20 December 2016

What Melbourne Loved in 2016, part 14

Today we hear from actor and singer Petra Elliot and two of the biggest supporters advocates for the arts in Melbourne: arts writers Myron My and Rohan Shearn.

Myron My
reviewer, best dressed of all the reviewers

Myron My

MM's favourite moments in Melbourne theatre in 2016: Rather than talk about shows I loved, I really want to talk about shows that made me feel things that I don't normally feel or thoughts I had not considered before. To begin with, Backstage in Biscuitland really made me think about how we all need to work towards inclusivity in the arts, and not just performers or theatre makers, but as audience members as well. Similarly, Jodee Mundy and Deafblind artists Heather Lawson and Michelle Stevens's Imagined Touch had a strong response from me in terms of how we view disability, both in society and within the arts and a great lesson in reminding us that going to a performance doesn’t necessarily mean watching it or hearing it. 

Also at Arts House was Melanie Jame Wolf's Mira Fuchs, a feminist work on how women's bodies are seen and used within the context of stripping, Wolf herself having been a stripper for eight years. It's the first piece of a trilogy so I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of this. During the Fringe festival, The Honeytrap's immersive show, The Maze put me in the mind of a woman walking home alone at night while simultaneously being in the shoes of a man following her. The performance made me acutely aware of the concerns and worries women face on a regular basis and left me feeling vulnerable and ashamed, but in a good way. 

I also have to give a special mention to Joshua Ladgrove and his brilliant creation of Neal Portenza. I've seen him perform three times this year and each time, no matter what was going on in my life, his antics on stage always made me forget about everything and gave me permission to laugh a hell of a lot and to allow myself to just enjoy the moment. 

What MM is looking forward to in 2017: I have already purchased my subscription to the Malthouse Theatre and will be purchasing one to Theatre Works shortly. Both their seasons look amazing and I can't wait to get to see them all. Also looking forward to Little Ones Theatre's Merciless Gods and Stephen Nicolazzo's direction of The Moors for Red Stitch. And pretty much everything that will be on at Arts House. Oh, and to try and break this year’s record of 172 shows!

Myron's top-10-plus of 2016: myronmy.me

SM: No one sees as many Fringe shows as Myron does. He might see more than Fringe staff. He's one of the biggest advocates and ongoing supporters of independent artists (and especially cabaret) in town. He's the reviewer I read to find out about artists I haven't heard of (and he was a great source of "do I need to see x" during Fringe). But my moments with Myron are not about theatre: He loves Survivor – the tribe has spoken – more than I do. He knows the contestants names, he streams it before free-to-air. He should be on the Australian version; he applied but the producers were stupid and didn't choose him. I can share my love for this show with him and he makes me feel like I'm just a fan rather than an obsessive Survivor nerd.

Petra Elliot
actor, singer

PE's favourite moments in Melbourne theatre in 2016: My friend invited me to visit her one Wednesday evening, but as I was already slated to go to fortyfivedownstairs that evening to see The Artisan Collective's Wit, I arranged to have brunch with her on Saturday morning instead.

That night I sat in the audience of Wit, marvelling at Jane Montgomery Griffiths in the lead role. Her performance was incredible, and I sat there with the tears she had evoked streaming unashamedly down my cheeks – I made absolutely no attempt to conceal them. The set design, direction, and supporting cast were just as impressive, creating a space in which I felt safe to just feel. It was one of the most dynamic and unforgettable pieces of work I'd seen in a while.

Perhaps though, there is another reason this work has stayed with me. That Saturday brunch brought with it news that my friend had found out she herself had cancer (which she had wanted to tell me that Wednesday, the night I saw the show). Experiencing Wit became that much more powerful – I suddenly had an even stronger tie to the work – and I can only imagine how much of a mess I would have been in the audience if the order of events had been reversed.

For me this is often the best theatre. Work in which you are able to do more than just witness, but experience, and truly immerse yourself.

