05 December 2017

What Melbourne Loved in 2017, part 8

Today we have three awesome e indie theatre makers whose work I haven't seen this year.

Bron Batten
Theatre-maker, Producer and Performer
bronbatten.com

Bron Batten in Onstage Dating. Photo by John Leonard

Favourite moments in 2017
I haven't seen much this year because I've been touring so much (#humblebrag) but I did manage to catch a few great pieces that really touched and stayed with me.

I too wish to jump on the Nanette bandwagon and state what a remarkable piece of performance it is. Hannah Gadsby's restrained yet furious and impassioned plea for tolerance and acceptance is inspiring both in its sophistication and emotion as well as its hilarity. Nanette is a perfect example of how truly simple, artful and devastating stand-up can be when undertaken by a master performer, and I have no doubt her 'retirement' will be hampered by that fact that this work will tour for years.

I forgot to mention this last year, but as it toured again this year, I'll include Nat Randall's The Second Woman. This work is completely brilliant, compelling, funny, emotional and addictive and I'm so so glad it has more well-deserved presentations lined up for 2018.

I saw Powerballad by New Zealand performers and theatre makers Julia Croft and Nisha Madhan in Edinburgh and the show then toured to Melbourne Fringe. I made a brief cameo in the work over several nights in Scotland (#humblebrag), which allowed me to see how Julia sensitively crafted her excellent performance in response to the audience. A surreal and at times absurd response to the dominant structures of language, Powerballad also managed to be funny, self-aware and include karaoke – which are all wins in my book.

Angels in America at fortyfivedownstairs was a compelling and artful staging of a classic text and I managed to watch all six hours without getting bored  – much to the disbelief of its director Gary Abrahams. And a recent addition to this list was Romeo is Not The Only Fruit as part of Poppy Seed Festival. I really, really loved this show and it totally deserves to become Australia's answer to Alison Bechdel's Fun Home.

Looking forward to in 2018
As for next year, I'm looking forward to Ich Nibber Dibber from post and Bryony Kimmings's A Pacifists Guide to the War on Cancer, both on at The Malthouse. Kimmings's Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model is perhaps one of my favourite shows ever, so I'm really excited to see this new work.

SM: Goodness, I haven't seen Bron perform this year! But, to be fair, she was Onstage Dating all over the place (and that's still one of my favourite shows ever). I do remember sitting with her at a Comedy Festival show and laughing very loudly and wondering if I'd laughed that loudly at one of her shows and feeling the need to explain that sometimes I don't laugh loudly because I'm listening.


Emilie Collyer
Playwright, writer  
betweenthecracks.net
Emilie Collyer. Photo by Ross Daniels

Favourite moments in 2017
I first want to acknowledge that the theatre made this year in Naarm/Melbourne was made on the lands of the Kulin Nation. This always was and always will be Aboriginal land. Sovereignty was never ceded and it’s time for a treaty.

I loved a lot and a lot has already been loved. I kind of love/hate lists because #inclusion/exclusion issues. But I love this series because it provides a multitude of voices and reminds us we are all capable of more than one kind of loving and of the kind of great big beautiful polyamorous adventure that is theatre in Melbourne. So these are things that have lingered with me well into the morning-after glow this year. Strap in. I have a lot to say.

All the new writing because, well, that’s my jam so I DO mean all of it. Standouts were Rashma N Kalsie’s Melbourne Talem, Natesha Somasundaram’s Jeremy and Lucas Buy a Fucking House, Amelia Newman’s Younger and Smaller and Alexithymia (Citizen Theatre and A_Tistic, by Tom Middleditch). There were all worlds I loved being in and can’t wait for more from these writers.

The students I worked with at Melbourne and Deakin unis who are making thoughtful, considered, powerful, often feminist, queer and radical work. I was particularly impressed by the ensemble work at Deakin and being in a room as these young theatre makers grappled with the art form and had such respectful debates about the work and really collaborated deep and hard. The bomb.

Huge shout out to Little Ones Theatre. Three massive shows this year and every one of them brought something remarkable to audiences from the shiny beauty of The Happy Prince to the hilarious and stylish-to-die-for The Moors and the epicly-ambitious Merciless Gods. Dark and delicious, The Moors, I reckon, was my favourite play of the year.

All at ArtsHouse: Excerpts from the Past by KwaZulu-Natal artist Sethembile Msezane took my breath away with its clarity and power. The panel Art and Action: Displacing Whiteness in the Arts hosted by Tania Cañas started conversations we need more of, putting voices front and centre who need bigger and louder public platforms. As did Tribunal (PYT, Fairfield).

Emily Tomlins’s arms (Niche).

Nisha Joseph’s G-MA’s erotic food preparation instructions (Romeo Is Not The Only Fruit).

Dan Clarke’s Kiln Program at Arts Centre Melbourne that gave space to such a range of makers, writers and imaginers. In particular Black Girl Magic (Melbourne) featuring Kween  and, curated by Sista Zai. I was sitting next to a young Muslim woman watching this fabulous show and she asked if I had been to the Arts Centre very often. I said yes and she said it was her first time. And she looked supremely happy and confident to be there. That event had made it her space. As it should be.

So huge props to all the wonderful people smashing down barriers of who owns cultural spaces. This includes Kate Hood’s company Raspberry Ripple and the first of their play reading series (Love Child by Joanna Murray-Smith) with casts that include both actors with disabilities and those without present Australian plays.

In a year where I needed to fill my own well I did some wonderful workshops. With Jane Bodie (Kiln), Candy Bowers (Kiln), The Rabble (MTC), Inua Ellamns (Arts Centre). The generosity of these makers in sharing their knowledge and their approaches to craft was phenomenal.

And the work that held me in the most unique theatrical space of the year was Fraught Outfit’s Book of Exodus Part 2. That incredible poetic, dream-like place. It also reminded me of the privilege of seeing a company work over several years around a theatrical and visual theme. This piece seemed to me like such a clear crystallisation of what Fraught Outfit has been exploring in their Innocence Trilogy and that design by Eugyeene Teh. Good lord!

Looking forward to in 2018
Well a lot of the indie seasons haven’t been announced yet and I know that’s where my juiciest anticipated works will be and I know some awesome things are coming from stellar people like Petra Kalive, Rachel Perks, Bridget Balodis and Mary Anne Butler.

