05 December 2016

What Melbourne loved in 2016, part 3

Today we hear from playwrights Fleur Kilpatrick and Keith Gow, and Circus Oz's Rob Tannion.

Fleur Kilpatrick
playwright, director, beagle lover

Fleur Kilpatrick by Jack G Kennedy

FK's favourite moments in Melbourne theatre in 2016: My highlight for the year was Trilogy by Nic Green at Arts House. It managed to be the single most joyful thing I'd seen on stage in a long time, whilst talking about extremely damaging discrimination faced by women for over a century. As a female artist, it posed a wonderful question: how do we talk about the victimisation of our gender without talking about ourselves as victims?

Trilogy was a celebration of the strength, humour and power of women as both individuals and as a community. I left feeling stronger – feeling my cup replenished – and feeling immensely grateful for the women who came before me and changed what it means to be a woman today. Plus, dozens of amazing naked ladies dancing like mad on stage. It was impossible not to beam like an idiot.

My favourite mainstage work was Picnic at Hanging Rock, an outstanding new adaption of an Australian novel. A particular highlight for me was sitting in an audience full of school students during Picnic. Before the show, a girl next to me said to the boy she was with, "I would rather watch eight hours of footage of a public toilet". They then proceeded to scream, gasp and be completely engaged by the work for the entire 85 minutes. At the end, the boy turned to the girl and said, "Oh my heart", as I quietly punched the air next to them and celebrated the transformative powers of live theatre.

My favourite moment of new writing was Kill Climate Deniers by David Finnigin. David stood on stage in a bar and read his entire, ridiculous script, performing every character (all female) and describing terrorists abseiling down from the roof of Parliament House. The audience sat cross-legged on the floor of the bar, laughed and cheered on the story of a federal environment minister with nothing to lose and a killer playlist of house music from 1988 to 1993.

In the midst of the laugher, there was also the totally fascinating story of David's father, a climate scientist, trying to learn how to talk to the media back in the 1980s, when climate scientists suddenly became people the media wanted to talk to and undermine. This was the perfect version of this work. I'm so glad that David went in this beautiful, anarchic direction with the show, rather than placing it on a more conventional theatre stage with a cast and design elements. Plus, the night ended with the dance party I didn't know I needed.

What FK is looking forward to in Melbourne theatre in 2017: I have the privilege of seeing a lot of readings of new work so, rather than talk about things that are programmed for 2017, I want to make mention of a kick-arse script that I really want to see programmed soon! Jessica Bellamy’s The One About the Two Rabbis, which we read in her living room over cheese and dip. Including the playwright, only four people were present and we loved every second of it. Religion meets time travel as Jess explores the religious stories and traditions that still have an impact on the lives of young Jewish women today. I want to see this staged! Someone please make this happen for me!

SM: Fleur adapted and directed Kurt Vonnegut Jnr's Slaughterhouse Five for MUST (Monash University Student Theatre). It's another great show that didn't get a review and wasn't seen by nearly enough people (although it filled the MUST space). What I loved the most about it was how much the student performers and creators took ownership of the content and its story. I remember rolling my eyes when I saw that it was over two hours long, but by interval I was so involved that I would happily have stayed for another couple of hours. 

If you haven't seen a MUST production, please make it a goal for next year.

Keith Gow
playwright, reviewer

Keith Gow. Photo by Keith Gow

KG's favourite moments in Melbourne theatre in 2016: I am not a performer and I don’t harbour that desire at all, but I’ve spent a lot of time on stage this year and a lot of time immersed in shows where I’ve ostensibly been part of the action. Immersive theatre and audience participation can be a tricky business; pick the wrong audience member and you can sink the good will your show has built up to that point.

I spent time on stage with Meow Meow and Chris Ryan in The Little Mermaid at the Malthouse. I wrestled with Adrienne Truscott as she wrestled with her critics in One Trick Pony!

As for immersive theatre, I was quite taken by the one-person-audience experience of The Maze during Melbourne Fringe; following a woman around the dark streets of North Melbourne was troubling in the way theatre should strive to be. I was also part of a two-person audience for Menage and a three-person audience for Dion.

I think theatre should embrace things only theatre can do. Yes, we can sit in the dark and watch figures under a proscenium, but sometimes that feels no different to watching a film. Some of the audience interaction I experienced was uncomfortable, in a bad way. But some of it was thrilling and, by extension, unforgettable.

What KG is looking forward to in Melbourne theatre in 2017: The Malthouse Theatre. I’m always keen to check out the mainstage company’s news seasons from across Australia, once they start revealing them in August. I’m often envious of Sydneysiders and their Belvoir seasons. And their Griffin seasons. I didn’t make it to Sydney once this year, but I will next year.

That said, I’m mostly excited for the Malthouse. I’m excited by everything they have on offer, even though I’m sure there will be some shows that I won’t get along with.

How can I choose between new work from Declan Greene or Nicola Gunn or Tom Wright and Matthew Lutton’s Elephant Man? I can’t and you can’t make me. I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time at the Malthouse and in the Malthouse foyer after.

SM: One night during Melbourne Fringe, I waved and called out to Keith from my car as he was at the tram stop and he didn't react. I watched him walk down the street and not react to anything: he was seeing/experiencing The Maze and was so involved that he couldn't be distracted. It was also pretty damn cool to see his first tv script on live to air TV (Sonningsburg on Ch 31).

Rob Tannion 
Circus Oz Artistic Director

Rob Tannion. Photo by Tania Jovanovic

RT's favourite moments in Melbourne theatre in 2016: I have two very clear moments which defined Melbourne theatre in 2016. The first was seeing Patricia Cornelius’s Shit, at fortyfivedownstairs, directed by the amazing Susie Dee. An outstanding, raw and potent Australian production with an outstanding cast of Nicci Wilks, Sarah Ward and Peta Brady. It blew me out of the water, and still haunts me.

The second moment was during the Circus Oz Big Top season in July at Birrarung Marr. We were contacted via Facebook by a good samaritan to see if we could offer tickets up to a seriously ill 4 year old Indy, and her family. It was Indy’s dream to come to the circus, and being able to make that a reality for her was priceless. Her visit and reaction underlined why we are in the arts and the power it has to positively touch lives.

What RT is looking forward to in Melbourne theatre in 2017: I am really looking forward to the smorgasborg of festivals that Melbourne has on offer: Midsumma, Asia TOPA, Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Yirramboi, Melbourne Fringe and Melbourne Festival… They are like cultural stepping stones crossing my year… I just wish I had the time and money to see everything. Definitely will not miss The Encounter by Complicite in early February at the Malthouse. They are a UK physical theatre company very close to my heart who always pushes boundaries.

SM: I don't know Rob (yet) but every Circus Oz opening night in Birrurung Marr is one of my favourite nights. I love this company; their politics, passion and heart are the voice of Australian theatre that I want to see, in a big top or on the poshest of stages. Circus Oz question the status quo and show what stages, workshops and admin offices can be like when barriers are kicked out of the way and boring choices are rejected.

part 1
part 2

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