out in this at all. Not one bit.

SUN from Melbourne Festival was really my favourite theatrical work of 2013. Metal. A dance corps. A pastoral setting. I hadn't seen Political Mother (the companies previous work), so ok some say that was better, whatever, I don't know, this was fuckiing excellent.

And an honourable mention to when Kerith and I snuck into the ska gig at the Festival Club (The Caribs et al) and, to a song called "No More" in which the refrain was "I''ll cry no more tears for you/over you" (or something), the guitarist (about 80 years old) cried throughout. Kerith still isn't sure what ska is and though she does know who Reel Big Fish are, this was a moment of classic half a century old music and a moving performance.

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

SM: My moment: proofing/editing the above.

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