Wednesday, 18 December 2002

Theatre Wrap Up 2002, Dec 18, 2002

What:  Theatre Wrap Up 2002
Writer: Kate Herbert

There are some nights I would rather throw myself under a train than go to the theatre. Luckily, there are some wonderful shows to renew one's faith in art.

Two of my favourites this year came from the UK. Three Dark Tales (Theatre O) was a superbly crafted contemporary clown show with a poignant story of loneliness and despair in an office. In Say Nothing, (Ridiculusmus) a dark comedy, two actors stood atop a suitcase to creating a satirical, political micro-view of Ireland.

Two solos grabbed me. Our inimitable Max Gillies' political satire, Your Dreaming, returned with an updated, hilarious script by Guy Rundle. Then Canadian puppeteer, Ronnie Burkett, wowed audiences in Tinka's New Dress.

Melbourne Theatre Company had several successes. Rachel Griffiths,, was exceptional in the funny and profound Proof. (MTC) True West featured a wonderful duo in David Wenham and David Tredinnick while Laughter on the 23rd Floor was a giggle.

There was little local theatrical experimentation this year. However, the innovative and unconventional Interior Sites (IRAA Theatre) altered the actor-audience relationship when we stayed overnight with the magnetic Roberta Bosetti.  

A few international shows took a bite at the experimental - or just the mental. We saw mad Italians, (Genesi Argentinians (Mil Quinientos) and Germans. (Total Masala Slammer) during Melbourne Festival.

The Roulette series (Ranters Theatre) and Laurance Strangio's Krapp's Last Tapes showed how to mount great shows on low budgets.

Lucky VCA students worked with dynamic English director, Di Trevis, on a vivid and innovative production of Remembrance of Things Past, adapted by Harold Pinter.

From Sydney, Copenhagen was a challenging play with fine performers. (John Gaden,  Robert Menzies, Jane Harders) and The Royal Shakespeare Company sent four resonant older actors in The Hollow Crown to show us how to use a voice.

La Mama once more produced more small shows than anyone else. The Store Room and Chapel of Chapel followed close on its heels with Fortyfivedownstairs as a new horse in the race.

Some notable failures included Dead Caucasians - a messy, long and tiresome tale of inner-urban angst -  and The Changeling which courageously incorporating a rock band into a Jacobean Tragedy.

Indigenous issues took a front seat this year. Fire, Fire Burning Bright went half way to integrating indigenous stories with contemporary technology.  Blak Inside (Playbox & Illbijerri) provided a forum for important indigenous issues but the season lacked theatrical strength.

The experimental was less visible in local product than in imports. Of course experimentation costs money and our system provides too little.

What we still lack is middle-sized companies. Funding bodies provide only for larger companies or small projects. Without a middle level, the industry cannot expand, new groups cannot move upward into positions as ongoing companies with viable budgets.

The market is unlikely to change without increased subsidies or massive sponsorship.

By Kate Herbert

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