Tuesday 18 December 2018

Top 10 Show of 2018

Every year I say to myself no more saying yes to going to all the shows in Melbourne and while I exaggerate, I do end up going to a lot. This year, I managed to get to 221 pieces of theatre and live performances (and being one shy of 222 is really going to bug me). Naturally I kept a list of all the shows I saw and below I present my top ten of 2018. If I reviewed the show then a link to the review is also provided.

This is also a great reminder that sometimes the most memorable and exciting experiences are not always the big budget, flashy ones but the ones that are only on for four nights at a small theatre venue. So remember to support your independent theatre makers and venues - some shows can cost you as little as $15 and can be one of the most original and though provoking theatre you might see.

Here we go:

Gravity & Other Myths. Photo Credit: Steve Ullathorne
1. A Simple Space - review

This was actually the first show I saw in 2018 and it still feels like I only saw it yesterday. With this show, Gravity & Other Myths perform a circus show with only a handful of props on a black mat roughly four metres wide and six metres deep. With our attention ultimately glued towards the seven acrobats, they work with the only thing that's left: their bodies. They demonstrate surprising feats on what the human body is capable of, through a variety of acts.
What is great to see in GOM that isn't often seen in other circus or performance shows is their personalities coming through and the camaraderie they share. While we are seeing a show, there is a sincerity and openness present where it's very clear that these people love what they do and are having a great time doing it. Can't wait until their return to Melbourne.

Saturday 24 November 2018

Die! Die! Die! Old People Die! review

Violet and Norman are a 120 year old couple. While their lives might not be as fast paced as they once were, the love and affection they share for each other is still going strong. Presented by UK theatre company, Ridiculusmus, Die! Die! Die! Old People Die! is an exploration of dying and grieving performed by Jon Haynes and David Woods.

The couple appear at the far back corner of the room. A round table and two chairs are placed on top of a circular rug in the front of the space. A chandelier hangs from the ceiling. It takes roughly ten minutes for Violet and Norman to walk over and sit down on the chairs. The physicality Haynes and Woods portray with these characters is skilful and dedicated, but patience quickly wears thin with this show.

Saturday 17 November 2018

vigil/wake review

One indisputable fact is that we are all going to die. No matter how virtuous we are, how healthy we may be or how intelligent we are, we will not escape death. Yet for something that is so definite, we are constantly surprised by or ill-prepared for death. Presented as part of Arts House's Mere Mortals season exploring death, Peta Murray's vigil/wake is a pair of works that has us questioning what we know about death and how we remember those who have died.

The first part, vigil is delivered as an illustrated lecture with Murray presenting facts and statistics on death in a relaxed and personable nature. The six audience members are seated around Murray and an empty made-up hospital bed. We are informed of various facts to do with death; the biggest killer of men in their 20s and 30s is suicide and the older we get, the higher the risk of heart attacks ending us becomes. As Murray explains the various ways in which 95% of Australians are not prepared for their final days, such as having unwritten wills or not having a playlist for their funeral, she also shares her stories of her mother dying ten years ago, thus allowing us to connect on a deeper level with what Murray is saying and to then relate it back to our own experiences and preparedness with death.

Forest Collective Gala Performance review

With a number of performances under its belt this year, including fluttering hearts // thinking machines and Nico: Songs They Never Played on the Radio, Forest Collective have continued with their reinterpretation and reimagining of chamber music and adapting it to suit the various themes and styles of their concerts. For their final show for 2018, Forest Collective's Gala performance consisted of nine pieces with a number of Australian and world premieres. 

Caroline Louise Miller's Reductionism Is A Dirty Word (2016) opens the night with Kim Tan (bass flute), Bec Scully (double bass) and Danae Killian (piano) taking the unique elements of their instrument and seeing how altering the way they play it changes the dynamics between musician and instrument and as a group.

Friday 9 November 2018

The Hamlet Apocalypse review

The end of the world is nigh. In fact, it is just mere hours away. But for seven people there is something more pressing at hand. These seven actors have come together for one final time to stage Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Eventually what is fiction and what is reality is not as clear as it once was as the group attempts to accept what is happening outside while remaining committed to their last rehearsal and to their roles.