I’m also looking forward to seeing a Melbourne season of The Drover’s Wife; if not in 2018, then the not too distant future.

Of the mainstage seasons, most excited about Jean Tong’s Hungry Ghosts, Patricia Cornelius’s The House of Bernarda Alba, Michele Lee’s Going Down and Nakkiah Lui’s Blackie Blackie Brown: The Traditional Owner of Death.

SM: I'm looking forward to some new stage work by Emilie next yea, but I've really enjoyed reading some of her other published work this year, including this piece in The Lifted Brow.


Kerith Manderson-Glavin 
Performance maker
unofficialkerithfanclub.com

Kerith Manderson-Galvin

Favourite moments in 2017
You're Not Alone. It surprised me and I surprised myself; I went in ready to be horrified and prepared to walk out. Instead, I saw it twice. Both times I found it hard to leave the Malthouse afterwards. I wanted to stay there and think and talk and think more. I loved it for so many reasons but I loved that it really felt like it needed an audience – which is the point of performance, right? It was alive. 

Oh my god, I loved it so much I wish I could see it again. I emailed Malthouse thanking them – I just remembered that, hahaha what a weird thing to do. Wow. I just loved it. I love it. Wow.

Patti Smith. I sense my experience of Patti Smith was similar to the experience of *the big show everyone keeps talking about*. The first note she sang the whole of Hamer Hall gasped and held their breath. I am certain we all experienced the same journey that night and that's a remarkable power. Religious. I held my friend's hand and we cried at the same time and laughed at the time and at the end we were exhausted and had to go home and then for a bit I couldn't listen to Patti Smith because it made me feel too many feelings.

Also. Nick Cave, 10 000 Gestures (in Paris – la dee ddaaaa), Bacchae – Prelude to a Purge (in Berlin – oh Berlin you were my favourite performance of 2017). And every night I got to perform with my brother in The Eternity Of The World and I felt so completely safe for every chaotic second

Looking forward to in 2018
I really like Nicola Gunn's headshot on the MTC website. It appears they have cropped the image for Working with Children and then made it black and white and used it as a headshot. She looks very beautiful. Wait, maybe they are different photos? In the headshot, she has on a black scivvy. (I really think she has an exquisite brain and talent.)

I'd like to go see The Wooster Group show in Sydney Festival (The Town Hall Affair) because it feels like something I should like to see. Maybe I will.

SM: Did I really not see anything of Kerith's this year? So, I'm going with that she might seriously like cats more than I do.

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02 December 2017

What Melbourne Loved in 2017, part 7

"Let's do this! Let's be ambitious in everything we do!",  Joseph O'Farrell (Jof)

Let's all listen to Jof.

Eugyeene Teh
Designer

Eugyeene Teh. There aren't enough words to describe how much I love this photo.

Favourite moments in 2017
Melbourne theatre is very quickly being redefined by culturally diverse works, primarily from the independent sector. 2017 saw a major shift in how the theatre community and its audience perceive theatre that is not white. The effect of this has been exponential – inclusivity of artists and audience, being able to have dialogues about contemporary ideas with the previously muted others, and mutual respect and understanding in an effort to achieve equality and camaraderie across various intersectional communities. Suddenly, these works have weight, urgency and value. It’s about time, and it’s all very sexy!

Many of Melbourne’s strongest theatre in 2017 have come from bold diverse voices, including;

Romeo is Not the Only Fruit, a lesbian musical satire written and directed by Jean Tong, with predominantly Asian cast and creatives mostly from DisColourNation. Besides the fact that they opened on the night that Australia voted ‘Yes’ to marriage equality, this team defied common perception that great theatre can only be created by white-male-led teams.

In Between Two at Melbourne Festival, which allowed two Asian-Australian hip-hop artists, Joel Ma and James Mangohig to tell their stories and derive great empathy from a Melbourne Festival audience, simply by being beautiful humans.

Exquisite: An Evening with Mama Alto, which was exactly what it says on the tin. Her vocal prowess is only surpassed by her strong, poised resounding voice that fearlessly leads the way for intersectional communities of queer people of colour, among countless others. A role model who needs to be taken seriously by us all.

Under Siege at Melbourne Festival, created by Yang Liping with designer Tim Yip, is a spectacular exhibition of the historic battle Gaixia, with a focus on warlord Xiang Yu’s heartbreaking relationship with his concubine, Yu Ji, an elegant Chinese boy.

Merciless Gods allowed us to plunge headlong into the heady worlds of the perceived ‘others,’ redefining the term ‘Australian,’ challenging white values and honouring those of the shunned. It shows us that beauty lies in the souls of everyone, regardless of race, gender or their beliefs.

Asia TOPA, Stephen Armstrong’s new festival which reminded us that Asian culture is beautiful, intelligent, diverse and powerful.

Looking forward to in 2018
In 2018, I am excited about to Jean Tong’s Hungry Ghosts, directed by Petra Kalive with Emina Ashman, Jing-Xuan Chan and Bernard Sam; Michele Lee’s Going Down with Catherine Davies, Josh Price, Naomi Rukavina and Jenny Wu; Little Ones Theatre’s The Nightingale and the Rose directed by Stephen Nicolazzo with Jennifer Vuletic, Brigid Gallacher and Yuchen Wang; and The House of Bernada Alba by Patricia Cornelius, directed by Leticia Cáceres with Peta Brady, Julie Forsythe, Bessie Holland, Melita Jurisic and Candy Bowers, Candy Bowers, Candy Bowers!!!

SM: Every design of Eugyeene's is my favourite. Highlights of this year include creating a proscenium arch in La Mama in The Happy Prince, the amazing moss green of The Moors at Red Stitch, and the stage stabbing into the darkness of Merciless Gods.


Isabel Angus
Comedian, writer, performer

Isabel Angus

Favourite moments in 2017
Probably watching three bums talking into microphones in Wild Bore at the Mathouse Theatre.

Looking forward to in 2018
Having less FOMO by actually going to more theatre shows all year round - because there is actually always something on and more people should go! Also, delving deep into MICF 2018.

SM: I missed Isabel's kids show at Fringe,  so it's her being one of the wonderful team who created Do Not Collect $200. I look forward to a new show from her soon.


