Finished his Phd
Delving into Dance podcast
Favourite moments in 2017
A year that was tarnished by the inauguration of DT (SM: He self-googles; we don't want him here by searching for his name) and the divisiveness of his politics of hate. The same year we saw the expensive and divisive postal vote and the increased focus of gender inequities in the creative industries, alongside the increased reporting of sexual abuse. 2017 is the year that appears to mark a precipice. A call for action; what is the trajectory we have set ourselves?
There were three works that answered the call, all significant departures from the path our political leaders appear to want to take us and complicating the status quo. They have marked me in distinct and significant ways. They have all changed me!
Hannah Gadsby, Nanette.
What the fuck! This was just a phenomenal performance. I was blessed to see the return season. One microphone and one enormous Hamer Hall stage, a stage too often reserved for "high art". A stunning juxtaposition for the critique of high art outlined during the show. Ask Hannah what she thinks of Picasso… and rightly so. The show was perfectly structured and bravely performed. The unresolved tension at the end was palpable. A call for action. I turned to Bec Reid with the knot in my chest as we looked for the words: “WHOW!” What else can be said?
Taylor Mac, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music
24-Decade, like Nanette, was a provocation and a call to action. The audience were implicated as part of the mode of delivery. Generally, I loath audience participation and seek to hide from any invitation to participate. But for a radical faerie realness ritual sacrifice, I was there! The audience participation felt so natural as inclusion as part of the mode of performance and the nature of its creation.
Vote one Taylor for President. The performance models what it would be like if we had a leader that valued the diversity of voices, including queers, women and people of colour.
It was unapologetically queer in its politics. A protest. A celebration. A radical faerie realness ritual sacrifice. It was everything and more. A temporary community that reflected my politics and my love of what and who humans can be.
Jonathan Holloway said to me on the first night that the work would change the city (a huge call, I though at the time). BUT YES! Not a single person couldn’t have been changed. Personally, Taylor gave value to my queer politic in a way that doesn’t often feature in theatre of a generic LGBTIQ nature.
Not a day that has passed without reflection upon Taylor’s show. From slow dancing with strangers to the validation of anonymous cock sucking! Machine Dazzle, Tiger and the whole crew! Incredible!
All the Queens Men, The Coming Back Out Ball
The vision of Tristan Meecham, The Coming Back Out Ball paid homage to our LGBTI Elders. While involved in the ball as the maître d', I can say without bias this was the best night of my life. An artistic intervention based on research that literally changed peoples lives. The project embraced and celebrated our elders, with a room of over 500 people full of love and joy.
I was embraced by a lesbian who was in tears of joy saying, “This is the best night of my life". It is the first time I have been recognised as a lesbian and an elder.” I spoke to a 68-year-old trans woman who used the ball as her post-op debutante. Then there was a couple who were celebrating their 26th Anniversary. This was a truly safe and celebratory space, with a three course meal for all the Elders and amazinging performances from the likes of Robyn Archer, Deborah Cheetham and Toni Lalich.
The Ball embraced everything wonderful about inclusion and community!
Honorable mentions: Attractor at Asia TOPA; Angels in America; Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster, Nicola Gunn; Do Not Collect $200; Gabrielle Nankivell’s Wildebeest for Sydney Dance Company; All the Sex I've Ever Had; Melanie Lane’s Nightdance; and Wild Bore.
Looking forward to in 2018
In 2018 I will be spending significant time in the UK, so really looking forward to the experience the new and unknown. Seeking works that profile a diversity of voices, the queer, the unique and works that engage their audiences in re-imagining the world we could inhabit.
The Happy Prince Little Ones Theatre, La Mama. In this almost unbearably delicate production, the series of encounters and gradual entwining of the hopelessly selfish prince even in her compassion and the beautiful reckless generous obliviousness of the roller-skating swallow with his tiny strength which he gives up accidentally. As they began to see each other they disintegrate and that love was devastating.
The Encounter, Complicite, Malthouse. It stopped, shifted and altered time when I was within it, a huge feat and one that made the world sit differently afterwards. Despite the vastly British framing, familiar if effective storytelling tricks to make us trust, a huge interior journey became possible.