As Hamlet's story unfolds, links are made between the tale and the actors' personal lives that are impossible to ignore, and everything begins to slowly and painfully unravel. The ensemble - Chris Beckey, Katrina Cornwell, Nicole Harvey, Thomas Hutchins, Polly Sará, Peta Ward and Mitch Wood - deliver utterly engrossing performances as the actors in the play and as the characters within the play of the play. They find nuanced balanced of showing the truth of both their characters and highlighting the similarities and differences to who they are playing.

The Infirmary review

There comes a point in life where it all ends. Life ends. While there are many theories as to what happens to us when we die, nothing is certain about what happens when we have breathed our final breath. Presented as part of Arts House's Mere Mortals season on death and all its facets, The Infirmary is a live art immersive experience designed to leave you questioning your death and what inevitably awaits us.

This is the first part of Triage Live Art Collective's Death Trilogy and in The Infirmary, we are prepared for our death and live through our final hours. This intimate show for a small number of participants begins with individuals being triaged by a clinical nurse. Once formally admitted, we are guided through a hospital corridor and numerous hospital rooms. Despite the movement that is occurring with the various nurses getting their "patients" comfortable, there is a quietness and stillness to my surroundings that I find immediately soothing.

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Mockingbird review

Giving birth and becoming a mother are supposed to be some of the most fulfilling and happiest moments of a woman's life. Except when it's not. Postnatal depression (PND) affect 1 in every 7 women who give birth and in Mockingbird, writer and performer Lisa Brickell places PND under the spotlight.

Through comedy, cabaret and mask play, Brickell weaves a tale that follows four generations of women from one family and how PND impacts each woman and the cruel and painful ways that it was treated and the stigma they had to endure. Our protagonist is Tina, a counsellor who is experiencing some anxieties about having children with her partner. Tina begins to share with us the stories of her great grandmother, grandmother and mother and how these events have come to play on her mind with regards to becoming a mother.

Saturday 20 October 2018

Circus Oz's Sidesault review

With Circus Oz's Sidesault, circus companies are provided with an opportunity to present experimental works that challenge what contemporary circus can be. Ranging in ideas and approaches, there is literally something that will appeal to all types of circus fans. In its final weekend of shows, we are presented with ground breaking juggling, a deeply personal look at love and heartache and a deep-dive into the absurd and the unusual.

First up are Byron Hutton and Richard Sullivan with Jugg Life, demonstrating that while juggling requires a lot of skill, it can be more than throwing items in the air. It's a playful, exciting and original exploration on how juggling can be adapted and what can build from that. Their Mortal Kombat street combat is a perfect example of what can happen when you change how you look at something, resulting in some pretty intense moments, and the cause of the widespread terror in the audience (and perhaps Hutton and Sullivan) when a lap top gets in the way of a juggling club.

Friday 12 October 2018

Moira Finucane's Dance Hall!: The Diva Carousel review

Art has the ability to change people's way of thinking and it has the ability to unite us. In Moira Finucane's Dance Hall!: The Diva Carousel, a number of Melbourne's finest talents come together to celebrate art and to inspire us to be better and do something good, particularly with the way the current Australian Government has been treating refugees, women and people from the LGBTQI community.

While the show is a little tamer than you might come to expect from Moira Finucane, it is still a hugely entertaining evening with a mix of regular faces and new faces within the Finucane family. Maude Davey wins the crowd over with each one of her acts, including her puntastic turn as Earth. Her performance of The Angels' "Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again" is always a joy to watch and was clearly an audience favourite. James Welsby's highly energetic vogueing number is an empowering reminder for constant self-growth and self-exploration and learning to be comfortable in your own skin and never denying who you are. 

The singing and dancing continue throughout the night with Paul Cordeiro literally having people dancing in their chairs with some seated choreography to Tina Turner's "Nutbush City Limit". Chanteuse Clare St. Clare performs a gorgeous cover of Beyonce's "Halo" and counter-tenor diva Mama Alto hypnotises the audience during their performance of Des'ree's "Kissing You". In her Melbourne diva debut, Willow Sizer cranks out a commanding rendition of the Eagles' "Hotel California".

Sunday 7 October 2018

Love Bird review

It's a parent's worst nightmare. The day their eight-year-old daughter falls in love. To Mr. Ping Pong, her pet cockatiel. Despite its absurd storyline, Georgina Harris' Love Bird is an offbeat approach to exploring sexuality, gender and identity through a highly unconventional relationship that has plenty of laughs with moments that will surprise and strangely delight audiences.