Don't get me wrong, I of course love feel-good theatre and, on a lighter note, I turn my mind to the incredible cabaret I've seen in 2016. Special mentions to Cabaret Festival highlights Alice Tovey  in Personal Messiah, and Karlis Zaid, Mark Jones and Aurora Kurth for Australian Horror Story (with direction by Stephen Gates). Incredible performances, stunning original songs and musical arrangements, shining a light on the darker side of our society while still being incredibly entertaining. Mother's Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin was another highlight and is everything I love about cabaret: dynamic voices singing in killer harmony, a fascinating narrative on a topic you'd never have expected, and stunning re-arrangements of well chosen songs that progress the story and evoke all of the feels.

Double Indemnity at MTC was also a particular favourite. The performances were delightful, and how good was that set!

What PE is looking forward to in 2017: Like most people, I'm excited by the seasons of Theatre Works and the Malthouse, and I love what the Butterfly Club are doing with their curated seasons. I'll also be spending a few weeks in Adelaide for Fringe with The Mighty Little Puppet Show and Petrasexual (2014 review), and I'm super excited to get immersed in Mad March and see as much as I can.


SM: I've seen Petra this year, but I haven't seen her perform this year – not by choice – but I have watched her in part the tv show Sonningsburg that I'm going to watch all of before the year is out (it's all on YouTube). Favourite moment though was her getting 3D printed clitorises for her season of Petrasexual.

Myron at the Butterfly Club with Petra's clitoris

Rohan Shearn
Managing Editor, Australian Arts Review

Rohan Shearn. Photo by Alexander Evans

RS's favourite moments in Melbourne theatre in 2016:We were spoilt for choice this year as the commercial and independent sector delivered a mixed bag of delights.

Capturing the Australian vernacular of the 50s, Ladies in Black was a divine Australian musical adaptation of Madeleine St John’s popular 1993 novel, The Women in Black.  Matilda, featuring Tim Minchin’s witty lyrics, was everything a musical should be – it made you laugh and cry, and brought out the inner-child in us all. Special mention goes to Jacqueline Dark, and her rousing rendition of "Climb Ev’ry Mountain" in The Sound of Music – simply stunning.

Not to be outdone, the independently produced Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story was hauntingly intelligent, while Blue Saint Productions presented a beautifully crafted production of Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World. Both productions were presented at Chapel Off Chapel.

The Melbourne Festival also delivered two of the most heart-warming performances of the year: Jess Thom was unpredictable and enlightening in Backstage in Biscuitland  while the National Theatre of Scotland’s Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour was pitch perfect in its delivery.

Drama wise, Paul Capsis delivered an exquisite performance in Resident Alien at fortyfivedownstairs, Daniel Clarke delivered an in-your-face exploration of masculinity with Caleb Lewis’s  Rust and Bone at the La Mama Courthouse, and the Belarus Free Theatre presented the confrontingly brilliant Burning Doors at Arts Centre Melbourne.

What RS is looking forward to in 2017: Musicals will be well represented again in 2017. It may have taken awhile to get here, but The Book of Mormon make its Australian premiere in February. It may have missed out on some nomination gongs at the Sydney Theatre Awards, Aladdin will take us to a ‘whole new world’ in this spectacular rendition of a modern Disney classic at Her Majesty’s Theatre in April. The Ladies in Black take up residence at The Regent for a return season, and Watch This continue their Sondheim journey with Merrily We Roll Along at the Southbank Theatre. Also, expect announcements on Dream Lover – The Bobby Darin Musical, and a new Australian production of Evita.

SM: Rohan is another amazing advocate and arts writer who sees everything, especially music theatre and cabaret. If I want to know anything about a musical, he's my source. I can't pick a favourite moment because I'm happy to see him every time I see him in a foyer, which is at most opening nights.


part 1
part 2
part 3
part 4
part 5
part 6
part 7
part 8
part 9
part 10
part 11
part 12
part 13

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