05 December 2017

What Melbourne Loved in 2017, part 8

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

Bron Batten
Theatre-maker, Producer and Performer

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  
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 CaƱas 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

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.

part 7
part 6
part 5
part 4
part 3
part 2
part 1

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