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
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.

part 4
part 3
part 2
part 1

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