07 December 2016

What Melbourne loved in 2016, part 5

While too much of the commercial theatre in Melbourne is regressive, boring and blah, there are amazing Melbourne companies and venues that make progressive, inclusive, challenging and mind-blowing theatre. Today we here from Scott Price from Back to Back theatre, Angharad Wynne-Jones from Arts House and Cameron Lukey from fortyfivedownstairs.

(Opps. In part 4  What Daniel Lammin is looking forward to didn't make it up yesterday, but it's there now.)

Scott Price
Member of the Back to Back Theatre ensemble since 2007, #autismpride

Scott Price. Photo by Jeff Busby

SP's favourite moments in Melbourne theatre in 2016: Sarah Mainwaring's show Duality Ok at La Mama has actually been my favourite piece in 2016. It was just a great piece of theatre and I just enjoyed it immensely. It was great to see Sarah perform outside Back to Back. I didn’t give a standing ovation, but it was a pretty good piece of theatre. If the others did it, I would have too. Sarah was just in casual clothes, and it was just the way that she spoke about her life, I don’t know how to describe it. We went with Simon Laherty, Alice Nash and Nikki Watson and we all thought it was good.

The Rabble’s Cain and Abel was good too, pretty full on and in your face and MTC’s Straight White Men with Luke Ryan I liked too.

What SP is looking forward to in Melbourne theatre in 2017: Nothing basically comes to mind just at the moment, but I haven’t quite looked into it yet, haven’t had the chance. But I really enjoy comedy shows and the Melbourne Fringe and look forward to seeing more of that stuff next year.

SM: Scott's performance of God/god in the remarkable Lady Eats Apple is one that will stay with me for a long time. As communities and societies, we make assumptions about our gods and Scott challenged every one of those assumptions.

Angharad Wynne-Jones
Artistic Director, Arts House

Angharad Wynne-Jones. Photo by Pier Carthew

AWJ's favourite moment in Melbourne theatre in 2016: While I love the energy and risk in the experience of a work that has come to realisation in performance, I also really enjoy seeing works in development; work in development allows you to see the issues the artist is resolving, the pathways they might go down, the edits they might make.

This year I've had the opportunity to see Lz Dunn's work Aeon (premiering in March 2017 in Dance Massive) in a number of different places as she's developed it through the support of the Mobile States consortia. As a process of collaboration and co-commissioning with colleagues across the country, facilitated by Performing Lines, this has been an incredibly rewarding and enlivening experience. Running  and walking across the meadow in Royal Park (one of the traditional meeting places of the Kulin Nations and one of my most favourite places in Melbourne) with other test audience members was one of those times (of which there are so many working with the phenomenal artists that we do) that I felt so happy and honoured to be working at Arts House, with artists who are fiercely committed, deeply talented and determinedly experimental.

What AWJ is looking forward to in Melbourne theatre in 2017: Oh so much! It's liking asking a parent to pick a favourite child … impossible. So, a couple at least are two new festivals: the gargantuan Asia TOPA that will change forever how Australia’s sees itself as part of Asia and gives us at Arts House the opportunity to  present two works from Japan. We are presenting the incredible chelfitsch with a beautiful, haunting contemplation on love and loss with Time's Journey Through a Room. We also welcome Hamanaka Company with Kagerou – Study of Translating Performance, a lyrical investigation into what it is to document disaster. Both works filled with the reverberations of life in Japan of post Fukishima, which resonate deeply with our Antipodean experience of the climate change emergency. And then Yirramboi, Melbourne’s First Nations festival creatively directed by Jacob Boheme, is a chance for us to work with First Nations artist  Emily Johnson who with Shore,  a quartet of community visioning, volunteering, storytelling and performance works  models  new ways and forms of collective imaging. A necessity now more than ever.

SM: 2017 is the year I will try even harder to see everything at Arts House. Sometimes we get so caught up with complaining about the boring regressive commercial theatre in Melbourne that we forget that Arts House is doing everything wonderful with progressive, exciting, inclusive, challenging, personal theatre. My favourites this year were a night at FOLA and Nic Green's Trilogy – another bloody amazing show that didn't get a review. Here was so much work that challenged the ridiculous perfection that is expected of women's bodies; so much work that let people leave and walk around in the world feeling good about the bodies that they have – and stop those conscious and unconscious judgments we make based on appearance.

But my favourite moment was seeing the photo Angharad chose. A photo that looks like the person and lets her true amazingness be seen without makeup and the insane need to Photoshop out every "imperfection". Thank you Pier Carthew for taking photos like this. Every time I open a program and see headshots of smooth faces that make them look computer-generated and barely resemble themselves, I wonder who took the photo, who chose the photo and why the person designing the program didn't question it. There's nothing wrong with looking like yourself.

Cameron Lukey
Development Manager and Executive Producer, fortyfivedownstairs

Cameron Lukey. Photo by Sarah Walker

CL's favourite moments in Melbourne theatre in 2016: I went to the closing night of Daniel Lammin's show Awakening at Trades Hall. I knew it had been a labour of love, and having worked with Daniel on Master Class,  knew how much time and effort he pours into every show he works on. It was funny, charming, insightful, and ultimately, very moving. I left feeling I'd seen someone really leave a piece of themselves on the stage. We're bringing it to fortyfivedownstairs next May for a return season, which is very exciting. I think it will have a great life in our space.

From a personal perspective (and I'm completely biased) it was also a thrill to watch Paul Capsis transform himself into Quentin Crisp in Resident Alien. I had been witness to his process, but watching him in front of an audience for the first time was pretty special. I forgot I had seen it dozens of times in rehearsal because his relationship with his audience is so unique.

What CL is looking forward to in Melbourne theatre in 2017: I think it would be a bit Sophie's Choice to have to choose a show at fortyfivedownstairs, so outside of fortyfive, I'm looking forward to The Testament of Mary with Pamela Rabe at the Malthouse and Cabaret, which opens at the Athenaeum in April, with Capsis as the Emcee. That just seems like dream casting for both shows.

SM: My favourite is easily reading the email Cameron sent me yesterday after I'd said in part 4 how much I wanted to see a return season of Daniel Lammin's Awakening. He told me how fortyfivedownstairs are doing that season and gently hinted that he'd sent me an email* with that very info over a week ago. And fortyfivedownstairs giving Shit another season.

The first half of next year's fortyfivedownstairs season is unmissable. Not only for Awakening (I'm so happy to see this devastatingly wonderful work get another season), but there's another season of L’amante anglaise and I'm putting I am My Own Wife and Trainspotting in my diary now.

*As I say a lot: if I don't respond, it's likely that I haven't read it because it's lost in the deluge, flagged to read later or I just didn't see it.

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