Free Admission, Ursula Martinez, Arts Centre Melbourne. Ursula brought in and broke down (by constructing) a wall! She freely admitted through a "Sometimes I..." structure drawing from the free association much that isn’t usually allowed to enter into theatrical or our mental space. Potent, unique and challenging.
Passenger, Footscray Community Arts Centre and Arts Centre. Not so much for what happened on the bus, but for the incremental inroads this work made into the real world beyond. How the uninspiring Docklands we drove through became part of the audience’s imaginative terrain. The pleasure of spotting strange characters, a Clint Eastwood-esque figure on horseback, and the way it shifted our relation to overlooked, ordinary over-developed urban spaces, has stayed with me.
Book of Exodus part 1 and part 2, Fraught Outfit, Theatre Works. Navigated the weight of time, of history, of cultural destiny with first two children then a whole band trying to find their way through the dark desert. From a slow journey through (part 1) a white world of futile foam with discoveries like a gingerbread house through (part 2) into a shadowy black space shining with gold and a lamplike sun in which childhood objects like sleeping bags and scooters alternated with displays of power and detachment that were never held onto too tightly, but slipped through young fingers like uncomprehended ash. The final moment of the babies having a bacchanal, suckling and the deus ex machina descent of Euygeene Teh’s incredible gold-breasted milk-dispensing contraption was unparalleled.
Queen of Wolves, Nick Coyle, Hares and Hyenas. An Act of indomitable mental and imaginative fortitude in which Nick Coyle embodies Frances Glass, a determined governess-type charged to restore a haunted house to a semblance of order. I marvelled as I felt so many things. The Hares and Hyenas wallpaper became the peeling veneer of a cobwebby mansion. The cello-playing frenzy and channelling of a louche Southern former mistress of the house was unfathomably funny. A seriously glorious work of theatre with crazy high production values. Must see! Crying out for another season.
Merciless Gods, Little Ones Theatre, Darebin Speakeasy. This work transported me into the dark subterranean places of our unbridled uncensored feelings and was so intense and violent in parts, yet terribly tender in others. The drive to display and dramatise what surges underneath even apparently ordinary moments and relationships masquerading as familial, the unabashed blatancy of the project and its incredible realisation by the ensemble and the whole team made for compelling theatre. The palette of reds and the spatial design like a tongue sticking out between the seating banks seemed like the only possible setting for this act of collective calling up of the spirit of a whole decade.
One of the Good Ones, Cope St Indigenous Arts Collective, Metanoia. I delighted in this ambivalently nostalgic retro-ridiculous offering with a set made from outmoded technology, that asked the audience to read the work on multiple levels. With their child self believing a hairdryer was a blaster, with their adult self who was nostalgic for the time when it was possible to believe a hairdryer was a blaster and with their current self noticing colonial triggers (such as music from the bicentennial) while being made aware of the racist tropes invoked (like "one of the good ones"). Smart writing and hilarious performances. By setting this struggle in space, in the future, the audience drew their own parallels about Aboriginal heroism in the struggle for sovereignty in a hostile (solar) system.
The Chairs, Jenny Kemp, designed by Dale Ferguson, La Mama. Like dwelling at the bottom of the sea, living in a lighthouse, being part of an elaborate ritual in which a couple attempt to work out how to extricate themselves from life, re-capture and experience each other’s affection, by instituting space between them, in preparation for saying goodbye to everything. That moment of Jillian Murray and Robert Meldrum progressing up separate staircases nearly obliterated me. Unbearably powerful!
Ash Flanders is Nothing, Hares and Hyenas. Kaleidoscopic collision nigh impossible to encapsulate. A bit like dwelling within a cabana made of Muriel’s Wedding, your childhood sense of The Neverending Story as tragedy and a reflux-like experiencing of Ash Flanders’/one’s own less than ideal life. All generously given to you on a slightly chipped but really lavish platter with full flourish. Consummate performance by an ascerbically insightful marvel making a Christmas sacrifice of his own bravado for your delight.
