Monday 4 March 2013

My Top 10 Shows of 2013

So I managed to see 123 shows in 2013 - a variety of comedy, theatre, dance, performance arts and often something in between. Here are my top ten…
If I reviewed the show on an official basis, the link to the review is attached.

1. This Trick produced by Stella Electrika
    Performed at La MaMa Courthouse

Written and directed by Kat Henry, This Trick, tells the story of a young married couple, obsessively in love with each other.
Strong performances by the leads, Penny Harpham and Matt Hickey had me completely enveloped by the story and the level of commitment they brought to the roles was more than impressive.
The minimalist set design contrasted with the dynamic lighting and choreography was well thought out and placed in telling this story of such love, where even death is not enough to separate them.


2. The Joy of Text by RePlay
    Performed at La Mama Courthouse

This was a very close second and another great show at La Mama. Written by Robert Reid, this play was given a second life after its initial season at Melbourne Theatre Company.

The Joy of Text explores an education system where there is still a lot of grey areas about serious ethical dilemmas, resulting in panic and metaphorical lynching when these issues occur in our schools. I really enjoyed Reid's writing style and the poetry in the way the characters were expressing themselves. At times, there were lengthy monologues but they were insightful, sharp and witty with much food for thought.

The cast of four - Colin Craig, Elizabeth Thomson, Kasia Kaczmarek and Jason Kavanagh - worked well off one another and there was chemistry between each and every one of them.  Craig in particular was very impressive and after having seen in a number of productions this year, I will definitely be keeping an eye out on his future projects.


3. Slutmonster and Friends (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)
    Performed at Northcote Town Hall

I missed this show when it premiered at the Melbourne Fringe Festival in 2012 so I was determined to catch it this year and boy…no regrets! I mean, what can you say about a show with a name like Slutmonster and Friends - except it was everything I wasn't expecting and more. Think Teletubbies on acid with a whole lot of sexual energy thrown in.

The story revolves around two brothers (Wes Gardner and Lucas Heil) who are lost in the forest and come across Slutmonster (the amazingly awesome Jessie Ngaio). What ensues is just crazy and fun and includes lots of bright colours and song - which makes it even more crazier to fathom.

However, there was a lot of charm to the show and rather than feeling uncomfortable to awkward about what was transpiring, you strangely felt at ease. The costuming and stage design by Ngaio was incredible and am still waiting for the range of Slutmonster plush toys to be released!


4. The Death of Peter Pan by Fly-On-The-Wall Theatre
    Performed at Chapel Off Chapel

The Death of Peter Pan is a tragic and beautiful story of growing up and becoming a man. It tells the tale of Michael Llewelyn-Davies - the adopted son of Peter Pan author, James Barrie - and his chance encounter with fellow student Rupert Buxton.

None of the cast could be faulted in their roles with the two leads, Kieran McShane and Jordan Armstrong able to carry the show with confidence and ease. The affection and tenderness shown between the two feels genuine and there are some highly touching scenes between the two.

Its been almost six months since I saw this show, but the haunting musical score by Andrew Bishop is still firmly in my head. Along with the set, costumes, hair and make-up this was a flawless production that showed Australian theatre at its unrivalled best.


5. The Bull, The Moon and the Coronet of Starts
    Performed at the Griffin Theatre

Sadly this is the only performance I got to see outside of Melbourne but glad that if I only saw one, it was this one.

Written by Van Badham, this is a loose, contemporary retelling of the stories of Ariadne, Theseus and Dionysus. In this setting, it is a romantic comedy between two colleagues, Michael and Monica - played by Matt Zeremes and Silvia Colloca. The show is sharply written with enough intrigue and whimsy to keep us entertained and captivated.

Of course, having Zeremes and Colloca on stage does help. The attraction between them starts small and continues to grow. Their banter is great to watch and both ensure neither character becomes completely enveloped by the other.

I really enjoyed Badham's script and ideas and look forward to catching future works by her - just hopefully it will be in Melbourne!

6. Vanguard by The Australian Ballet
     Performed at the Arts Centre

You could accuse me of slight bias here but I was so blown away by the whole production of Vanguard that not only did I go back to watch it a second time, but also managed to score a seat in the orchestra pit and watch the musicians work their magic.

A contemporary triple bill of ballet, the standout for me was Jiri Kylian's Bella Figura - which looked at the idea of performance and are we alway "acting"? When does the "performance" start and finish? Amazing work on stage with light, depth and colour and there was such beauty to the music that I am constantly listening to it months later. The choreography is stunning and all the dancers where brilliant to watch.

Wayne McGregor's Dyad 1929 is also quite memorable with the dancers contorting their bodies into seemingly impossible positions with the frenetic pacing of the music.

Very excited about this year's triple bill which again, includes works by Kylian and McGregor.

Below is Bella Figura being performed by The Netherlands Dance Theatre back in 1999.
Just a beautiful piece.

7. A Small Prometheus (Melbourne Festival)
   Performed at North Melbourne Town Hall

Another dance number and strangely enough, this too played with light and depth and used Greek mythology as its inspiration to show the instability and unpredictability of life. 

With a stellar cast of performers, including my personal favourites dancers, Lily Paskas and Lee Serle, Stephanie Lake's choreography included solo and ensemble moments that varied from rigidly structured to moments of improvisation on the dancer's behalf. It was an intense and extremely satisfying performance to watch.

The fire-diven kinetic sculpture by Robin Fox was incredible to watch in action created some powerful and hypnotic moments throughout A Small Prometheus.

8. Suitcases, Baggage & Other Synonyms (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)

    Performed at Theatreworks

Suitcases, Baggae & Other Synonyms is a musical comedy about five friends living together and trying to determine where they want to go on a holiday.

The show has some snappy and witty writing and the cast are all likeable and bring their own unique qualities to the characters they play. I've seen Barnaby Reiter play piano quite a few times throughout the year and have thoroughly enjoyed watching and hearing him play his original music.

It's a great show for anyone who has ever lived in a share house before.

9. Hope Is The Saddest (Melbourne International Comedy Festival)
    Performed at La Mama

Hope is the Saddest revolves around three people, Hope, Theo and Marion (Michelle Robin Anderson, Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Natalie Holmwood) who, after a chance encounter are inexplicably drawn into each other's lives for better or worse. 

There were a number of interesting narrative devices used, such as standard dialogue between characters but also all three specking in unison to the audience like a GReek chorus, a split-scene letter reading and dancing to Dolly Parton songs. 
Hope is the Saddest is a beautiful comedy story interspersed with the harsh realities of life. And pancakes. And Dolly Parton. 
A winning combination in my books.

10. Noises Off! by 5Pound Theatre
      Performed at The Owl and the Pussycat

Noises Off! is a play within a play by Michael Frayn. Unfortunately I have only ever been able to see the film version of this and I love it. Was pretty much a part of my childhood.  So had to see it when it was being performed. And I adored it. Was very interesting to see the stage set up as it was quite a confined space but they stayed loyal to my memories of it.

Great cast who clearly had a lot of fun playing these characters and the bits of local information that director Jason Kavanagh added to it made it all the more memorable and a worthy place in my top ten shows of the year.

There you have it, so many more shows I could have added it but it's a top ten for a reason!
Can't wait to see what 2014 brings!

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