06 December 2016

What Melbourne loved in 2016, part 4

Today's moments are from three men whose theatre voices are bold, challenging and totally their own: Daniel Lammin, Stephen Nicolazzo and David Finnigan. We're going to see a lot more of their work of in the years to come

Daniel Lammin
director, writer, obsessive collector

Daniel Lammin's 30th birthday present-to-self selfie

DL's favourite moments in Melbourne theatre in 2016: No piece of theatre this year hit me with as much force as Picnic at Hanging Rock. The book is my favourite Australian book and the film is my favourite Australian film, both having had an enormous impact on me growing up. I also love the work that Matt Lutton, Tom Wright, Zoë Atkinson and Paul Jackson have done together in the past, so consequently my expectations were enormous. The result though exceeded my expectations beyond my wildest dreams. The production captured the concerns of Lindsay’s story, the sexual repression of young women and the Australian landscape’s rejection of us as an invading force, and crafted it into an impressive work of art in its own right, pulsing from Matt’s rigorous direction, Zoë and Paul’s remarkable design, the cast’s tremendous performances and Tom’s diabolical, awe-inspiring text.

It also understood the most misunderstood aspect of the story, that at its heart it is a work of horror, one that crawls under your skin and festers there for the rest of your life.

Watching Picnic was one of the most exhilarating experiences I've ever had in the theatre, both because of what was happening on the stage and what was happening in the audience, a mass of people battered and thrown by the uncompromising force of what they were seeing, jumping and screaming and gasping in unison. The teenager sitting next to me literally jumped out of his chair at a moment of sublime theatrical horror, and sat on the edge of his seat for the rest of the night. It was a perfectly executed theatrical event, one that shows tremendous respect for its source material but with the imagination and rigour to be a great work of art on its own. It left me breathless, exhilarated, disturbed, in awe and in tears, and like the book and film before it, left an enormous and life-changing impact on me and my work as a theatre maker. I confidently rank it as one of the best pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen.

What DL is looking forward to in Melbourne theatre in 2017: Unsurprisingly, I’m incredibly excited to see how the same team approach The Elephant Man. It’s a beautiful story but a theatrically complicated one, and if they apply the same rigour to this one that they applied to Picnic, it could be something really special. I also can’t wait to catch CULL during the Comedy Festival (I missed it during the Fringe and regretted it enormously), and to see what She Said Theatre does next – their work is just getting better and better, and continues to be some of the most important being made.

SM: Daniel wrote and directed Awakening for MUST (performed at Trades Hall). It was an adaption of Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind (not the musical also based on it) and was one of the most moving and gut-punching pieces of theatre I saw this year. Another MUST show that nowhere near enough people saw. I really hope that someone gives this show another season because it's heartbreaking to think that it won't be seen again – with the same cast please.

Brilliant update: Awakenings has been picked up by the super-wonderful fortyfivedownstairs, so put 10–21 May in your diary now. Book here.

And while you're there, look at the at what else is coming there next year. What a season!

Stephen Nicolazzo
director,  Little Ones Theatre; likes Madonna 

Stephen Nicolazzo

SN's favourite moments in Melbourne theatre in 2016: Hands down, my favourite moments in Melbourne theatre in 2016 were: Cain and Abel (The Rabble ), Gonzo (St Martin’s/Malthouse) and Terror Australis (Leah Shelton at Melbourne Fringe). These works were brave, beautiful, and furious. They were focussed on the craft of visual story telling and the presentation of complex political perspectives in cheeky, adventurous and moving ways.

All were born from Australia’s most courageous female artists: Emma Valente, Kate Davis, Clare Watson and the divine Leah Shelton, and all were a formally adventurous master class in contemporary theatre practice. Finally, each of these works had exquisite craft on display, which to me is an integral part of theatre making. They didn’t bend the rules simply to provoke. They bent them to explore craft and courage.

This is what I want in my theatre. My personal moment of 2016 was getting to tour Dangerous Liaisons for the last time. It has been two years since Dangerous opened at MTC Neon, and it has grown substantially since then, blossomed into a work that I am extremely proud of. It is so rare to develop a work after its initial presentation and in the case of this one, it has been such a unique gift to refine, reassess, and nuance. So very grateful to all of the festivals and presenters who took a risk on our huge mother fucker of a show and to the audiences across the country who have fallen in love with it.

What SN is looking forward to in Melbourne theatre in 2017: The Theatre Works 2017 season. CAN.NOT.WAIT.

SM: I'll see any theatre Stephen makes, but I missed the return of Dangerous Ls and I missed the Madonna night that he programmed for Melbourne Fringe – but I loved lying in bed and watching the pics and videos of it on Twitter.

If you want to support Little Ones Theatre's Midsumma show, donate here.

David Finnigan

Georgie McAusley and David Finnigan. Photo by Sarah Walker

DF's favourite moment in Melbourne theatre in 2016: This might not be the moment, but I found myself really, really sinking into Nat Randall's The Second Woman performance at Next Wave. I went along intending to stay for a few minutes, found myself there for an hour or two at least. It was weirdly satisfying, so many dimensions to it, but it was sitting afterwards with Jane Howard while she unpacked it for me, that was the real lightbulb moment. I dug that. Maybe that's the combination: good artwork, good analysis, good chats with good humans. That's all you need.

What DF is looking forward to in Melbourne theatre in 2017: I'm looking forward to the major companies retreating further out of touch, the existing funding structures coming apart at the seams and the whole system continuing its histrionic slow-motion collapse, so we can hurry up and see what weird alternatives emerge out of the edges.

SM: I loved seeing Kill Climate Deniers at the Melbourne Fringe, but my moment was reading the play. I was sitting in a cafe in Avalon on Sydney's north coast (which is exactly like the awesome web series Avalon Now, made by real estate site) eating a huge salad with purple cabbage, kale and every super food – while listening to a woman ask why they didn't have a quinoa salad (nuts weren't good enough protein for her) – then being recommended a chocolate cake that was pretty much melted dark chocolate and dates. It was like I was living in the world of Kill Climate Deniers; I WAS in the world of Kill Climate Deniers – and willingly being part of it.

(PS: I love being sent new scripts to read.)

part 1
part 2
part 3

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