Looking forward to in 2018
Good Muslim Boy, Melancholia, Blasted (Australian premiere!) at Malthouse, and the return of Belarus Free Theatre.
The Nightingale and the Rose by Little Ones and Dybbuks by Samara Hersch and Chambermade - both at Theatreworks
Hungry Ghosts by Jean Tong at MTC and much much more on and off stages.
Artsistic Director, MUST
Favourite moments in 2017
Susie Dee and Nicci Wilks doing their best to adjust to a sudden (devlishly angular) rainstorm during a performance of Caravan – adjusting their caravan/set, trying to stay in character but not– gloriously entertainingly live.
Brilliant, hilarious and insightful women taking about where we are at in The Festival of Questions, especially "The Handmaid's Tale WTF", Wheeler Centre, Melbourne Festival.
Bizarrely serendipitous programming one night at The MUST Cabaret Festival: a dramatic duet of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" performed in German followed a few minutes later by an equally dramatic solo version in Russian, then the hosts joining in with their English version and...
Great sport Tim enduring black goo poured over his head again and again in pursuit of the "great promo shot" for Frankensteinxx at MUST.
The razor-sharp choreographic flourishes in How to Kill the Queen of Pop, Hotel Now.
Turning around suddenly in response to the 360 degree soundscape of The Encounter at Malthouse.
The moments of humble, shared humanity between those on the stage, those in the audience and those on and off in All the Sex I've Ever Had, Melbourne Festival.
People's unreserved joy at experiencing Taylor Mac, of whom I only got a little first hand, but an enormous amount vicariously.
The incredibly dramatic, fiery, epic-action-movie-like scene changes in MTC's Macbeth.
The wondrous final image of Angels in America Part 1: the inventive canvas-curtained set dropped down to reveal a beautifully glowing hand-painted stained glass effect.
The stunning images of Exodus, Part I and Part II, Fraught Outfit at Theatre Works.
Glimpses of Joan, just caught by light, The Rabble at Theatre Works.
The focused fleeting images of In Plan, Melbourne Festival.
The Nose in The Nose, Bloomshed at Melbourne Fringe.
The shifts in tone in Hannah Gadsby's Nanette and Kaitlyn Rogers's Can I Get an Amen. They both totally succeeded in keeping us with them, through all their heart wrenching terrain. (Ok, so by the time I saw Nanette, it wasn't a surprise, but the power of the experience of was.)
Realising it wasn't just a genius marketing ploy in Wild Bore at Malthouse.
Realising it wasn't just my niece enjoying As You Like It at the Pop Up Globe from The Groundlings area.
The sometimes jarring, sometimes fluid relationship between movement and text in Nicola Gun's incredible work Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster.
Discoveries – why have some of these taken me so long?
Trygve Wakenshaw in Nautilus – A fluid rubbery joy.
The Travelling Sisters – looking forward to more.
Rama Nichols – she's just so good.
Seeing Joe Fisher juggle for the first time at The MUST Cabaret Festival– not a form I generally go crazy over, but the electric tension he brings to his performances is something else.
Show I loved (but, as always, there are so many):
Angels in America at fortyfivedownstairs, directed by Gary Abrahams I think has affected me the most. I've always loved the texts but what a privilege to experience them brought to life with such theatrical ingenuity, extraordinary performances and searing humanity. One of my favourite moments of the whole year is returning for Part Two, scanning the audience and catching the eyes of familiar faces from the night before, full of excitement at continuing our epic journey together.
What I'm looking forward to in 2018
Melancholia at Malthouse. The film has stayed just under my skin since I saw it and I've always thought it would make a fascinating piece of theatre. With Declan Greene and Matt Lutton as creators, I tingle at the possibilities.
I only saw a bit of Taylor Mac, but will be keeping an eye out for judy's work all over the world. Determined to also check Mac out as a playwright, I bought a copy of Hir afterwards and am now looking forward to Daniel Clarke's Production at Red Stitch very soon.
Generally, I'm looking forward to more surprises, more diversity in programming and in the breadth of artists engaged, which does seem to be growing. Bring on the surprises, the discoveries and the sheer theatrical joy!