11 December 2018

What Melbourne Loved in 2018, part 4

It's more trickle than flood this year. Here's the form; tell us about those theatre and art moments in 2018 that made you happy.

Today, we keep celebrating independent makers and companies, and celebrate all those challenges to boring assumptions made about art, makers and audiences.

Sonya Suares
Artistic Director, Watch This

Sonya Suares in Contest. 
(I was a GS in my primary school church team; I wasn't good.)

Favourite moments in 2018
Both of mine were sitting in the Beckett Theatre this year: tears running down my face as Dalara Williams performed the inciting monologue in Blackie Blackie Brown and nearly wetting myself moments later, just as I did during Michelle Lee’s Going Down.

If I am permitted a moment that is not simply as an disinterested audient, then I must say truthfully watching Nadine Garner nail "Send in the Clowns" at every performance of A Little Night Music during the run was one of the highlights of my year. I mean, Every. Single. Time.

Looking forward to in 2019
I'm looking forward to sending everyone I know to the return season Blackie Blackie Brown and, because I'm a big boffin/child-of-the-90s, to seeing Shakespeare in Love. Or you know, being in it if Simon Phillips decides to give me a spin!

And personally, I'm looking forward to performing Fleur Kilpatrick's Max Afford award-winning play Whale with a group of incredible womens. It's gonna be a ripper.

SM: Sonya is the driving force behind Watch This. Putting on musicals is expensive and difficult. Putting on Sondheim musicals multiplies the difficulty considerably. Watch This do it, anyway.  Without Watch This, we would see far less Sondheim in Melbourne. Without them we wouldn't see some some of out best performers in Sondheim musicals. If I had a magic funding wand, Watch This would get the money they need to become an ongoing professional company. As for my favourite moment with Sonya this year, it's her moving and powerful performance in Contest by Emilie Collyer.

Vidya Makan & Nick Simpson-Deeks in next year's Watch This show.
Co-directed by Sonya with Dean Drieberg.
Sondheim fans don’t need a title.


Mama Alto
Jazz singer, cabaret artiste and gender transcendent diva


Mama Also. Photo by Alexis Desaulniers-Lea

Favourite moments in 2018
Mojo Juju's "Native Tongue". One of the most important new Australian works right now and, I suspect, for many years to come. Revelatory, extraordinary, damning, tender, groundbreaking, truth telling and part of a highly necessary reckoning of the national identity.

Honourable mentions. Willow Sizer's theatrical cabaret Death of a Demi Diva was a revelation. She gave a tour-de-force performance that set the hairs on the back of my neck on edge. Paul Capsis as Quentin Crisp in Resident Alien (return season). Magnificent, eccentric, and in many ways so close to home for all of our inner anxieties, foibles and paranoias.

Honourable mentions for things I saw interstate (naughty, I know). The View Upstairs (Hayes Theatre, Sydney) and An Evening with Constantina Bush (Spirit Festival, Adelaide).

Looking forward to in 2019
I'm eagerly keeping my eye on new works and projects from leading thinkers, powerful performers and those who speak back to imbalance. Anything and everything from Candy Bowers, Jean Tong, and Yana Alana. Midsumma 2019's theatre, cabaret and burlesque offerings look extraordinary. And, as always, I anticipate with relish the as yet unannounced surprises that will pop up underground in salons, dens, cabarets and dives across Melbourne. What delights await us at Hares & Hyenas, The Butterfly Club, The Melba Spiegeltent, and where else?

SM: Every moment with Mama Also is the best. She's exquisite. I think my favourite moment was sending interstate friends along to a show she was performing at. When they got back, all they could do was tell about this amazing performer called Mama Alto.

Booking my ticket for The Seventh Annual Mama Alto Holiday Special now. Join us.

Chris Wenn
Noise maker and overthinker


Chris Wenn. Photo by Ezekiel Rodofili

Favourite moments in 2018
There's no single moment that excited me quite as much as the feeling that we've reached a tipping point of invention and fertility within the independent sector . There was such an incredible amount and range of work presented by independent artists and companies in 2019. There was tremendous work to see from new, emerging,and established creators, and from sectors of our community that have gone unrecognised for too long. In the world outside of the major performing arts companies, we have had to build a level of resilience and self-sufficiency that can stand against the inconstancy of grant schemes. The Brandis 'reforms' and Fifield 'restoration' have only proved that we are, and always will be, a target for cuts and culture war. I am immensely proud of the way our community supports each other: through fundraising, crowdfunding, donations of time and material and effort, and a myriad other ways. Can't stop, won't stop.

Looking forward to in 2019
I'm looking forward to more work! More work by and for children and young people, more work by and for Indigenous people, more work by and for queer and non-binary people, more work by and for migrants and non-English speaking audiences. I want to see more work that challenges conventions and assumptions and what it means to make and witness art. I want to see work that reflects the strength and diversity of this global city, that engages audiences in new ways, that deploys technology and creativity in new spaces and old.

SM: Sound designers are such an important part of a design team and we don't talk about them any where near enough. Next year, I will listen to shows more. Chris was part of an amazing design team for Colder at Red Stitch. I mentioned the stage and the lighting designer and not Chris – but as I think back on the show, I can still hear it.

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