Friday, 19 December 2008

Theatre & Musicals Wrap Up 2008, Dec 19, 2008

Theatre & Musicals Wrap Up 2008
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Published in Herald Sun, Melbourne

You can keep your lavish spectacles. My 2008 exceptional theatrical experiences were intimate and low budget. Tim Crouch’s compelling two-hander, an oak tree, unmasked the evolution of a performance. We witnessed the breathless moment of creation, an artists’ mind in a whirl, when an actor who had never seen the script performed with Crouch. His second play, England, had a similar visceral and emotional intimacy.

Holiday, by Ranters, was an eccentric, voyeuristic piece in which two men, unwitting specimens in an over-sized display cabinet, chatted casually and randomly about memories and hopes. I was moved by the simplicity of Jackie Jackie In the Box, a disturbing installation (Ilbijerri Theatre) displaying aboriginal “living specimens” inside glass display cases. Haneef: An Interrogation, challenged political and ethical views by incorporating verbatim extracts from Haneef’s police interrogation.

Several thrilling solos epitomised the art of the performer. Charlie Ross’s exhilarating One Man Star Wars was a condensed version of the trilogy in one astonishing hour of action, vocal acrobatics and aliens. Anne Browning in The China Incident depicted a galloping corporate workplace disaster of international proportions while Rod Quantock gets my vote for political comedian.

Anything by the inimitable Sisters Grimm wins the insanely funny award. Some Girl/s, Neil LaBute’s whip-smart, acerbic play, was superbly directed by Sean Collins while Joanna Murray-Smith’s Ninety (MTC) also had wit and vivacity in a two-hander. The MTC and Malthouse produced interesting, varied programs – but so they should with all that money to spend.

2008 saw the reinvention of the Australian Musical. Keating was a scathing political satire and a dazzlingly clever musical evocation of Keating’s rise to power. Shane Warne The Musical contained less barbed satire, but Eddie Perfect was magnetic as Warney.  The satirical vignettes and songs in Beware of the Dogma were hilarious.

We cannot ignore the visually spectacular Wicked and its two remarkable leads. Lucy Durack, with her warm bright voice, played the annoyingly perky Galinda and the rich-voiced Amanda Harrison was the awkward and rebellious Elphaba.

There were the inevitable low points this year. Joelene Anderson was out of her depth in Lloyd Webber’s solo musical, Tell Me on A Sunday, and Shaun Micallef was sadly miscast in Boeing Boeing, although his three air hostess lovers were delectable.

Hedda Gabler could gladly have shot herself earlier in PMD’s production and One Cloud, a new play supported by Theatreworks Initiative, was inexpressibly slow and painful to watch. Kit Lazaroo’s Asylum was a confused piece about a Chinese refugee.

And now we anticipate a whole new chocolate box of theatrical goodies in 2009. Yum!

By Kate Herbert

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