Having not seen its first staging earlier in the year at The Butterfly Club, it feels like time and thought has been put into grounding the work, particularly by Jessica Martin who plays Franny. She delivers a nuanced performance showing Franny as being naive and innocent but with a yearning to comprehend who she is and what her place in society is. As ridiculous as the premise of her being intimate with a cockatiel is, Martin sells the emotional connection she seeks that she can't seem to find from the humans around her.

Saturday 6 October 2018

Just A Boy, Standing In Front Of A Girl review

M is just a boy, standing in front of a girl, asking her to love him. How sweet and cute. Except in Jane Miller's Just A Boy, Standing In Front Of A Girl this is anything but, as our protagonists find themselves slipping into a life that is darker and more desperate as their relationship progresses. Presented by 15 Minutes From Anywhere, this production continues in the same style as their 2014 show Motherfucker, in adapting classical texts into a contemporary setting.

Keith Brockett delivers another wining performance that's always so committed to the character with the perfect amount of enthusiasm as J. He is paired well with Annie Lumsden who plays M, with both actors displaying the tragedy and the comedy of the circumstances their characters find themselves in. The supporting cast of John Marc Desengano, Andrea McCannon and Glenn van Oosterom produce some wonderful work with the various characters that they portray.

Sunday 30 September 2018

Top 10 Shows at the 2018 Melbourne Fringe Festival

Another Melbourne Fringe Festival comes to an end. Another three weeks of sheer madness of trying to squeeze in as many shows as possible also comes to an end. While there was a stumble towards the end, I managed to get to 58 shows again this year.
As usual, so many shows I wished I could have gone and seen, but hopefully these will come back in some way, shape or form in the future. 
But as usual, it's not a Melbourne Fringe Festival (for me anyway) without compiling a list of my top ten shows, so here it is.
If the show was reviewed, you will find a link next to its name.

Hopefully I'll be fully recovered and raring to go for 2019!

1. Bighouse Dreaming

Bighouse DreamingIt's been less than 48 hours since I saw this show and the more I think about it and the issues it raises the more affecting it has become. Written and performed by Declan Furber Gillick, Bighouse Dreaming covers so much material in 60 minutes but does so with insight, authenticity and emotion with its look at black and white masculinity in Australia, the justice and prison systems and also the helplessness that people who want to help often feel. 
There's an outrage in the piece that flows out into the audience and the brutal scene between Gillick and Ross Daniel's as a corrections officer is difficult to watch and hear.
Gillick, Daniels and third cast member Sahil Saluja, deliver some of the strongest work I have seen in an ensemble in their portrayals of various characters throughout the work. Mark Wilson's direction maintains the integrity and the intensity of the work while allowing time for the audience to articulate their thoughts on what is happening.
If you missed this during Fringe, I feel certain that it won't be long before we see it again on our stages because this is a show that needs to be seen on our stages again.

Have You Tried Yoga? - Melbourne Fringe Festival review

But you don't look sick. You just need to keep a positive attitude. Have you tried not eating gluten? These are just a few of the 'helpful' suggestions from friends that countless people who have invisible (and visible) illnesses are recipients of. Have You Tried Yoga? is a performance piece created from verbatim interviews of people with disabilities, but also from performer and writer Rachel Edmonds' own experiences.

With a minimal set design and simple direction, Edmonds relies on the power of their words to tell this story - and it works. The isolation that people with disabilities often deal with is plainly shown in the recollection of an able-bodied friend who could not cope with Edmonds' accessibility needs and was eventually cut out of her life. 

Edmonds is very clear and direct with what they choose to cover in this show. Despite the frustration and anger that this work is based on, they do not rush nor do they lecture or force an opinion onto the audience. Instead, they speak to us, inform us of what it is like to be in their position when you are carted from doctor to doctor who can't figure out what is wrong with you. It's an opportunity for the audience to check themselves for subconscious discrimination and when their actions might have been patronising, insensitive or plain hurtful towards people with disabilities.

