Tuesday 15 December 2015

Top Ten Shows of 2015

I managed to see 154 shows this year! Not exactly sure how I managed that with life and everything but there you go. That's an average of one show every 2.3 days!
Yet again, I count the fact that I live in Melbourne to be a strong reason as to having seen so much this year. The performing art scene here is some type of wonderful and just so lucky to be able to experience so much variety on stage. 
There has been a huge number of theatre, dance, performance, cabaret, burlesque, circus and so much more to go see and experience this year. Interestingly enough there are quite a lot of circus and dance shows in my top ten this year.
Like I said last year, even if your work ranks at 154, big thanks to you for making that work and creating shows for people to see and experience. However, this is my list of ten ten show of 2015, so without further ado...
(If I reviewed the show, there is a link to the original review too)

The Last Great Hunt
- review

There have only been four shows I have seen more than twice in my life. FAG/STAG is one of them. Playing during the Melbourne Fringe Festival, it was a beautiful exploration of life, friendship and everything else in between.  
The story follows two best friends, Jimmy and Corgan (Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Chris Isaacs - who also wrote this) and the lead up to the wedding of Corgan's ex-girlfriend. Their friendship, thoughts and feelings on life and love were explored through the small insignificant moments right up the big stuff.
Fowler and Isaacs brought much honesty and vulnerability to their characters and as writers, they knew when to go further with something and when to draw back and allow the audience come to their own conclusions.
Like I've stated previously, not only is FAG/STAG the kind of theatre that I wish was made more often but FAG/STAG is the kind of theatre  people need to go and see.

So, full disclosure, I may have performed in this but it was literally a 20 second cameo in one of the three pieces and I just mimed some dialogue from the audience. 
With that out of the way, I was blown away by the variety and talent this dance company had on display. Having seen them two other times in Melbourne this year (Frame of Mind and Illuminated), all their performances have been amazing. However DeNovo took just took it to the next level. The triple bill included a new work by SDC's Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela as well as works by Larissa McGowan and Alexander Ekman.
Bonachela's piece, Emergence, would have to be one of the best he's created. Using all 16 dancers of the company and with music by Sarah Blasko and Nick Wales, their ability to function as one unit and create such flawless performances only began to scratch the surface of what was an unforgettable evening of dance.

3. Beyond

I saw this circus show performed at Arts Centre Melbourne in the beginning of January and I still remember it quite clearly.
There is an abundance of talent with this cast and performing in quite an intimate environment, they were all exposed in their acts with every bead of sweat visible to the audience. There is a reason why Circa won Best Visual or Physical Theatre Production at this year's Helpmann Awards. 
One act, which had the performer balance a piece of paper on his hand as he danced and moved to Total Eclipse of the Heart, was perfectly executed and had everyone in the audience speechless.
It was also refreshing to see gender norms being questioned with the female performers of the group doing just as much heavy lifting, if not more so, than their male counterparts.

4. Barbaroi
The Barbaroi - review 

Another circus show, and one that was very different to Circa, Barbaroi, transformed circus into a dark, gritty and dirty art form. Coming out of the darkness, there were shady characters and misfits of society. It was an enthralling hour of entertainment from the seedy underbelly of the arts.
The level of complexities on stage just kept getting higher and higher and even when you thought they couldn't possibly push the envelope any further, the performers would find a way to do so.
Hazel Bock stole the show with her two foot-juggling sets that were just gobsmacking in their skill. Her femme fatale-esque persona was played with the right amount of sass and attitude that firmly locked her in as the audience favourite.
With eyes glued to the stage and heart racing even faster, this high octane circus show would definitely have you crossing over to the dark side with the visual feats on display.  

5. Depth of Field

Performed as part of Dance Massive, a dance festival held in Melbourne, Chunky Move's Depth of Field was one of those performances you wish you could revisit for the first time again to experience the thoughts and emotions not only shared by the dancers but within yourself.
Provided with a set of headphones, we took our seat at the Malthouse Theatre forecourt and as the hauntingly meditative music began to come through, you realised the performance had already started. Choreographed by the company's Artistic Director, Anouk van Dijk, we watched as the three dancers (James Vu Anh Pham, Tara Jade Samaya and Niharika Senapati) hurled themselves along the cold concrete and moved in ways you rarely see the body move or think it can move. Vu Anh Pham is just phenomenal to watch and I could easily sit and watch him dance for hours on end. 
Depth of Field was an extremely thought provoking and meditative piece about the fleeting nature of life and life's moments.

