playwright, blogger, mentor
|Photo by Matto Lucas|
Fleur: Melbourne theatre is in a really great place right now. On a regular basis I find myself dumbstruck, standing in awe in a theatre foyer, words inadequate to describe what I’ve seen. I saw over 80 shows this year. Here are some of my personal highpoints:
Red Stitch’s Grounded. I wrote of it at the time that it was “outstanding storytelling that immerses us so deeply in one person’s world view that it changes our own”. But I also wrote of the very personal impact this show had on me: “Sitting there and hearing of the brown people made grey by the drone’s cameras, made body-parts by their blasts, and I was acutely aware – although no one would know it to look at me – that these people looked just like my beloved grandmother… I knew this and it tore me to pieces. In showing how America de-humanises both its own and my grandmother’s people, Grounded found humanity for both”.
There was exceptional new writing to be found in Melbourne and Fringe was full of it: Marcel Dorney’s Prehistoric made me want to riot. It was the best possible mix of rage, heart, comedy and music and my heart felt like it was exploding in my chest.
Also during Fringe I saw Emilie Collyer’s Once Were Pirates and Mark Wilson and Olivia Monticciolo’s Richard II (on the same day so that was a total overload of amazingness).
Emilie’s work somehow found a way to present the dilemmas of being “the modern male” through a story about pirates marooned in Northcote: after centuries and centuries in which physical dominance and brutality have been a man’s most desirable attribute, how does one suppress that violence and find their own self-worth in their suit and tie?
Richard II was perhaps the most politically challenging and defiant work I saw all year. I wrote at the time about how proud I was of Mark and Olivia, who “grabbed Shakespeare’s text with their teeth and dragged it into our ugly present. This is independent theatre at its best: vicious, dangerous, entertaining, hilarious and completely of this moment in time”.
But the work that I’ll carry with me into the future, cradled most tenderly to my chest was Roslyn Oades’s Hello, Goodbye, Happy Birthday. I didn’t write about it at the time and still sort of don’t want to. My experience felt too private. Aside from just being utterly swept up by the storytelling and performances, this was one of those shows that changed my perception of what theatre can be: how delicately it can make its point and how tenderly it can give voice to a community.
Thanks Melbourne. I love you.
SM: Fleur wrote The City They Burned. She wasn't there the night I saw it; I wish she had been so that she could've seen that my reaction was deep in my guts and very real. This is also the show I've argued about – professionally and personally – the most about this year. I saw it push known and refuse-to-acknowlegde buttons as it got reactions from "best thing I've seen" to "some things should never be written". I think that's what we want from theatre. I'd rather someone hate a show than think "meh"; at least they felt something real.
And we both mentored at MUST camp. Drama camp was awesome.
And School for Birds, always.
Soren: With a new little one taking up much of our time, I missed more of the good stuff than I got to see this year. But made it along to a few standouts.
Hard to go past the end of year Calpurnia Descending. Powerful cast, hilarious, subversive and the technical elements of the live movie staging of Act 2 blew my mind the more I thought about it. Irreverent, fun and with a deeply-touching final image.
Also the powerful work from MKA with Richard II was very memorable. Intelligent political satire with two compelling performances, and a strip tease from Mark Wilson as Julia Gillard that made me angry, until I realised how not far off the point it was of our treatment of our first female PM. It was topical, with the right balance of classical text and modern satire.
But my favourite moments this year came from when the fourth wall was dropped in some of the things I experienced in theatre this year:
Mark in Richard II dropping all performance and addressing the audience with “They remember Whitlam”
Pop Up Playground's True Romans All, which threw you into the story of Julius Caesar, making you choose a side and meet the characters, and your choices determined the final outcome of the attempted assassination.
Mockingbird’s Quills, which led the audience straight into the asylum of the “lunatics”, which I had the pleasure to observe as assistant director
And finally, the experience of The City They Burned, which fully immersed the audience in the world of Sodom, making them present, validated and, in the end, complicate in the action that was unfolding.
I found with all of these, when the question is asked what can theatre offer in a modern interactive and expanding world of technology, that I could remember these moments of direct human connection between audience and performer, to the point where the audience could influence and help shape what was being experienced in that particular performance and say “This”.
SM: As a performer in The City They Burned, Soren did get to see my reaction, and was responsible for some of it. Soren is an actor who consistently creates characters from the inside out. I don't see his acting. As the cast of City interacted with the audience, there was a moment when I was hiding on a staircase in case someone asked me to dance. Soren's character was someone I wouldn't normally chat to at a party and when he came towards me, I had no where to hide, so had to give in and do what I was asked to. All we did was move to another part of the room. He also saved my theatre date by moving her to a less-confronting spot.
It's much easier for me to think of my worst moments in theatre of 2014. That time I thought a show was a comedy and it wasn't. The time I thought the show I was in didn't exist. The times I was hurt by shows and times when I hurt myself because of my inability to sit still and just enjoy something.
The best moments are:
5) I took myself on a solo date to see Miley Cyrus. I wore Sally Hansen Airbrush Fake Tan and drank pink champagne and danced in new shoes next to teenagers. Miley was funny and fearless and clever and so was the show. She tried to get all the girls in the audience to kiss each other and I cried of happiness. Then she sang "Wrecking Ball" and I cried because that song is really moving and I had a difficult break up last year where I listened to Miley on repeat. When I left the show a young girl yelled out "Lady Gaga" and she was talking about me.
4) During the Melbourne Fringe I went on an OK Cupid date with someone I didn't really want to meet to see a show I didn't really want to see. I cancelled on the date. Then I uncancelled. On the way I got in a fight with someone on the street who then started following me. But I couldn't be happier I went. The show was Post-Mortem and I loved every moment of it. It was gentle and touching and sad and sweet and other words to describe a show with no words. I wish everyone could've seen it. I hope they do it again and more. It took me in to another world and I am so thankful for it. It was untouched and original and genuine. The date turned out to be pretty lovely too although he's a bit of a jerk really. I think he doesn't really like me as a person.
3) Crazy Horse Paris. I went to Crazy Horse in Paris. It was life affirming and probably my favourite thing I have ever seen ever. There’s also Crazy Horse on Elizabeth Street. I went to the cinema there the other night. I really like it there.
2) Everything about Tobi Manderson-Galvin. Thank You, Thank You Love was exceptional and his best work to date as an actor/writer/director. My favourite Tobi moment is being in Bundanon and looking at wombats and writing songs together. We wrote a really good song about the internet being broken and then replaced the word internet with the name Antoinette: "Antoinette, why are you broken again?" My second favourite Tobi moment of 2014 is when we both went to Live Art Camp and I was terrified the entire time and kept crying but he looked after me. We played a getting to know you game on one of the days. We had to say what we couldn't live with out and I said, "my brother".
1) The Facebook message sent to me by someone in Melbourne Theatre Land telling me I *used* to be a pleasant and likeable girl. I cried for a long time but it's now my favourite thing that has happened all year. If you come and see Being Dead (Don Quixote) chances are that message will have made it in to the show. A woman never has to be pleasant.
**Honourable mention to the other night when I went to a show and asked my date if my hair was as long as the actor's on stage. My date said my hair is longer. That makes me really happy.
But my moment was her sending me the picture of her being a wombat because I would have chosen that very photo from all of her Facebook pics.