Joseph O’Farrell (JOF) and Sam Halmarack
Community development artists
Their new show, We are Lightning!, premieres at Arts House in December

Joseph O’Farrell (JOF) & Sam Halmarack. Photo by Sam McGlip

Favourite moments in 2017
JOF:  I was lucky enough to see Elbow Room's Niche at Northcote Town Hall on my first day back in Melbourne. To see an ambitious work of scale by an independent theatre company was REALLY exciting and inspiring.

I was also lucky to tour with Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey to UK and EU this year where I saw them open their work 5 Short Blasts in two different cities on the same weekend.

Let’s do this! Let’s be ambitious in everything we do!

SH: We recently saw Cracker La Touf play. They’re a young band that we first worked with as part of our new show’s development in 2016. To watch them play and be complete rock stars blew me away!

Looking forward to in 2018
JOF: Next Wave. I LOVE this festival and its approach to a more inclusive and progressive arts sector. Can’t wait to see what the team have been working on.

SH: I am from London, so I’ll leave town after the show and not sure when I’ll be back, which is a really sad realisation. I love this city.

I’m really looking forward to touring We Are Lightning! to Mayfest in Bristol. It’s one of my favourite festivals and I can’t wait to share this crazy show with the city

SM: I didn't see JOF or Sam perform this year, but Sam's last show in Melbourne was one of my favourite moments from 2014, and the last Suitcase Royale show I saw JOF in, Zombatland, won my Favourite Comedy in 2012. So, I'm totally looking forward to We Are Lightening!.

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29 November 2017

What Melbourne Loved in 2017, part 6

More Taylor Mac tears, more Nanette love and more new writing.

Declan Greene
Playwright, director
Sisters Grimm
Resident Artist, Malthouse Theatre

Declan Green, Taylor Mac, Matthew Lutton. Photo by Sarah Walker

Favourite moments in 2017
It was a pretty bloody amazing year, hey? Like everyone else I couldn't just pick one moment, and Taylor Mac stands on a plinth of judy's own. I'll get that out of the way first.  In 24 Decades of Popular Music, my favourite moment was judy solo with ukelele singing "World Peace, or who in the room to screw?" Written there in black and white, it's a dumb and unwieldy little question, but in performance it encapsulated the human tension between our glorious idealism and the frailty of our flesh – but also the glorious hunger of our flesh and the frailty of our idealism – and it made me bawl my eyes out.

Aaaaand also:

The moment the giant smashed avocado dick appeared in Natesha Somasundaram's Jeremy and Lucas Buy A Fucking House, confirming the promise made by the previous 60 minutes: that Natesha is indeed a dementedly talented and dementedly demented comic prodigy.

The genuine surprise of Matt Lutton's production of Away, which stripped away all the layers of sentiment and nostalgia and showed the raw, uncomfortable human desperation at the heart of that play.

Pretty much everything about Janice Muller's production of Alice Birch's Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again, but especially that hysterical broken-farce of a third act and Ming Zhu Hii's terrifying performance as the Grandmother.

Ash Flanders's quiet and devastating vision of himself as high school drama teacher delivering a retirement speech in Playing To Win.

Betty Grumble's Love & Anger. I'm cheating because I saw it in Edinburgh but it's in Melbourne in a couple of days time and it's start-to-finish PHENOMENAL and doesn't let you take a breath. (SM: It's on NOW at The Butterfly Club.)

Looking forward to in 2018
I'm hopelessly biased, but there's so much in Malthouse's 2018 season I can't wait to see: Tom Wright and Matt Lutton's Bliss, Osamah Sami and Janice Muller's Good Muslim Boy, Jada Alberts directing her Brothers Wreck – one of the most incredible Australian plays of the last few decades, IMHO. And like other people on here I'm also very curious to see how the fuck I adapt Melancholia to the stage... 😂

Outside Malty, I'm very excited for Jean Tong's Hungry Ghosts and Nicola Gunn's Working With Children and The House of Bernarda Alda at MTC (that cast!!!), Embittered Swish's Estrogenesis at Next Wave, and the secret stuff The Rabble are cooking up for next year...

SM: Look at that photo! Audience members Declan and Matt Lutton on stage with Taylor Mac in Chapter III. Dec asked me to use it and there was no other one that I had even considered using this year.  But that wasn't even my favourite Declan–Taylor Mac moment. In my turn on stage in Chapter 1, I spent a lot of time looking at the audience. Declan was one of the first faces I recognised – smiling with no idea that he was being watched. There's something about seeing friends and strangers genuinely happy that is indescribable. 

Otto and Astrid Rot
Best band in the world

Astrid & Otto with Circus Oz team. Photo by Rob Blackburn

Favourite moments in 2017
We were both blown away by Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette. The timing of it is so crucial at the moment with the debate around marriage equality. Come on Australia. Get it together! We also loved Ghost Party and Casting Off (at Sidesault at the Melba) and This is Eden (at fortyfivedownstairs and there's a return season in 2018.)

Looking forward to in 2018
We love the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. It’s the best time to be in Melbourne. Can’t wait to see Laura Davis and David Quirk.

SM: I took a friend who had never seen them to their pre-tour performance of Eurosmash and watching her reaction was as wonderful as the show. But my favourite performance, so far, was at Andi's fundraiser. I suspect that I'm also going to totally love their collaboration with Circus Oz in December: The Strange and Spektaculär Lives of Otto & Astrid.

Myf Clark
Reviewer, arts administrator
Co-director, Girls on Film

Myf Clark

Favourite moments in 2017
Three words: Hannah freaking Gadsby. I was lucky enough to see her at MICF this year, thanks to the wonderful Anne-Marie taking me as her plus one, and it didn't take long for the tears to start coming out. I left the show feeling raw, vulnerable, inspired and every other emotion under the sun and I'm so glad more people have had the chance to experience this powerful and poignant show both here and overseas.

Honourable mentions: Seeing Cull by The Very Good Looking Initiative for the third time within a year, witnessing Christos Tsiolkas's words bought to the stage in Little One's Merciless Gods and experiencing The Rabble's one-off performance of Sick Sick at La Mama Theatre.

Honourable overseas mention: Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre in London. While Amber Riley, who was meant to play Effie, was sick, Marisha Wallace (her understudy) blew me away and I was bawling my eyes out while she sang "And I Am Telling You". Thank goodness interval was straight after and I could retreat to the private fancy lounge with free ice cream and a giant glass of gin!

