Thursday, 20 December 2007

Theatre Wrap Up, 2007

 Theatre Wrap up 2007
By Theatre reviewer, Kate Herbert
Published in Herald Sun, Dec 2007

Well I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit tired after a big year of theatre. Although some highlights were expensive musicals and esoteric international productions, a swag of miniatures produced on the smell of an oily rag grabbed my eye.

Strangely, the play that keeps resonating with me was intimate and small budget as well as internationally acclaimed. Sizwe Banzi Is Dead featured two exceptional African actors in Athol Fugard’s 1972 play about apartheid in South African. It was poignant, funny and pertinent in today’s political climate – and directed by the god of theatre, Peter Brook.

Some other incomers thrilled me. Seeing Ian McKellan as a tyrannical but vulnerable old King Lear was a gift and his Sorin in The Seagull was equally distinguished and deliciously cheeky while in the mesmerising Butoh production Kagemi even the curtain call was captivating. The hilarious and versatile Darren Gilshenan and William Zappa inhabited a parade of grotesque characters in The Government Inspector.

Large-scale musicals are back to stay. Spamalot is so funny it hurts while Priscilla is as camp as Rosebud in January. We finally saw Miss Saigon to be impressed by the performers but disappointed by the show. On a smaller scale, the locally grown Keating The Musical was vivacious and the tiny cabaret Intimate Apparel satirised contemporary theatre with acerbic songs.

My year would be incomplete without a scathing and comical political diatribe by Rod Quantock - and this year we had two. John Howard’s Farewell Party was prophetic and Court in the Act was an inventive mock court case that put avid audience members in major roles.

I swooned over Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai, laughed out loud at La Soiree and at Ying Tong, the play that revived Spike Milligan and the Goons. The two major companies, MTC and Malthouse, did not have much to light my fire but neither were they too disappointing except perhaps for The Glass Soldier.

There were plenty of teensy gems in small venues. Red Stitch had a strong program all year and Theatre@Risk gave us the cunningly written and performed Check List for an Armed Robber. Fully Committed demonstrated the formidable talents of Spencer McLaren and Holiday by Ranters Theatre showed us how doing nothing makes novel entertainment.

The Rap Canterbury Tales was a clever pleasure and Sarah Juli’s Money Conversation challenged our view not only of money of but of performance. I save a special accolade for the simply outrageous Mommie and the Minister by Sisters Grimm and for bold and sexy Jane Nolan in Othello Retold.

There were a few nights I would rather have spent in front of the TV. The Perfume Garden might have been better if the writer/lead actor had focussed more on Bollywood and Eagles Nest’s Hamlet was an arduous three hours.

I asked Santa for a riveting 2008 in theatre and am hoping he and Rudolph will deliver.

By Kate Herbert

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