17 December 2014

What Melbourne loved in 2014, part 8

It's an international edition as Karin Muiznieks, Alex da La Rambelje and Yvonne Virsik go travelling.

Karin Muiznieks
cabaret performer and songwriter


Karin: I was invited by a friend to be an extra in a "cabaret video" he was filming. Turns out it was the promotional trailer for the 2014 Adelaide Cabaret Festival. The trailer was being shot in Melbourne, using an entirely Melbourne cast,crew and scenery and heavily featuring artists who live and work in Melbourne. They said that Melbourne had "the right feel" for cabaret. It made me feel kinda triumphant and sad at the same time. It showed me that everybody secretly knows in their hearts that Melbourne is the true centre of cabaret in this country, and yet we are still scrambling to receive the funding and support that other states take for granted.

Why bother shipping out to Adelaide when the soul of cabaret is in Melbourne? I bust my arse to break even here, so I'm also shipping out. See you in 2015, Melbourne. Hopefully, the government and sponsoring bodies will realise what jewels they have in our local scene and not force performers out of town if they want to earn a living.

SM: The Von Muiznieks Family Hoedown was such a surprise. I don't know what I expected, but it surpassed all expectations and created new ones. I laughed myself sick, saw my first bass ukelele and can't believe that they're not being invited to perform everywhere.


Alex da La Rambelje
magician


Alex: My top five theatre experiences in 2014:

5. Max and Ivan, The Reunion (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

Sharp, hilarious and rich with narrative complexities, Max and Ivan's follow up MICF show was my stand out pick from the festival this year. The guys inhabited a myriad of living and breathing characters, and managed to create some moments of genuine pathos at the end. It's always awesome seeing a high-concept theatre/comedy show at the Comedy Festival.

4. Matilda (RSC)

Joyous fun. It felt totally fresh. The musical numbers flowed organically from the narrative, and when the audience started cheering I realised I was watching damn good writing. Melbourne, just you wait.

3. Monsieur Butterfly (Edinburgh Fringe)

This high-concept stand up show had me standing up in anticipation at the final moment. Alex Horne constructed an intricately woven machine of a show that was embodied in the actual, impossibly complex, tangible machine he constructed on the stage. Using balloons, VHS tapes, pool cues, bowling balls, a potato on a zip-line and lots of other randomly drawn common-or-garden items, he created a machine just like the one he’d always wanted to create in his childhood. 

2. Elephant Room (Edinburgh Fringe)

I went to Edinburgh Fringe with the intention of seeing as many magic shows as I could (I clocked up over 10). This show was a standout – a surreal trip that brought magic and theatre together more seamlessly than I have ever seen. The world of the piece was the Elephant Room, a bizarre limbo land inhabited by three "shadows of magic personalities", who seemed to be reliving former glories that belonged to no particular set time or place. The show elevated common conjuring routines above the mundane and set them in a world that was able to frame the illusions as truly magical.

1. Derren Brown, Infamous (Glasgow Theatre)

I’ve spent the last ten years periodically pouring over every live recording, tv special and written word Derren Brown has offered. Seeing him live was a thrill. He truly commanded the stage. I realised how the skillful, dangerous and ballsy performance techniques I had perceived in his recorded work were in every way real. The man is a god.

SM: I watched him do close up card tricks determined to figure it it out. I couldn't. I know how it's done and I can't see him do it.


Yvonne Virsik
director, Artistic Director MUST




Yvonne: I was lucky enough to start the year in New York and saw loads of shows there, but except for Sleep No More and a great King Lear featuring Frank Langella at BAM – I don’t like the play much, but this was simply and exquisitely staged with a galloping pace – my highlights for 2014 have all been in Australia.

Tonelgroep Amsterdam's Roman Tragedies at The Adelaide Festival was a brilliant experience: three “Shakespeares”, extraordinary performances from powerful actors, a set you could move around on and order drinks from and tongue-in-cheek text via an LED screen announcing how long till the next major character died.

At the Melbourne Festival, I found Roslyn Oades’s Hello, Goodbye and Happy Birthday (Malthouse) playful, life-affirming and profoundly affecting, my only quibble the lack of diversity of expression in the 18 year old “stories” chosen.  And One Step at a Time like This’s Since I Suppose  was a rare and rich experience.

Opus from Circa left me enthralled when a lot of the circus pieces disappointed – not just the music and bodies doing extraordinary things, but the intimacy, humanness and moments of real meaning.

Red Stitch’s Grounded was remarkable in all elements. I found the style fascinating – a touch heightened and gestural – but somehow all the more real and engaging for it. Beautiful work from Kate Cole and Kirsten Von Bibra is surely one of our most underrated directors.

The Defence by Chris Dunstan at MKA’s HYPRTXT Festival was brilliant, bold and uncomfortable, playing with gender dynamics and abuse of power, as did Mark Wilson and Olivia Monticciolo’s Richard II (MKA at Melbourne Fringe) – immediacy to gasp for.

The Good Person of Szechuan at Malthouse Theatre was a delight – alive, cheeky, and chaotic, yet surprisingly clear.

Masterclass with Maria Mercedes at forttfivedownstairs was directed by Daniel Lammin with glorious clarity as was his work The Cutting Boys at La Mama.

In Thérèse Raquin at Theatre Works, Gary Abrahams orchestrated an inexorable build in tension. Some of my favourite moments were Thérèse struggling with her hoop skirt with increasing ferocity in the small apartment.

The City They Burned (Attic Erratic) by Fleur Kilpatrick and directed by Danny Delahunty was wonderfully shaped and horrifying. Violence begets violence has never been as palpably realised for me as when the daughters turned on their father in act two.

Other 2014 memorable theatrical moments include:

Bryony Kimmings handing around cups for people to discreetly trim their pubes into during Sex Idiot.

Realising I had learnt a lot about the experience of being on The Autism Spectrum from the student-created Them Aspies in the MUST Season, and having a bit of a cry at my immense pride in their achievement.

Lloyd Jones impassioned introduction and running amok in When the Cream Sinks to the Bottom at La Mama – “Did he really just do that?!”

Experiencing the beautiful, raw but caressing honesty of Jess Gonsalvez’s Naked at the MUST Container Festival.

The cheer when Sarah Hamilton and Justine Campbell‘s They Saw a Thylacine was announced as part of the 2015 Malthouse Season.

The hoot-inducing moments and technical acrobatics of Calpurnia Descending (Sisters Grimm at Malthouse).

Hanging out with the brilliant participants in The MTC Women Director’s Program.

That’s a fair bit, I know and there are heaps I haven’t mentioned. These are just some of my memorable moments and experiences from over 150 shows in 2014.

SM: Yvonne really tried to donate some pubes to Bryony but it was difficult in jeans. I'd forgotten about that; lucky she mentioned it.

I'm blown away every time I see a MUST (Monash University Student Theatre) show. Student unions are brilliant things and the thought of them disappearing as tertiary education becomes all about money is too depressing. My MUST highlight was getting to meet next year's lot at #NotDramaCamp. I'm excited about the theatre they are going to make.

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