Looking forward to in 2018
I'm hoping to get back into reviewing again this year (co-directing a film festival pretty much became my main focus this year, so I didn't see as much theatre as I would've liked). As always, I love seeing what La Mama has on offer each year and their dedication to supporting youth arts rocks my world.

I'm also really excited to see some bold and exciting women take over the main stage theatre companies, including Patricia Cornelius, Jean Tong and Michele Lee, as well as seeing Angus Cerini's The Bleeding Tree.

SM: I'm also hoping that Myf gets back into reviewing next year. We need more young exciting voices writing about theatre. My favourite moment was a few weeks after getting my Girls on Film crowd-sourcing reward bag. I'd been using the bag for shopping and finally found the pink "Feminist" badge that was in it!

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28 November 2017

What Melbourne Loved in 2017, part 5

Part 5 is brought to us by Sam and Matilda from Lab Kelpie because they have the best headshots.





Lyall Brooks
Actor
Artistic Director, Lab Kelpie 


Lyall Brooks
Favourite moments in 2017
The short answer is “new Australian writing”. Whether it was a production, a development or reading, or just a script – the breadth and quality and incisiveness and timeliness of the local voices I experienced this year blew me away.

The production of Kim Ho’s Mirror’s Edge, directed by Petra Kalive and performed with buckets of talent and passion by a bunch of Melbourne Uni students, was phenomenal. A brave expanse of ideas that crossed eras and skimmed its perfectly formed text across both a figurative pond of magical realism – and a literal onstage lake. It warmed my heart and poked my brain and made me cheer.

I also loved the silliness and charm of the only Melbourne Fringe show I was in town for, The Lounge Room Confabulator’s Survival Party. With my favourite dog on my right and my favourite cat lady on my left*, I laughed myself a damn headache for over an hour of what was basically a microcosm of Fringe: raw, sometimes-miss-but-mostly-hit, form-pushing and joyous theatre.

I got to glimpse a lot of unproduced work this year, too. Scripts by Emilie Collyer, Emina Ashman, Dianne Stubbings and Katy Warner (among others) all excited me – and Lonely Company’s brilliant Beta Fest: Theatre in Various States of Undress was an inspiring exhibition of new works currently under construction, and Lonely Company deserve a HUGE huzzah for making it happen.

[Self Promotion #1…] Personally, being a part of Patricia Cornelius’s Big Heart this year, as Theatre Works Associate Artist and the luckiest assistant director alive to work and learn under Susie Dee, was also one of my favourite moments (if a moment can still be spread over the months-long process). It was a big, brave work with both a beautiful team and relentless challenges, and I learned so much being on the other side of the table for once.

I could bang on for pages about what I loved this year, but I’ll stop.

No, sorry, one more thing.

Even though they weren’t in Melbourne, some of the theatre Adam and I saw overseas in 2017 (Small Town Boy by Maxim Gorki and Situation Rooms by Rimini Protokoll in Berlin, Cheese by Java Dance Theatre in New Zealand) and interstate (Bitch: The Origin of the Female Species by Edith Podesta at Brisbane Festival) made us stupidly excited about the potential of the form back home.

Looking forward to in 2018
The general answer is the same: New Australian stuff. Patricia’s long overdue mainstage debut, The House of Bernada Alba, finally catching Picnic at Hanging Rock at Malthouse, Jean Tong’s Hungry Ghosts, and all the vibrant indie stuff Melbourne does so freeking well.

[Self Promotion #2…] Lab Kelpie has a massive 2018 ahead with two new major works: Petra Kalive’s Oil Babies and the Victorian premiere of Mary Anne Butler’s Broken, on top of three or four shows in development and a national tour of A Prudent Man. This is only partly a plug! I genuinely am so looking forward to a MAD year presenting and developing new projects and working on building new avenues of support for our local theatre writers.

SM: There were Lyall's undies and his snot – and the rest of Spencer. But I'm going for his Frank in Merrily We Roll Along. And Sam.  I haven't met Matilda.

* I know who it is.

Keith Gow
Playwright, reviewer

Keith Gow

Favourite moments in 2017
Wild Bore was an absolute marvel of satire and craft and pure theatrical madness. I laughed so much it hurt, and then it gave me so much to think about in regard to theatre criticism and the conversation between critic and artist. Whenever I’ve written a review since, I’ve interrogated my point of view more and tried even harder to dig in to what the artist was striving for, whether it worked for me or not. I’m so thrilled this show has travelled far and wide this year.

Nanette was so simple and so powerful and would have always been so, but in the year of the marriage equality survey, it had so much resonance throughout the community. Stand-up comedy can be so immediate and respond to politics and society in a way traditional forms of theatre cannot because of its lengthy development process. This, though, is the culmination of Hannah Gadsby’s stand-up career; a show she has been writing and not writing for her whole career. Astonishing and brave and remarkable. And, as with Wild Bore, I’m glad this show has toured all over the place.

Looking forward to in 2018
I’m looking forward to Stephen Nicolazzo and Eugyeene Teh and Katie Sfetkidis being let loose at MTC for Abigail’s Party. I’m excited for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, also at MTC. The Malthouse line-up looks thrilling from beginning to end, but I am hanging out for Melancholia, Blackie Blackie Brown and the shows from Belarus Free Theatre.

Outside the main stages, I want to see Strangers in Between at Midsumma, directed by Daniel Lammin. And whatever is happening at Theatre Works, which had a really great 2017.

SM: Keith is a writer who sees and supports a LOT of independent theatre. I read his reviews and they often influence my choice to see a work, especially if it's new writing.

Tom Middleditch
Playwright, director

Tom Middleditch

Favourite moments in 2017
Awakening, remounting  MUST's season last year. It's rare to find a work that speaks for teenagers across the ages, corrects the faults of the original text while making the heart of said original stand strong. Vibrant, unapologetic, necessary, it's the sort of work that reminds you what we were really in danger of in the teen years, and fondly remembers those who didn't get to tell the tale themselves.

