Wednesday, 15 December 1993

1993 Kate’s Theatre Picks, The Melbourne Times, Dec 1993


1993 Kate’s Theatre Picks
Kate Herbert Dec 15, 1993
Published in The Melbourne Times, December 1993


During 1993, Melbourne's vibrant theatre scene kept on churning shows out in spite of funding cuts. Although '93 was a less prolific season than '92, it was  a year of fine imports, musical and other revivals, more adaptations  and deconstructions of texts and plenty of mono-dramas.

There has been limited local fare to inspire, but the Rumanians won my award for extraordinary moments in theatre with Titus Andronicus. The passion and intensity of performances, images and the provocative style were a treat during the festival.  Another foreign, passionate, if fairly conventional gem was the Abbey's
Dancing at Lughnasa (Irish) and Trestle's  State of Bewilderment (English) captured Leunig's eccentric world on stage.

A musical done well can still be the greatest night in the theatre. Chamber Made Opera's,  Don Leaves Linda, was an extraordinary piece of witty music-theatre. High Society has great songs and changed cast more often than its underwear and 42nd Street was a fabulously extravagant, tongue in cheek production. Even its opening night party was a theatrical feast of posing, over-dressing, sycophancy and extravagance.

The pre-publicity budget alone could subsidise the Performing Arts Board. Jan Friedl's Sweet and Bitter Conversations captured the poignancy and drama of Brecht's songs in a way that Mother Courage could not without voices of quality.

TV and film stars hit the stage with a vengeance.  Warren Mitchell was inspired in
I'm Not Rappaport  along-side the wonderful Kiwi, George Henare. In MTC's
Much Ado About Nothing, Hugo Weaving was a very sexy Benedick with comics Michael Veitch and Kim Gyngell clowning on the side lines. Jackie Weaver was applauded on her opening night entrance in  Shadowlands

 Mark Little flew in from the UK to play the 80's mongrel entrepreneur in The Temple
 for Playbox. The MTC consolidated both financially and artistically under Roger Hodgman and Carillo Gantner handed the baton at Playbox to Aubrey Mellor. Anthill's move to the Gasworks sent the company into crisis and its resultant $80,000 deficit caused a delay in funding allocations for '94.

Theatreworks lost its general grant as did Woolly Jumpers and Melbourne Writers' Theatre now has a venue (Courthouse) and no funds. Arts Victoria thought it would see better return on individual project grants which is probably true. Projects seem to be the way of the world yet again -and doesn't Melbourne do them well?

Kosky's Faust was expensive and weird while IRAA had yet another artistic hit with
Agamemnon This company is by far Melbourne's most consistently interesting under director Renato Cuocolo. It's visit to Vienna in July with Trojan Women put Melbourne on the map in Europe. $5 Theatre had another winner with The Master and Margherita.

Two solo shows were glittering moments. Anthill revived  Kids' Stuff  with Julie Forsyth playing the kid's role impeccably and William Yang's Sadness  touched our souls with a rare honesty and beauty.

La Mama kept on programming new works as it should, but at times too frequently. Two week seasons were too swift and there were a number of shows selected inexplicably. One great success at La Mama was  The Eye of Martha Needle  by Bruce Thompson. It had a delicacy and integrity in script and style, which was rare this year. Another was Good Morning Midnight, a fine adaptation of Jean Rhyss's novel which assembled the whole of 1920's Paris within the confines of La Mama.

But the greatest dramatic tension was at the opulent opening night party of 42nd Street at the Hyatt Ballroom. Amongst the ice sculptures the lobster and backless gowns, we watched Gareth Evans shake hands with John Hewson and waited with baited breath to see who would use the judo throw first. Can't beat real life for drama!

Kate Herbert  15.12.93 
   620 wds

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