20 December 2018

What Melbourne Loved in 2018, part 8

Declan, Joshua and Rohan would make for strange dinner party, but I wouldn't miss it. Today we go from tiny Fringe venues to opera stages, and three more great pics.

Declan Greene
Half o' Sisters Grimm + Resident Artist at Malthouse Theatre

Declan Greene in Hills Hoist and fake Birkenstocks

Favourite moments in 2018

This year was crazy, and I didn’t get to see as much stuff as I normally do – totally missed most of Midsumma, Melbourne Fringe, MIAF. But these three shows below stuck with me, in a really peculiar way, because I’m a playwright and they’re all nearly wordless. IDK why. Maybe it was the glut of contradictory think-pieces in my newsfeed or politicians skull-fucking us with doublespeak, but at some point this year I think I started feeling exhausted by language and its limitations.

Carrion Justin Shoulder at Arts House.
The visual and sonic design of this piece of post-human performance on evolution and adaption was fucking astounding start to finish, with an incredible performance by Justin Shoulder.

The Howling Girls Damien Ricketson and Adena Jacobs at Carriage Works.
Mind-blowing contemporary opera about the effect of trauma on language, performed for the first 20 minutes in near total darkness – and then midway it suddenly detonated into explosive light and non-verbal vocal scoring. When it ended I realised I’d been tensing my whole body for its entire 50-minute duration.

friendships at Hugs&Kisses.
OK this was a music gig so not technically a piece of theatre, but it still felt more complete as a work of live art than a lot of stuff I saw this year. No single moment I can remember as a stand-out. It was one set of unbroken sound and live video-mixing that journeyed from soundscapes of cyborg voices struggling to speak into crushing, mind-melting beats, with fragments of language rising to the surface: ‘was i good’, ‘are u still there’ ‘i forgot where i am’. Video of mutating children in a digital soup giving way to rushing 3-D landscapes. I can’t explain it properly but it took me out of my body, totally transporting.

Also loved Vic Opera's Lorelei a lot, as well as the Next Move double-bill – Nether and Dharawungara – at Chunky Move. Incred.

Looking forward to in 2019
The whole Malthouse 2019 season but especially Zoey Dawson’s amazingly cooked mainstage debut Australian Realness. Krishna Istha’s Beast for Midsumma. Melanie Lane’s Nightdance for Dance Massive. The Very Good Looking Initiative’s incredibly named Poopy Tum Tums at the Comedy Festival. And Ivo Van Hoove’s queer All About Eve on the West End with Gillian Anderson and PJ Harvey, after I find a wealthy benefactor who will fly me over to see it (just putting it into the ether thnxxxxxx). (SM: as long as you bring me as your chaperone.)

SM: Dec directed Blackie Blackie Brown: it's one of those shows that people are going to talk about in the years to come and a lot of us can say, "Yeah, I saw it". It's back next year.

Joshua Ladgrove
Neal Portenza

Joshua Ladgrove

Favourite moments in 2018

Born Prepared: 1980s Brownie GuideMegan McKay at Melbourne Fringe.

Looking forward to in 2019
I'm not sure. I tend to not look too far into the future. I'm hoping for the complete downfall of the Holy Roman Catholic Church and the subsequent musical that follows.

SM: I don't like the star-rating system for shows – read the words – but I take it seriously when I give stars. If I add them up, Josh/Neal have had the most stars from me. Fafenefenoiby II: Return of the Ghost Boy was his last show. But, last shows don't stick for the good ones. As for a moment: I saw Fafenefenoiby twice and it was every time he guessed the names of the audience. Fuck his sophisticated, heart-breaking, fuck-yeah comedy, give me a mind-reading trick every time!

Rohan Shearn
Managing Editor, Australian Arts Review

Rohan Peron

Favourite moments in 2018
Once again, we were spoilt for choice this year as the commercial and independent sector delivered a mixed bag of delights. But three shows have resonated with me this year:

Calamity Jane
Big, bold, brash and brassy, Richard Carroll’s exuberant re-imagining of the 1950’s cult film hits its target in every department. Central to its success is Virginia Gay’s brilliant performance as Calamity Jane. A gift that keeps on giving, it is currently playing a sold out encore season at Arts Centre Melbourne before transferring to the Comedy Theatre in January.

Commissioned by Arts Centre Melbourne as part of the Melbourne Fringe Take Over! initiative, Colossus was excitingly compelling and mesmerising as 50 dancers converged on the Fairfax stage. A surprise hit of the Melbourne Fringe, Stephanie Lake’s work was worthy of a main-stage festival offering.

Die Meistersinger von N├╝rnberg
A co-production with the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Opera Australia’s new production by celebrated director Kasper Holten was a grand and extravagant night in the State Theatre. Wagner aficionados were not disappointed with an all-star cast and Mia Stensgaard’s set – that was one of the largest ever seen in Melbourne.

Looking forward to in 2019
Muriel’s Wedding the Musical
Directed by Simon Phillips, a theatrical version of PJ Hogan’s iconic hit film features music and lyrics by Australian award winning songwriters Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall. I was lucky to see MW during its premiere Sydney run in late 2017. With a new cast, it will look absolutely gorgeous in Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre.

Come From Away
This Tony Award–winning musical tells the true story of the 38 planes and more than 6500 passengers who were unexpectedly forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland in Canada after the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York. Writers David Hein and Irene Sankoff used hundreds of interviews taken from the community in Gander to deliver a powerful message about the kindness of strangers. A terrific all-Australian cast will bring this show to life at the Comedy Theatre in July.

The Lady in the Van
Alan Bennett’s mostly true story of the fascinating relationship between the award-winning British writer and his long-term guest. Starring the effervescent Miriam Margolyes as the eccentric and cantankerous Miss Shepherd – The Lady in the Van will be a great opener for MTC in 2019.

It has been 20 years since the stage adaptation of Tim Winton’s award-winning novel, Cloudstreet has been presented on the Merlyn Stage. Matthew Lutton directs an all-star cast in this epic production that chronicles the lives of two working class families in Perth in –World War II Australia.

SM: Rohan and I don't agree about a lot of shows, but he's still the person I totally trust if I'm not sure if I should see a musical. Or if I need to know anything about any show that's been on in the last 30 to 40 years.  Australian Arts Review is another independent arts media site that keeps covering more shows and artists than any of the mastheads. Maybe 2019 needs to be the year when indie arts media gets the love it deserves.

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