Germinal, as part of the Melbourne Festival. As a lover of Absurdism and anything involving the universe, I was sold from the blurb alone. What I wasn't expecting was the most joyful experience in theatre I've had in years. It collects its silly moments like the grandest and most adorably astute Absurdist on the open mic and climaxes, making not so much a point but a celebration of the stuff that just happened. Also, the joy of seeing a group of actors take to the Malthouse stage with pickaxes and ramming trees through the stage had me giggling for a good long time.

Looking forward to in 2018
Top of the list is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (which is here years before I expected), telling a neurodiverse story that will be the genre and pop culture reference point for those on the spectrum for years to come, and on which all evolution towards acceptance and empathy will sprout from.

I'm also pumped for Jean Tong's Hungry Ghosts at the MTC. Seeing our generation of theatre makers and playwrights get the main stage attention they deserve is vindicating, and after catching their work in the Poppy Seed festival, Jean is one of the voices I want front and centre of this new wave.

SM: Tom's Alexithymia recently premiered at the Poppy Seed Festival. Full of heart and understanding, and I really hope it gets the chance for some development and another season. So much of power of theatre is seeing the world through different eyes;  writes neurodiverse characters and stories that remind us that we all see and understand the world differently.

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27 November 2017

What Melbourne Loved in 2017, part 4

Part 4 is artists to keep a keep eye on.


Jean Tong
Writer/director

Jean Tong selfie.
(Send me pet pics and I will always use them.)

Favourite moments in 2017
So many people are going to say this (as they should, too), but Hannah Gadsby's Nanette tops any performance experience I've had this year. I sat by myself in a packed room and wept for an hour at MICF. Never before and not since have I felt myself so thoroughly torn apart, seen and loved at the same time in a work. I was a wreck for the next week; it's an astonishing work for its truths and the skill with which it presents those truths. It was incredible to see comedy opened up in that way and sweep the floor of... basically any work ever made.

The only other show that came close to being as intelligent, as well-made, and as heart-crushing was Joel Bray's Biladurang at Melbourne Fringe. The performance was gorgeous, and the gentleness with which it opened up the space between audience, performer, city and story was just so absolutely stunning. The extremely limited capacity meant not many people managed to get to it, but fingers crossed it returns because I want everyone to see it.

Looking forward to in 2018
post's Ich Nibber Dibber at Malthouse. They're so funny and irreverent and clever and I love everything they do solo/together.

Not a specific show, but I'm very excited to see what MTC Next Stage program will bring. Benjamin Law, Leah Purcell and Patricia Cornelius all on commission at the same time? Local fave Natesha Somasundaram a resident? It's all too much good at the same time, the industry might break.

SM: Every moment of Jean's Romeo is Not the Only Fruit. This new work has just finished it's Poppyseed Festival run at The Butterfly Club. Can someone please make sure that Jean and this show get some serious development money and another huge season (with the same cast). It's the subversive satirical lesbian musical we need. So many new works disappear; this one has to be helped only bigger stages. And I'm really looking forward to seeing her Hungry Ghosts at MTC next year.

Bradley Storer
Cabaret performer/future DILF


Bradley Storer

Favourite moments in 2017
In terms of sheer shock, one of my favourite moments from theatre this year was the now infamous opening night of Cabaret where during the title number Chelsea Gibb’s microphone cut out and she was forced to leave and re-enter the stage – chaos with the director of the show Gale Edwards yelling instructions from the audience and Paul Capsis forced to vamp until microphone adjustments could be made. Only for Gibb to re-enter and have the microphone start cutting out again! The audience was on its feet roaring and cheering in full support, and it was one of those rare moments where the entire audience was deeply, viscerally connected to a performer valiantly struggling onstage. Gibb not only rose above but knocked it out of the park, and I don’t think I’ll ever hear that song the same way ever again.

I’m sure so many will mention the incredible 24-Decade History of Popular Music with Taylor Mac, and there were too many mind-blowing moments to recount here. Although bursting into unexpected tears after 40 minutes of being forced to wear a blindfold was a highlight, the moment I cling to came in the very last chapter at the edge of the seventies. After we’d survived an orgasmic Cold War between two gigantic phalluses, and celebrated with a joyful and rapturous backroom orgy to Prince’s "Purple Rain", we were called to imagine us all collapsed in post-coital bliss on the floor of the backroom, our exhausted breaths climbing into the air to create the opening strains of Laurie Anderson’s classic "O Superman" – a post-modern jumble of images and confusion, strange voices calling out prophecies in the darkness of planes coming, tender and pained cries to be held by a mechanized and distant mother with "petrochemical arms". A giant spot light seared through the audience as though it was piercing directly into our souls. And I started crying so uncontrollably hard I had the poor unfortunate people around me asking if I was alright.

Looking forward to in 2018
All I’m hoping to see in theatre next year is things that surprise me!

SM: I saw Bradley every night at Taylor Mac and we've talk about it every time we've seen each other since.  One day, we may be able to explain all the tears; if we ever really undersatnd them ourselves.

John Collopy
Lighting designer 


John Collopy. Photo by Stephen Amos

Favourite moments in 2017
This is hard as a lot of them have been shows I have been lucky enough to be working and learning on. I loved The Rabble's Joan even more for being privy to such a fulfilling and exciting creative process, and Little Ones Theatre's Merciless Gods consistently broke me, even though I would have seen it dozens of times. Learning from designers and creatives at the top of their game was a personal highlight and a great privilege.

That said, the standout moment for me was watching Away at Malthouse. When the massive transition began, the Year 12 Drama students around me gasped, turned to each other, and collectively went “faaarrrkkkkk”, and then giggled with pure excitement as the stage was completely transformed (which was, I think, a ‘faaarrrkkkkk-worthy’ moment). I think it’s such a key moment in a creative’s life, to be awed by something; and it was wonderful to know that they had just had that moment.

Looking forward to in 2018
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, at MTC, for its telling of neurodiverse stories (even if the author won’t admit or label it). Melancholia, at Malthouse, because the film is so beautifully cinematic and seeing how that will happen on stage fills me with many feelings, but mostly those events that will happen which haven’t been announced yet, that are urgent responses to other events which haven’t happened yet.

SM: My favourite moment was getting a favourite from someone I didn't know, but it took me a moment realise that I do know John and have seen his lighting at MUST shows and his beautiful and sharp light for The Nose at this year's Fringe.