Saturday 29 September 2018

Dudebox - Melbourne Fringe Festival review

DudeboxAnything men can do, women can do better right? Except for maybe comedy. Which is why comedian and performer Kimberley Twiner has gathered a few of her nearest and dearest dudes to present 60 minutes of some hilarious dudes being hilarious dudes. Except the 'dudes' in Dudebox are all non-dudes and the show is in fact a patriarchal takedown of the attitudes that men hold towards women and even that women have towards each other.

Joining Twiner are some of the finest 'dudes" in the comedy scene consisting of Becky Lou, Selina Jenkins (Beau Heatbreaker), Fox Pflueger, Lily Fish, Sharnema Nougar, PO PO MO CO and the ever delightful The Travelling Sisters. Together they present wonderfully entertaining and thought provoking acts that has the entire room laughing out loud at their ingenuity.

Of particular note is the 'feminist' hens night complete with penis themed glasses, drink cups and accessories that culminates in a fantastic male striptease that could be taken right out of Magic Mike performed by talented burlesque performer Becky Lou. Twiner's artistic interpretation of Nicholson Street in her tradie act, expertly takes her time in setting the scene and carefully developing a character in a short amount ending with some brilliantly timed big dick energy.

Twink Ascending - Melbourne Fringe Festival review

Image result for twink ascending
The modern gay man. Who is he? In his Melbourne Fringe Festival show, Twink Ascending, writer and performer Andy Johnston goes on a mission to uncover what it means to be a gay man today. Through a variety of theatrical styles, Johnston shines a light on issues such as body image, relationships, sex, and of course, dick pics.

The set and costume design by Dann Barber add a camp sci-fi dance floor aesthetic to the performance, which fits in nicely with the opening moments of the show. Curled up on the floor in the foetal position, Johnston is eventually born into a queer world and bombarded with catchphrases and comments you would come across on online dating apps.

Friday 28 September 2018

One Punch Wonder - Melbourne Fringe Festival review

In One Punch Wonder, director and writer Amanda Crewes takes a fiercely honest and raw look at the impact of male violence and how masculinity is becoming synonymous with aggression and intimidation. 

The performance takes place in a boxing ring; it is the symbol of male dominance with the physical contact and the hostility that takes place inside. We are seated around the perimeter of the ring, like a cheering audience waiting for the punches and bloodshed. Except we never shout, we sit there, stunned by the performances and the material that is presented to us.

Thursday 27 September 2018

Deadweight. - Melbourne Fringe Festival review

The first thing you notice when walking into Deadweight. is the 6x6 pit of dirt that is set up. Then you see the bodies lying on the dirt. Despite their fatigued state, the struggle has only just begun. Using the story of Atlas, a Titan condemned to hold up the sky for eternity as a premise for the show, Rough Conduct's production explores of the impact of carrying on to burdens and emotional baggage and what happens when we release them. 

The cast in this show - Darcy Joyce Mcgaw, Chelsea Crosby, Jarryd Evison-Rose, Kyle Wright and Sarah Hartnell - literally thrown themselves into this performance with the physical demands met with vigour and passion. They wrestle, they drop, they fling themselves and they fly through the air. Combined with the feelings their actions convey, it is the complete representation of what it can be like to be unable to let go of the things that weigh us down: heart racing, constant exhaustion and extreme pain.

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Death and Other Things - Melbourne Fringe Festival review

Eidann Glover appears on stages dressed as a clown. Or it a mime? Or a goth? Really though, it doesn't matter. What matters is, she appears. Like Death winding its way through The Butterfly Club upstairs, then downstairs, turning the corner and there it is. In Death and Other Things, Glover shares stories and her thoughts around death and all the fun stuff surrounding it, like grief, power and anxiety. 

No sooner that Glover begins her cabaret with what feels like a quasi-therapy session, along with the assistance of her three-piece band and their variety of instruments, she decides to scrap it. Forget what you've just seen she tells us. It's her show, she can do whatever she wants. She has a better beginning for us and so she starts again, this time with a different act. Repeat. 

While the acts themselves are amusing and at times offer interesting interpretations on death and dying, the show requires a tighter structure to keep the flow going and to build its momentum. Death and Other Things needs to realise what its story is, what does it want to talk about and more importantly, what does it want its audience to feel when they are walking away. It went from topic to topic but felt like each one ignored everything that had come before it.