6. Fool For Love
Q44 Theatre & Red Theatricals - review

Sam Shepard's well know play is the tumultuous story of two former lovers and the events of one fateful night that will have ever lasting effects on them both. Mark Davis and Rebecca Fortuna as Eddie and May were highly captivating to watch with both delivering strong and powerful performances. They truly captured their characters and the chemistry between them was electric. 
Despite the claustrophobic confines of a small, seedy hotel room, director Gabriella Rose-Carter created much tension and action on stage that slowly but suddenly drew the audience in.  
32 years after it was written, Fool For Love still packs a punch with its themes of love, family and patriarchal society that are still relevant today and it's a production that Q44 should be extremely proud of.

7. Limbo
Limbo - review

Sitting in the front row of a spiegeltent for this circus show on a scorching hot day with literal flames covering the stage, I thought I was going to start to melt. Luckily I didn't, because missing out on this show would have been terrible.
Presented as part of the Melbourne Festival, Limbo was an exhilarating blend of circus, acrobatics and cabaret from world class performers doing things you could only imagine your body being capable of doing.
Director Scott Maidment delivered a very tight show with no unnecessary lulls among the incredible highs of watching these talented people creating intense and jaw-dropping acts with their bodies. There were a number of "need to be seen to be believed" acts that left the audience in awe and wonderment of what they had just witnessed.

 8. Wet House
In Red Stitch's production of Paddy Campbell's Wet House, the lives of three residents and three workers of a wet house (hostel for homeless alcoholics, where they may drink as much as they want with no expectations of rehabilitation), are explored, with each one struggling with their own redemption and reason for being.
This was very much a perfect production where not a single scene was wasted, no dialogue was filler and no movement was pointless. Everything that happened in Wet House had a purpose, and with six different stories being told, the pacing was controlled well and the stories were never difficult to follow.
Wet House opened discussion on alcoholism and how we support those who are seen as beyond help and how the intention to do good is ultimately never going to be better than action. It was an emotionally draining show but it was a show that needed to be seen.

9. Neal Portenza: Catchy Show Title
I remember watching a Neal Portenza show at a Comedy Festival a few years back, and to be honest, I didn't think much of it. With an empty slot in my comedy festival schedule this year, I decdied to give him a second chance and boy am I glad I did.
This is the funniest show I have seen all year. It had me laughing from the very beginning to end and even when I was walking out of the venue.
The show was a mixture of sketch comedy, character pieces, improvisation (the good kind) and (for some, the dreaded) audience participation where no one was safe. The show was sharp and smooth and Ladgrove did not skip a beat. Despite the wackiness of the show, this was a cleverly put together show where we were drip fed moments of sheer humour for 60 minutes.
There really was no reason for this show to exist other than to make us laugh. There wasn't a story to share or a profound thought about life. Catchy Show Title was there purely for the laughs and nothing but the laughs. And oh how we laughed. 

10. Shake

Burlesque performers are always seen but rarely heard. In Shake, Miss Burlesque Victoria 2013, Becky Lou decided to, well, shake things up, where between her highly popular acts, recalled moments of her life that had somehow or rather led her to a career of burlesque. 
Each story that Becky Lou shared had a purpose. It wasn't for entertainment value, or to shock us, or to titilate us, but to strengthen the relationship women have with their body. Women are being constantly told to cover up yet to "show us ya tits", made to feel imperfect yet subjected to continuous sexual harassment. What Becky Lou accomplished with Shake was to allow women to reclaim their body, to own their body and be proud of it. In this regard, Shake reminded me of a similarly beautiful and thought provoking show in Maude Davey's My Life In The Nude.
Becky Lou returned with her Fringe Festival show, Seen and Heard, where this time, she was joined on stage by various performers who shared personal moments of their lives that made the audience think about the person behind the costume. Hopefully we get to see more of that in 2016.

And just because rules were made to be broken, here are the shows that were pipped at the post:

11. Frame of Mind - Sydney Dance Company - review
12. Endings - Tamara Saulwick - review
13. SHIT - Dee & Cornelius review
14. Dracula- Little Ones Theatre - review
15. City of Angels - Life Like Company - review

If you're still reading, have a look at my top ten list for 2014

And here's to a fantastic 2016 of fantastic shows! 

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