Thursday, 21 December 2006

2006 Theatre Wrap Up, Melbourne, Dec 21, 2006

Theatre Wrap up 2006
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

2006 was a patchy year but small shows, solos and new musicals win the accolades.

The exceptional solo performance was Jeffferson Mayes in I Am My Own Wife, playing an aged, East Berlin drag queen who survived Nazism and Stalin.

On the other end of the budget spectrum, Peter Houghton performed a parade of characters in The Pitch at La Mama. Houghton featured again as the incapacitated despot, Hamm, opposite David Tredinnick, in a grim but comical Endgame by 11th Hour.

Tragedia Endogonidia, from Italy, was a fascinating theatrical investigation of the fragility of human existence and violence but the two productions I missed were the top of the pops for many: I La Galigo by Robert Wilson and Festen. Pity!

The Commonwealth Games Festival was a huge hit. Two compelling companies demonstrated that circus is now indistinguishable from theatre: Les Septs Doigts de la Main (Montreal) and Cirque Eloize (Paris) who poured their Rain over the Casino stage.

I missed Honour Bound about David Hicks, but two political shows grabbed me. Wages of Spin was a cunning multimedia take on Australian politics but it was Catch a Star…Falling that stole my heart. Ex-junkies, prisoners and homeless rural teens performed a musical based on their lives at risk.

Musicals made a splash and the inspired Keating - The Opera was the leader. Hugh Jackman displayed his star quality in Boy from Oz and the bold, androgenous Iota inhabited Hedwig, the transsexual drag queen in a raunchy rock musical. City of Angels, the Film Noir musical, was a happy surprise as was Women With Standards, a cabaret quartet. Tomfoolery featured the hilarious, laconic songs of Tom Lehrer but overdressed them.

Stephen Sewell’s It Just Stopped was overrated as was Tony McNamara’s The Give and Take and Melbourne Workers’ Theatre remounting of Yanagai Yanagai.

The clangers were many and varied but the Melbourne Festival dropped its bundle with dumb type, an overwhelmingly loud, pretty but emotionally bereft Japanese performance and Now That Communism is Dead… was mostly incomprehensible, loud and punishing theatrical chaos. 

But taking the cake for theatrical disaster was Vignettes and Reminiscences; if only it had called itself a parody we could have roared laughing.

By Kate Herbert

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