20 December 2014

What Melbourne loved in 2014, part 9

And with Bon Batten, Rhys Auteri and me, it's time to farewell Melbourne's favourite moments for 2014.

What I Loved in 2014 will be up on Monday.

Bron Batten
I don't know how to describe what she does, but it's fucking awesome

Bron: There was heaps of stuff I loved this year (contrary to the popular belief that I hate everything), Green Screen as a part of Neon, Oedipus Schmoedipus at Belvoir, Calpurnia Descending  at The Malthouse and Have I No Mouth at the Melbourne Festival.

Credible, Likeable, Superstar, Role model at Theatre Works was bloody astounding and I left the show feeling like I'd been kicked in the chest. Touching, funny, real and relevant.

Other good stuff was Tessa Waters's Womanz, Trygve Wakenshaw’s Kraken at Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Dr Professor Neal Portenza makes me laugh a lot and watching Adrienne Truscott's Asking for It and Zoe Coombs Marr's remount of Dave kicking the comedy world in the balls.

And witnessing a small, balding David Sedaris sell out Hamer Hall by literally reading from an A4 piece of paper made me really happy because you just can't predict what people are going to like.

SM: There was the anaconda at Last Tuesday Society's YouTube Comment Orchestra, the look on her face when I told her that I liked Marzo, but it has to be the moment in the Use Your Illusion (NO, not "that" moment) when we realised that the hypnotist was an actor.

Rhys Auteri
writer, musician, possum

Rhys: I wrote a first draft of this and it was far too long, going into too many shows – even after seeing under 50 shows for the year, my lowest attendance for many years. As such, I’ve heard of at least half a dozen shows that sounded like I missed something special, but oh well.

Sisters Grimm’s Calpurnia Descending  again made me suspect that they write their scripts in bold and underline, possibly scrawled in lipstick and adorned with stickers. Hilarious and razor sharp, clever, it indulged in its own delightful vacuity to find surprising moments of emotion and revelation. Its use of live video and other media was brilliantly executed and helped the Sisters Grimm continue to develop the theatricality of their work to match their pointed writing and perfectly over-pitched performances. The image of Paul Capsis climbing a staircase to nowhere, draped in a green screen of lost possibilities was mesmerising.

My highlight of the Melbourne Festival was Circa’s fantastic Opus. Their ability to transform the skills of circus into a touching and vast language of dance was revelatory and brought an array of new ideas to an ancient craft. There were lots of tumbles and lifting and jumping, but these spectacles of strength were presented not for their own sake but pitted towards a higher visual aesthetic of movement. Basically I felt pretty fat and unfit after watching this – I’m not entirely sure this wasn’t their whole plan.

Nicola Gunn once again delighted with Green Screen – playful, engaging, maddening, confusing and crystal clear all at once. Gunn is fearless in her exploration and use of theatrical language to say what cannot be put merely into words. A teacher of mine once commented that great theatre was like a dream, an intense unforgettable experience that nonetheless proves difficult to explain to those who were not present. The image of Gunn riding a slowly deflating thrown of air mattresses seemed at once courageous, ridiculous and omnipotent.

I was fortunate enough to catch Jono Wants a Wife at the Fringe. It was an unassuming piece that really delivered. Jonathan Burns’s confessional solo piece gave a rare glimpse of the vulnerable male journeying from awkward adolescence to heartbreak and often self-loathing – romantic, inept, confused, ashamed and predatory. The woman I saw it with found it a revelatory insight into the male of the species:  “I didn’t realise that men think like that” (or something to that effect). It was a brave, warts-and-all performance, perfect “poor theatre” storytelling.

Melbourne favourites Blue Grassy Knoll premiered their new score to Buster Keaton’s The General. Their ability to transform the crowd into a raucous mess of cheers and boos transport you back to the days and spirit of silent cinema. If you think you might like to get into Keaton – this is the way to do it.

And finally, I caught a few hours of the 52 hours straight improfest that was Little Soap on the Prairie. This completely improvised durational saga featured fantastic character work and storytelling that ran the gamut from absurd and silly to heartbreaking and poignant. It’s easy to dismiss a work like this as somehow “lesser” than similar durational works by “serious” theatre groups like Lone Twin, Forced Entertainment or Nature Theatre of Oklahoma. But this was not merely an exercise of self-indulgent theatre games. The ability of the performers to plumb the depths of fascinating characters, while creating an epic and engaging story was pretty magical. I will always remember the murder of Constance (played by Jenny Lovell) in the final hours of the show. As her murderer crept towards her – hands outstretched to make a gun - you could sense the tension in the performers and the audience. There were actual gasps as the murderer shouted ‘bang, bang’ and pulled the trigger. This moment was about as simple as playing on stage gets, yet it was one of the most powerful things I witnessed this year.

Other shows I loved this year included Therese Raquin, Applespiel Make a Band and Take on the Recording Industry, The Government Inspector, Neighbourhood Watch, Single White Slut, Sex Idiot and Marzo.

SM: The first time the possum hissed in Bucket's List.

Anne-Marie Peard

Photo by Sarah Collins

A-M: Some of my favourite moments this year were in Live Art experiences. There was the small group experience of Yana Alana snuggling into my chest, with six of us on her bed, in In Bed With Yana Alana; asking a stranger if I could stick a label on her and take her photo in Take the Call;  the unexpected joy of making a band with Sam Halmarack & the Miserablites; and writing a very bad poem in bed with my cat for A Day Like Every Other.

But the one I'll never forget is The Rest is Silence: the 4 am encounter at The 24-Hour Experience. I wasn't well and I was so close to going home at 5 pm, but I wanted to go to the forensic morgue. There were no actors: it was just the staff running through what they do when a body comes into the Homicide Room (crime and accident victims) and then showing us how they harvest tissue. And the staff then sat and talked to some of us – at 5 am – about their jobs. It was the most real, fascinating and honest encounter I had seeing arts events this year.

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