11 December 2014

What Melbourne loved in 2014, part 5

Today, we're hearing from other reviewers: Jane Howard, Myf Clark and Kevin Turner, and Jane gives us the three words that all reviewers should have o a sticky note stuck on their computer "passionate, detailed, intelligent".

Jane Howard

Self portrait with dog by Jane Howard

Jane: Since this blog is filled with moments in the theatre, I’ve picked one that came after the theatre. Jordan Beth Vincent’s review of HEX for DanceTabs is the sort of criticism I aspire to write: passionate, detailed, intelligent.

It’s impossible to succinctly summarise her review. She looks at the difficulty galleries and art critics had confronting work about HIV/AIDS in the late 80s and early 90s; she makes us consider how different contemporary dance would be today if so many dancers and choreographers hadn’t died from the disease; she looks over the history Welsby and his collaborators used to create the work; she shows incredible knowledge of the independent dance scene in Melbourne; and, of course, she takes us through the piece itself with a precise dance vocabulary.

I’m very lucky to be constantly learning from and inspired by other critics in Australia and internationally, but it’s the Melbourne critics I keep coming back too. Through their work, I am given an understanding of a cultural scene I am all to often watching from afar, but most importantly I learn more about my craft – while having wonderful friends in them, too.

This piece, in particular, inspired me to work harder. Jordan had a much larger word-count than I did for the production, but even then I couldn’t have begun to write a review as detailed and knowledgeable as hers. One day, I will. In the meantime, I’m very glad there are critics like her I can look up to.

SM: We have a pretty fine group of arts writers and critics in Melbourne and I'm not the only one who considers Jane one of ours. She's passionate and articulate and she cares, and she reads reviews from all over the place. She showed me this review site, which makes me smile so much that the only reason I didn't steal the idea is that it's one of the first review sites I show students and emerging writers when we talk about finding your voice. As for a favourite moment: It was in Adelaide where we had brunch at Lucias and I almost forgot that I haven't known Jane for years.

Myf Clark

Myf: My favourite show of the year was definitely Bucket’s List in Melbourne Fringe. Written by Sarah Collins and directed by Yvonne Virsik, this beautiful and touching production had me run through the gamut of emotions and I was definitely struggling to hold back tears by the end of the show. I honestly can’t wait to see what Sarah creates next.

The MTC Neon season once again was a highlight of the year. Seeing so many people I know be involved made my day, especially Kerith Manderson-Galvin. I will see everything Kerith is in because she is amazing. A particular image stuck in my mind was the breathtaking sight of Nicola Gunn slowly coming down from the tower of mattresses in the terrific Green Screen, while it was fantastic to see Angus Cerini on the stage again, after so many years, in Resplendence.

Workwise, I loved watching the first year students from my work perform in their end of year showcase With You, Alone at Theatre Works. The last scene was just a sublime and magical moment filled with blue lights, slow dancing and a beautiful rendition of Nat King Cole’s “Smile”. Simple and stunning

Other highlights of the year included experiencing Adelaide Fringe for the first time, seeing Juliette Burton’s wonderful When I Grow Up twice at MICF (because once just wasn’t enough!), having a gleeful squeal at the Buffy references in Keith Gow’s terrific Who Are You Supposed to Be?, feeling incredibly proud of Sarah Hamilton and Justine Campbell’s They Saw a Thylacine (my 2013 theatre highlight!) being programmed into the 2015 Malthouse program.

And finally getting to put many faces to names of people I’ve previously only know from online, include Anne-Marie herself! To sum up, 2014 gave me some of the most beautiful and touching pieces of theatre that I’ve ever seen (and many hilarious nights out). Bring on 2015!

SM: Myf and I had followed each other on Twitter and finally met during the Fringe, I think it was after a conversation about the ever wonderfulness of Buffy and our love of Bucket's List. 

Kevin Turner
reviewer, theatre maker

Kevin: I really had no idea what to say when I asked myself what my favourite moments of 2014 theatre were. But when I thought about it, moments started to clarify. They centred around getting caught up in the action. Audiences sweeping the performance up and carting it to heights it could never have otherwise achieved.

The first occurred during True Romans All, a pervasive street game inspired by Julius Caesar. Pop-Up Playground, Melbourne's resident makers of awesome situations, worked in conjunction with Bell Shakespeare to bring the Romans of Shakespeare's play to the streets of Melbourne.

I was lucky enough to be one of the facilitators assisting the company in making sure that the players had the best possible experience. Three quarters of the way through every run through, there came the point where the members of the audience I supervised were brought to meet the man himself: Julius Caesar. No matter the group, high school students or adults, the moment became charged with power, and from that moment on even the least interested audience member got caught up in the action.

From that moment onwards there was no controlling the audience. They made their way to Treasury Gardens with a sense of desperation. They made up chants like "Spqr we know who our leaders are hail Ceasar" and "Hey Caesar your so fine, your so fine you blow my mind. Hail Ceasar". In that moment every actor got caught up in the flow, even as the objective facilitator I was positive we were going to win and Caesar would survive. It was magical and it was powerful and it was terrifying. It was exactly the awesome situation Pop-Up promise to deliver.

The second moment of audiences sweeping a performance away came earlier in the year during the Fresh Air Festival. Pop-Up Playground and Serious Business together created one of the flagship games of the festival: Spirits Walk. Players travelled around Melbourne communing with "Spirits" and acquiring tokens that were used to create a mask that let them infiltrate and take part in the spirits walk. A parade through Federation Square, where we hollered and hooted, danced and jigged. It was one of the most magical moments I have ever been a part of. Helped also by it being the first Pop-Up Playground game I got to play not having had anything to do with its creation.

On the main stage my love was split between two shows. The Good Person of Szechwan at the Malthouse was batshit, bugfuck insane and gave no apologies for the madness we witnessed on stage. It was refreshing and joyous. I sat there with a giggle on my lips and a grin on my face.

Finally I got to see Once, one of my favourite stories/movies to come out of my home country. My response to this was simple, I was so happy I cried. I think that say's it all.

SM: As Kevin's review editor, I've had the joy of seeing his writing and his critical eye develop over the last year as he's found his voice. And he puts up with me telling him to use less words, kill adjectives and trust his subtext. As for a moment: him showing me what he did to Rob and Sayraphim's (from Pop up Playground) car after their wedding/performance/live-art/celebration.

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