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24 November 2017

What Melbourne Loved in 2017, part 3

Another two amazing artists who went through MUST and Monash (Fleur and Sarah), more Taylor Mac tears, a controversial show, and a lot of excitement about new writing and emerging artists who are showing us how it's done.

Sarah Walker
Photographer

Sarah Walker. Photo by Sarah Walker

Favourite moments in 2017
I mean, it's kind of unfair that Taylor Mac's A 24-Decade History of Popular Music happened this year because that show was such a seismic event. And because it was so long, there were moments that would otherwise have defined a whole year that I've completely forgotten because so much happened. So much!

Here's a few that spring to mind: the audience in the "isolation chambers" up the back of the Forum getting overexcited and pelting me with pingpong balls during one of the war sequences. Walking through the aisles during the blindfolded hour in Chapter I and seeing all the tiny moments that nobody else would have seen – the hands creeping into other hands, and the heads on shoulders, and the sly little blind kisses. Taylor's imagined deathbed speech from Walt Whitman to Stephen Foster (I want a transcription of that speech so badly). But really, I think my favourite thing of all was the way Taylor smiled at people. When they came up onstage and did a good job. When judy stepped back and watched another performer belt out a solo or a dance piece. When the audience sighed or laughed or cried. I've never seen so much love in a smile. It's the sort of smile you look for your whole life, and Taylor gave it to everyone. It was like the opposite of the hidden kiss in the corner of Mrs Darling's mouth in Peter Pan that Mr Darling could never get. Taylor's love was for everybody.

My other favourite moment was during The Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble's The Usefulness of Art concert at fortyfivedownstairs. The whole concert was so suffused with joy and excitement. At the crescendo of the work, Adam was standing in front of the orchestra, furiously conducting, not so much leading the music as wrenching it from the performers – punching the air to bring the sound along with him and as the piece peaked, he let out this yell that was the most cathartic release of energy, and the band crashed around him, and, holy shit, I had goosebumps coursing up and down my whole body and everything was shining.

Looking forward to in 2018
Oh, golly, so much. I can't wait for Blackie Blackie Brown – my boyfriend is working on it and I was in the room for some of the development, and it was just madness. I think it's going to be hysterical and brutal and schlocky and full of life.

I'm also super excited that Stephen Nicolazzo and Patricia Cornelius are going to be erupting onto the mainstage at the MTC. It's about bloody time. Also, Patricia and Julie Forsyth in the same room? Somebody has been raiding my daydreams again. Fuck yeah.

SM: Sarah's name appears the most on this site because she takes the photos that capture what a show is about and she capture how a person looks in that split second that they aren't self conscious of being in front of a camera. Every time.

Fleur Kilpatrick
Playwright, teacher, RRR Smart Arts theatre commentator 

Fleur's birthday. Photo by Sarah Walker

Favourite moments in 2017
One of my favourite things this year was seeing wonderful shows get a remount. This is so rare in Australia and it was so wonderful to see Hello, Goodbye, Happy Birthday head out on tour, Two Jews Walk into a Theatre get a Melbourne Festival season and Zoe Coombs Marr's Trigger Warning make a return to MIFF.

I had never seen Trigger Warning and it was without a doubt one of my highlights. It was extremely clever terms of content but also form, something that so many comedians take as prescribed. Plus it was perhaps the funniest thing I had ever seen.

Another firm favourite was All the Sex I've Ever Had by Mammalian Diving Reflex. This show was so joyful and celebratory. It was a celebration not only of sex but of living and surviving. As the senior participants shared their lives and exploits, a  community quickly formed in the theatre, a community dedicated to celebrating these men and women through their joys and griefs. I left feeling immensely grateful for their generosity, bravery and perseverance.

Looking forward to in 2018
A total delight in 2017 was seeing space created for new works. With that in mind I'm writing my "looking forward to" as a wish list: these were wonderful works that deserve a season or a remount.

Fleur's 2018 wishlist:
1. A season for Natesha Somasundaram's Jeremy and Lucas Buy A Fucking House. It's three-day La Mama exploration sold out. It was so smart, funny and delightful. Programmers, please fight for this one.
2. A return season for Jean Tong's Romeo is not the Only Fruit. This satirical Lesbian pop musical  sold out its Poppy Seed Festival season and racked up critical praise. I want to see this come back to Melbourne but also tour please!
3. A season for Emina Ashman's Make Me A Houri. This was one of the best readings I saw this year. Emina's writing is so beautiful, poetic, dark and all her own. Her writing asks questions of what it means to be a Muslim today, a feminist today, a woman today. Again, programmers, chase her.

SM: I was at Fleur's surprise birthday at All My Friends Were There; that was awesome. I love listening to Fleur and Richard Watts on Smart Arts on Thursday mornings. I also love that she loves teaching undergrads as much as I do.

Scott Gooding
Actor, director 

Scott Gooding
Favourite moments in 2017
Ohhh, saw so much good stuff when I went through my diary. Stand out performance I saw was You're Not Alone by Kim Noble, at Malthouse. Brave, provocative, unflinching and funny as fuck. Whether it was "real" or not, I didn't care. It was great also to see so many people get up in arms about it.

Looking forward to in 2018
Next Wave Festival. Watching this bunch of cutting edge artists get to strut their stuff and show us oldies how it's done. Can't wait.

SM: I got to see Scott on stage again this year  in Jane Miller's Cuckoo; he's an actor who finds the heart of his characters and lets the emotions they try to hide drive them.

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22 November 2017

What Melbourne Loved in 2017, part 2

Today we have three people who have all been through MUST at Monash Uni; MUST won last year's "Everything they do rocks" award.

Mama Alto
Jazz cabaret diva


Taylor Mac and Mama Alto. Photo by Sarah Walker

Favourite moments in 2017
900 people, in tears, with smiles, hearts full to burst, singing together: “You can lie down or get up and play”.

Honourable mentions must go to Kate Mulvany’s fascinating depiction of Richard of York in Richard III, Margot Tanjutco’s magical realist 1940s Asian-American wonderland in Estrella Wing: Showgirl, and Anne-Marie Peard crocheting queer rainbow granny squares live on stage whilst Taylor Mac sang "Yankee Doodle Dandy".

