Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Top Shows 2011, Kate's Rant & What's Coming 2012

By Kate Herbert
Friday, December 16, 2011

Note: This article was published in print and online in Herald Sun on Friday, December 16, 2011,
without Kate's Rant included. Pity!

MY 5 TOP SHOWS IN 2011 are mostly from other countries or major companies.
Anthony Black’s exceptional, solo performance in Invisible Atom (Canada) is a testament to the power of the actor in this inexorable, poignant, ironic tale about a man’s journey from security toward an inevitable calamity. *****

 Aftermath (USA, Melbourne Festival) is delicate, beautiful, painful theatre based on touching interviews with Iraqi refugees that reveal their resilience, grief and simple joys. It is simply staged but boasts subtle, rich performances and unembellished characterisations.

The Scahubuhne production (Berlin, Melbourne Festival) hurls Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, into the 21st century with impeccable, nuanced acting, seamless direction and a stark, contemporary design that conjure a claustrophobic, fraught world of human drama. *****

In the compelling, challenging Howie The Rookie (Red Stitch), Mark O’Rowe’s Irish vernacular lingers between vulgarity, comedy and lyricism, vividly portraying a poverty-stricken, urban landscape, violent, unpredictable, hilarious characters and muscular, with barely-contained physicality and poignant performances. ****1/2

With its dexterous direction and formidable cast, the impressive production of Clybourne Park (MTC), Bruce Norris's insightful, acerbic play about bigotry in Chicago in 1959 and 2009, highlights Norris’s consummate dialogue and plotting and his astute, socio-political observations. ****1/2

I’d like to commend Silent Disco , Meow Meow’s Little Match Girl (Malthouse ) and Liza on an E for their imaginative and energetic productions that all warranted ****1/2.

I also really enjoyed:  
Apologia  (MTC) ****
Namitjira  (Malthouse) ****
I am Playing Me  (Butterfly Club) ****

Court in the Act (Rod Quantock) ****
Smoke and Mirrors (IOTA-Spiegeltent) ****

Now read my rant about what I want in the theatre in Melbourne in 2012 - and beyond....

HERE'S WHAT I'M WISHING TO SEE to in our theatres in 2012

·      More new, Australian plays that are fully developed before they hit the stages of major theatre companies (Why not wait to programme them until they are ready?)

·      Greater respect for the work of, and more shows produced by mid- or late-career writers and directors (Is everyone in their 40s or 50s dead suddenly?)

·       Productions programmed on their merit, not simply because the creator/writer is well-known or part of the inner circle (or a shameless self-promoter)

·       Fewer shows by over-rated writers, directors or companies that are promoted beyond their capabilities, competence and quality (Who is commissioning the bad ones or putting them into production before they are cooked?)

·        Fewer funding grants to absurd theatre projects (e.g. “I stand on my head in bucket of water on the top of a building reciting Ovid and Derrida to Arctic Monkeys’ soundtrack”. “Great! Here’s $100,000.”)

·        More original works that are not simply a rehash of someone else’s work (book, script, movie, songs etc.) or a deconstruction of a master work (“Chop it up. It’ll look like art.”)

·        More openings of major, new musicals in Melbourne (The city that flocks to the theatre).
(And I'll keep adding tho the list!)

I think I have Buckley’s of getting my New Year’s wish.

WHAT IS THERE TO LOOK FORWARD TO in the theatres in Melbourne in 2012?

We chanted and cheered at the multitudinous musicals opening in Melbourne early in 2011 but, if you look at the 2012 calendar, you’ll see that Sydney grabbed the big ones – a foolish idea because Melbourne rushes out to see shows while Jersey Boys ran in a smaller theatre in Sydney, Rock of Ages cancelled its Sydney season and went straight to Brisbane, and the NSW government gave cheques to big producers to open in the harbour city. They’ll learn.

Sydney opens Legally Blonde and An Officer and A Gentleman, but stay calm – we still landed a few big productions.

The spectacular How to Train Your Dragon, from Dreamworks and Australian animatronics company, Global Creatures (creators of Walking With Dinosaurs), has its world premiere here in March. It looks like a crowd-puller to beat Grand Finals with its flying, fire-breathing dragons and world-class circus artists.

Late in 2012 at the Arts Centre we will see the poignant, epic and multi award-winning West End production of War Horse, about a boy and his horse during World War One, with startling animatronics (Global Creatures again) and production by National Theatre, Britain.

In May at the Regent, the beloved, red-headed, orphan Annie makes a come back with Anthony Warlow as the charismatic Daddy Warbucks and Nancye Hayes as villainous Mrs. Hannigan.

An Australian production of A Chorus Line finally hits our stages in February at Her Majesty’s with its toe-tapping tales of dancers vying for roles in a Broadway musical. Josh Horner returns to Oz to play Zach, the formidable casting director.

The three Artistic Directors replacing Simon Phillips at the MTC for 2012 (Robyn Nevin, Pamela Rabe, Aidan Fennessy) will make interesting viewing as will Red, a Tony award winner about renowned, visual artist mark Rothko looks compelling and Queen Lear, with Robyn Nevin as a female Lear and the classic Australian play, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll makes a come back to the MTC.

Malthouse hosts a few 2011 Sydney successes including reconstituted version of Ibsen’s Wild Duck that won awards and hearts at Belvoir Street, and Thomas Bernhard’s The Histrionic from Sydney Theatre Company.

There’ll be more to see, so stay posted.

By Kate Herbert

(Note : Apologies.  I was in error when I originally stated, in my first draft, that Jersey Boys closed early. It closed on Sunday, Dec 18, 2011 and ran for 14 months.)

1 comment:

  1. Good to see you here Kate. I shouldn't really read your wish list before I've written mine, but hey.

    Your first wish seems the most pressing after the year's events, dontcha think? The processes behind mainstage production of new Australian plays needs a serious overhaul. We're not short on talented playwrights, but we do need to scrutinise how they're interpreted and brought to life.

    Cam W.