15 December 2014

What Melbourne loved in 2014, part 7

Richard Watts, Cassanda Fumi and Tobias Manderson-Galvin share their favourite shows today.

Richard Watts
arts journalist

Richard: At the start of 2014, I made a vow to myself to cease constantly and consistently burning the candle at both ends. Consequently I’ve only seen 112 live performances across various genres this year (so far – there’s another few to try and squeeze in before Christmas!) but I’ve also avoided the debilitating, lingering lurgies that had regularly laid me up for weeks at a time the last few years running.

Consequently, despite missing out on some apparently excellent productions as a result of pulling things back a notch (e.g. The Rabble’s Frankenstein and Grounded at Red Stitch), I still managed to see some mad, magnificent and moving productions in 2014. Here are the highlights of the year that was:

From Adelaide, Gravity and Other Myths staged the single best circus production I’ve seen all year at Northcote Town Hall, as part of the City of Darebin’s Speakeasy program. A Simple Space wasn’t just exhilarating, intimate and a bravura demonstration of fine-tuned human physicality, it was also a glorious display of circus as art, and an evolution of that form that was the perfect counterbalance to the corporate Euro-pudding blandness of juggernauts like Cirque du Soleil.

Also at Northcote Town Hall, Elbow Room’s Prehistoric lit up my synapses and set my heart racing like no other show in 2014. Infused with a punk sensibility, it was vibrant and alive, it was also a knowing, insightful and carefully crafted work that managed to be simultaneously nostalgic and utterly of the moment; everything that indie theatre should be, and more.

Bryony Kimmings’s Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model at Theatre Works was not only a continued demonstration of producer Dan Clarke’s astute eye for programming the brightest and best, but also a marvellous, insightful, deeply moving and empowering exploration of life in our modern world. Without doubt the most affecting production I saw this year.

Finally, my single best show of the year: Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s Roman Tragedies at Adelaide Festival. Six hours of Shakespeare in Dutch, with English surtitles. Going into this show I was full of dread. Coming out of it, I was envious of those audience members who would be experiencing it in the following days, and would have killed a Liberal Party politician to see it again. Exquisite acting, a thunderous and dramatic live score, inspired direction by Ivo van Hove, and intelligent and nuanced use of multimedia and social media – as well as giving the audience the opportunity to not only move around the auditorium at regular intervals but to actually take to the stage – made this one of the most memorable productions I have any seen anywhere in my 47 years. Fuck it was good. If it ever comes to Melbourne – or anywhere else in Australia for that matter – DO NOT MISS IT.

Honourable mentions: The Worst of Scottee at Theatre Works; Bryony Kimmings’s Sex Idiot at Melbourne International Comedy Festival; Trygve Wakenshaw’s Kraken at Melbourne International Comedy Festival; Ray Chong Nee’s performances in The Motion of Light in Water and Jumpers for Goalposts; Caroline Lee and Maude Davey in MKA’s The Trouble with Harry, and Lachlan Philpott’s beautiful, poetic script; Carousel Des Moutons at Melbourne Festival; Big hArt’s Hipbone Sticking Out at Melbourne Festival; and Sisters Grimm’s Calpurnia Descending at the Malthouse.

SM: Richard’s been hosting Smart Arts on RRR for ten years: that’s a lot of pretty amazing moments. I can’t imagine Melbourne’s theatre and arts scene without Smart Arts. Richard always asks great questions and from his choice of music to his guests, he’s one of the greatest advocates and supporters of independent theatre, music, artists and creators in Melbourne. Buy him a drink when you see him.

Cassandra Fumi
arts editor, theatre maker

Photo by Sarah Walker

Cass: When I think of 2014 it's green! Green Screen was the standout work for me. I loved the delicateness and vulnerability of this piece. It was a Nicola Gunn show unlike other Nicola Gunn shows, but then oh so much a Nicola Gunn show (does that make sense?).

I also loved Bron Batten’s Use Your Illusion that was part of Field Theory. I thought it was a clever, engaging piece. My presence as an audience member was really needed, not only to be hypnotised but also to go on a journey with Batten. Oh yeah, I totes bought into the hypnosis thang.

I also adored Calpurnia Descending; the dancing rat made me laugh. Ugly laugh. Like Dawson’s ugly cry. This work made me think, whilst having a great, entertaining time at the theatre. I also went to Katy Perry a few nights later and – yes, yes! – Katy also had a rat on stage. The gift that keeps giving.

SM: I so nearly had a Live Art moment with Cass at the Melbourne Fringe, but it turned into a very individual live art moment because I missed her by seconds. (Bloody burger that took forever that I ate  as I ran to be on time – and it wasn’t even nice.)

Tobias Manderson-Galvin

Tobi: My best top 5:

5) Perth's Fringe World. That was a really great fringe festival. It may be the best in the world right now. Supportive core staff, varied curated and non-curated spaces, selection of hub areas, a real cool artist bar, great audiences, beautiful design. I can't give this festival a better rap. It is the best. Fuck you Adelaide and Melbourne, do we need to call an ambulance – and any other Australian fringe you don’t really exist, get over it.

4) Luke Devine's The Land Than Time Forgot (Melbourne Fringe, Hares & Hyenas). Luke in nothing but a black tee, white 'away' shorts, and holding a hot pink notebook, tells the story of growing up in Tasmania. This better happen again. If you missed it. Whooo boy. You missed it.

3) Inventing a festival with MKA massive and primarily Mr John Kachoyan. Calling it HYPRTXT. It having almost nothing to do with the internet. Doing a show in it that also didn’t really have anything to do with the internet. My new pal John Kachoyan reading in the show on the final night. JK also doing a reading of his solo show. Just everyone involved in all of that. Like Jenn Taylor. Like people from the Gong. A playwright from Finland. All of you/them!

2) Kerith Manderson-Galvin's commissioned work for Union House Theatre Don’t Bring LuLu. I went more than once. I gather that for a while there people thought Kerith was a pseudonym I'd made up, but she's actually my sister. I think for a while there, people thought she was my sister but she's also herself and that's a thing too. But she is my sister too, so obvs i'll deck you if you don't like her shows. And this was a great show. Really a show more than a play. There has not been another script like it. Not here not anywhere. If you haven’t read it, you should find a way. It better have another life. Meanwhile i guess you could just see Being Dead (Don Quixote), her next show in Midsumma in January.

1) Big thanks to Stephen Armstrong and the Arts Centre who were part of hosting IETM/Asian Satelite Meeting and Lab in Melbourne.

Also a special mention of something bad/good so far: my podcast with Kerith has only had two episodes because a bunch of data got deleted and then I was without internet for weeks/also without a credit card for a month and a half and lost my account. So anyway.... Jolly Good Radio returns sometime when I'm rich and the gods smile upon us.

SM: Every moment with Tobias is a moment, but my favourite was watching his mum watch him in his Thank You Thank You Love (HYPRTXT).

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