Looking forward to in 2018
I was lucky to catch The Bleeding Tree, one of the most astounding Australian plays I have ever seen, in Sydney in 2017 – and I am thrilled it will be coming to Melbourne in 2018. Revelatory, damning, chilling, fascinating, introspective, and arresting performances from all three actresses, but especially Paula Arundell.

Similarly, it will be fabulous to have the Virginia Gay lead Calamity Jane come to Melbourne.

But most of all I look forward to being surprised.

SM: No YOU'RE crying! Who am I kidding. We're back at Taylor Mac and I'm crying. And one of the greatest of all the unforgettable moments of that 24 hours was Taylor giving the stage to Mama during Chapter III. The captured silence. The moment when the whole audience breathed in together before we exploded in applause – or was it screaming. It was magnificent.

Mama has been involved in the creation of so many shows this year; I miss too many of them. I'm not missing the Christmas show at the Butterfly Club this year.

www.mamaalto.com

Daniel Lammin
Director, writer

Daniel Lammin made it to Broadway!

Favourite moments in 2017
It’s a tough one this year, because my favourite theatre experience wasn’t something I saw in Melbourne. So I’m going to cheat and do two, mostly because I’m excitable and greedy.

The Melbourne-based production that had the biggest impact on me this past year was probably The Rabble’s Joan. I’ve never been a big fan of their work, but Joan really deeply moved me. It was raw and unforgiving, thrilling in its form and devastating in its content, and the sight of those four superb women baring their souls on stage was often breathtaking. There was nothing didactic or self-consciously clever about its execution, every moment seemly crafted by primal instinct and tremendous daring. I’ve always been fascinated by Jean d’Arc as a figure, but had never seen her story approached with such integrity and fury. The final monologues had me captivated and sobbing. It’s easily my favourite work from The Rabble and I walked away with the feeling that something had shifted inside me as both an audience member and a theatre maker.

This year though, I made my first overseas trip ever to the USA and spent two weeks in New York. I saw eight shows over there, many of which were superb (especially the immersive Barrow Street production of Sweeney Todd), but the highlight of the trip, and my year, and one of the best theatrical experiences I’ve ever had, was seeing Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen.

I unashamedly love the musical even with its many problems, and the production is excellent, but Platt’s performance was jaw-dropping. The closest I’ve seen to any performance as detailed, committed and unforgiving was seeing Robin Nevin in Kosky’s Women of Troy, and the effect was similar – uncontrollable sobbing and wide-eyed awe (thankfully, everyone else was dry-heaving sobbing as much as I was, so I didn’t ruin anyone else’s evening).

As an audience member, I was shattered by every second he appeared on stage; as a director, I marvelled at how the hell he was able to do it in the first place, especially someone so damn young. I’ve spent a lot of my theatrical practice looking at young men in emotional crisis, so both the show and Platt’s devastating performance were something I really needed to see. To be honest, it was probably the best performance by an actor I’ve ever seen on stage, and worth every cent of the $US300 I paid to see it.

Looking forward to in 2018
Well, I can’t wait to see how the fuck Matt Lutton and Declan Greene adapt Lars von Trier’s Melancholia on stage because what the hell, and am pumped to see Anne-Louise Sarks’s production of Blasted. Plus there’s A Doll’s House Part 2 and Patricia Cornelius FINALLY ON A MAIN STAGE with The House of Bernarda Alba at the MTC, and I’m sure a whole lot of other independent work that’ll pop up over the year. Really though, I just can’t wait to see Picnic at Hanging Rock again. I’m going to take my fiancé and his family along and, honestly, I hope it scares the shit out of them!

SM: My favourite Daniel moment is the same as last year's: His production of Awakening. Giving Wendela power and letting her take back her story still makes me skip a breath to take it in. Too many women's stories about, especially young women's stories, about rape and abuse still end in the convenience of death and silence. Shows like this do so much to take away shame and let women be heard.

Christopher Bryant
Writer, actor

Christopher Bryant. Photo by Lisa-Maree Williams

Favourite moments in 2017
Revolt. She said. Revolt again. at the Malthouse – the first half was some of the most joyous/intelligent/occasionally crass writing I’ve seen this year, and the second half an overwhelming gut punch. I know I’m talking in hyperbole, but I just honestly loved it. It was the first time in a few years that I sat in a theatre grinning uncontrollably as I watched something.

The other moment (“moment”) would be Julia Croft’s If there’s not dancing at the revolution, I’m not coming. I knew nothing going in and was blown away for an hour: a simultaneously hilarious and venomous deconstruction of onscreen female representation that played with form. It also had a brilliant soundtrack to boot. Both pieces felt truly unpredictable, and therefore, truly exciting.

Looking forward to in 2018
Working with Children by Nicola Gunn, Astroman by Albert Beiz (I saw the development showing at the 2015 National Play Festival, and it was really exciting), Melancholia, Blackie Blackie Brown… so many things. Also, heaps of shows that I don’t know about: I didn’t get to attend as many shows as I would’ve liked to this year, and I’m going to try and see more next year.

SM: This Fringe, I saw a lot of shows and wasn't able to write about; Christopher's Intoxication was up there with the best. He wrote and performed a very honest and personal story without being sentimental or indulgent. One of my favourite moments during the show was his story about getting advice from Kate Mulvany. I'm really looking forward to seeing the next steps of its development.

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20 November 2017

What Melbourne Loved in 2017, part 1

Sometime after the comedy festival, I stopped writing the list of shows I'd seen; I regret that. But it's been a quiet year for me; at best count I'm at around 160 shows so far. No doubt that this series is going to remind of some of the amazing ones and make me regret missing at least another 160.

Remember that everyone is welcome to contribute and that the best way to hear from an artist that you love is to ask them to get writing.

Stephen Nicolazzo 
Director
Little Ones Theatre

Stephen Nicolazzo

Favourite moments in 2017
My favourite moment of Melbourne theatre in 2017 was the breathtaking opening segment of The Rabble's Joan. The light, sound and bodies gloriously choreographed – it was thrilling, completely alive and completely made on its own terms. All that followed it, too, was stupendous. Each visual sequence an example of sumptuous, elegant and inspiring theatrical practice.

Also adored Fraught Outfit’s The Book of Exodus Part 1; Malthouse Theatre’s The Real and Imagined History of The Elephant Man; Lucy Guerin’s Split, Susie Dee, Patricia Cornelius etc's Caravan; Melanie Lane’s Nightdance; Tangi Wai as part of Dance Massive; Fringe Wives Club’s Gliitery Clittery; and the emotional and vulnerable ride that was All The Sex I’ve Ever Had as part of Melbourne Festival.

Standout theatre moment of the year, though, happened at Dark Mofo when I finally got to see The Second Woman by Nat Randall. Fuck. That is just the best piece of theatre I think I have ever experienced. Truly brilliant and addictive.

Looking forward to in 2018
I am desperately excited to see Patricia Cornelius’s House of Bernarda Alba at MTC and everything and anything that plays at Theatre Works and Arts House in 2018.

SM: It's been an amazing year for Little Ones Theatre with The Happy Prince, The Moors (as part of the Red Stitch season), and Merciless Gods (which has sold out it's current Sydney season and become the highest-selling Griffin indie show!). Find the artists who see the world like you do and the ones who will challenge you, make the work you want to make, don't listen to the voices that don't get it, and you will find an audience who love you and share your vision of the world. I loved all three Little Ones shows this year, but The Happy Prince at La Mama, with it's tiny proscenium and roller skates, was my favourite favourite. I can't wait for Abigail's Party at MTC next year.

I also saw The Scarlet Pimpernel by the all-female Takarazuka Revue in Tokyo because I knew they were Stephen's favourite company. It was totally sold out and I missed out on returns. Then a women who didn't speak English gave me a ticket and she will be getting theatre karma for ever because I am so grateful that I saw this incredible company. It was like being in his head. I still don't know if it was the queerest or the straightest piece of theatre I've seen, and I would go back to Japan for 24 hours just to see them again.


Tim Byrne
Critic, writer, interviewer

Tim Byrne

Favourite moments in 2017
I missed some heavy hitters this year – was overseas during the festival and I know, Taylor Yakkity Mac, shut up already! – but my favourite moment in a Melbourne theatre was the two nights I spent at fortyfivedownstairs being pounded and broken and remade by the glorious ensemble of Gary Abrahams’s production of Angels in America. It was sublime and searing and reminded me of where I’d been as a gay man on the fringes of our own destruction, back in that dark time we old people like to call the ’90s.

Looking forward to in 2018
The thing I most look forward to next year is any work by director Stephen Nicolazzo. He’s finally getting a gig on MTC’s main stage, and I suspect we will only see more and more from this extremely talented man. I adored his The Moors for Red Stitch, was impressed but not as moved as everyone else by his Merciless Gods, and cannot wait for him to direct for Opera Australia in the near future. He has Barrie Kosky’s brazenness but his aesthetic is far more sophisticated and nuanced. As long as he takes his spirit animal along with him – designer extraordinaire Eugyeene Teh – he can’t fail to impress.

SM: Every disagreement Tim and I have about a show is a favourite moment. If you don't read all of Tim's reviews in Time Out, you're missing out on some of the best critical writing around.

Sayraphim Lothian
Craftivist

Sayraphim Lothian
Favourite moments in 2017
In a way, this was a bad and excellent year for art for me. I'm not sure I went to see anything this year ... apart from one of my fabourite bands doing a caberet on one of my favourite topics. Idiot Magnet did The Big Book of Conspiracies at Fringe and I was there every night to see it and I fricken LOVED it. Disclaimer: I may be married to one of them.

But apart from that, I've had my head down working all year and recovering from an exhausting year last year. And then when things started to clear, the Marriage Equality postal nonsence was looming and I spent time doing and sharing the hell out of the YES side and their awesome, creative activism.

And then i got a book deal. HOLY GODS I GOT A BOOK DEAL to write about Craftivism and Creative Resistance. (It's called Guerrilla Kindness and Other Acts of Creative Resistance – Making the World a Better Place Through Craftivism and it's out in April! EEEEE!!) So I slowed everything else to work on that.

So I saw the inside of my house a lot. I stared at my computer screen and sewing machine a lot. I researched a bunch of amazing activism from around the world a lot. And I made a bunch of cool stuff and wrote a lot of words.

I'm sorry Melbs Art Scene, I didn't see you much this year. But I'll be back next year, I promise.

SM: Sayra thought that she hadn't seen enough this year to take part, but she inspired me so much this year that I didn't give her a choice. I spent a lot of time channeling frustration and anger and ultimately a lot of love into yarn this year. There were #pussyhats in the first half of the year and then came #QueerGrannySquares. I've had so much joy from seeing these out in the world.

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19 November 2017

Interview: Dean Bryant

Vivid White 
Melbourne Theatre Company
18 November–23 November
mtc.com.au

Vivid White


Eddie Perfect's new show opens this week at MTC. I joined director Dean Bryant on his morning walk to rehearsals for The Music.

16 November 2017

Contribute: What Melbourne Loved 2017

It's been a year when we've been reminded how art can change us.

There have been artists, shows and experiences that dug deep and left their audiences raw – and angry and broken, and loved and accepted. I've felt devastated and elated and I've felt like I am part of a community that is determined to say "fuck you" to the boring and ignorant.

Hannah Gadsby
Melbourne loved a lot this year. So it's time to write your "What Melbourne Loved in 2017".

The regulars know what to do – and if you are a regular, there are so many people who want to read your take on this year. If you haven't contributed before, 2017 is the perfect year to get involved – everyone is welcome.

Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker
I promise that your opinion and your experiences are interesting to other people; Melbourne's arts community loves hearing about Melbourne's arts community. I think I can safely predict that we're going read a bit about Taylor Mac and Hannah Gadsby, but it's wonderful to hear about the shows and memories that less people saw.

Let's talk about those memories that changed us, the ones that made us feel in ways we didn't expect to feel, the ones we can't forget.

It's easy to get involved. Email your answers to these two questions:

What was your favourite moment in Melbourne theatre in 2017?
It doesn't have to be something you saw on a stage.

What are you looking forward to in Melbourne theatre in 2018?
Again, it doesn't have to be something on a stage.

Some people like to write a lot, but some of the best and most-read responses have been succinct.

Also send me your favourite photo of you and credit the photographer if you can.

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Give: Glitterfist Libertine

Glitterfist:Libertine have a Pozible campaign for their Midsumma show. If we want to see exciting queer and glittery work like this, we've gotta support it. Here's the link.