Thursday 30 December 2021

Top 10 Shows of 2021

2021 was certainly a difficult year for the performing arts scene in Melbourne. However if you did manage to get to a show between lockdowns, you would have been witness to a great variety of talent and ideas. While I personally find it extremely difficult to engage with a show virtually, there were also some incredible digital works being made. With this in mind, I managed to see 54 pieces of work this year by independent artists and theatre companies in Melbourne. Below are my top ten shows of those 54 worksIf I reviewed it, then a link to the original review is provided.

And as I always like to remind people, sometimes the shows that will stick with you months and years after you've seen them, that will leave an imprint on your heart, body and soul, will not always be the big budget, flashy ones but the ones that are only on for four nights with ten people in the audience. In this current arts climate, remember to support your independent theatre makers and venues - some shows can cost you as little as $20 and can be one of the most original, inspiring and though provoking performances you might see.

Take a risk, see something new, unknown and different in 2022.

Here we go:

Saturday 18 December 2021

Queer and trans fairytales come to life in "The Story Keepers" - Midsumma Festival

While there's plenty to see and do during Midsumma Festival for the adults, there's also just as much fun to be had by families and children, including the magical, fun, queer fairy tale show, The Story Keepers. Written and directed by Em Chandler, the show has a group of fairy tale collectors who record the fairy tales of the world with queer and trans representations in its key characters. In this upcoming production, they share three overlooked fairy tales from Germany, Spain, and Iceland.

The Story Keepers has been a long time coming for Chandler, who has spent years selecting, preparing and devising these works. "The basic premise of fairy or fairy like beings telling fairy tales has been with me since 2017. So, in various ways it’s been floating around my brain for five years. But I’ve been writing, refining, and working on it over the last three years. I had been sitting on the idea of a troupe of fairy or fairy-like beings coming together to share, perform and act out fairy tales for a long time, but had struggled to find a way to start," they tell me.

Sunday 12 December 2021

Werk It – Tight Fit review

The venue might be small, but the energy emanating from the stage during Werk It - Tight Fit's circus show is incredible. For many in the audience, it is their return to the performing arts, and for myself, as an avid circus attendee, there is much excitement and anticipation at seeing my first live circus in close to two years. Fortunately the five acrobats do not disappoint, with Vincent van Berkel, Lisa Lottie, Richard Sullivan, Cassia Jamieson, and Malia Walsh performing a number of acts that display their skills and entrance the room.

Lottie's hula hoops act involves numerous hoops moving at incredible speeds on various parts of her body. Her later return to the stage has her completing a hoop striptease that continues to showcases her skill while adding a layer of sexy mischief. Real life strong woman Jamieson astounds the audience with her strength, particularity during her group act with Walsh and van Berkel. The familiarity and support the performers provide to each other highlights the trust between them, which is particularly important given the extremely small stage they have to use, where one misplaced step could mean falling off the stage or head-butting the hanging lights.

Thursday 9 December 2021

Ben Stuart is on the Run with first love - Midsumma Festival interview

What does it mean to love? Ultimately, we all have our own meanings, but in Stephen Laughton's one-man play, Run, this question is explored by Yonni, a 17 year old gay Jewish boy. Over the course of a summer, Yonni's infatuation for schoolmate Adam reaches breaking point where the real and the imaginary blur together as he begins to understand love, desire, grief and loss. The play has received critical acclaim since its debut in England and next year it makes its Australia debut as part of Midsumma Festival.

In the Melbourne production, Ben Stuart takes on the role of Yonni, and it was love at first read for Stuart when he got his hands and eyes on the script. "I fell in love with it as soon as I read it! When Gavin Roach (producer/director) gave the script to me, I remember getting completely lost in it. I've always been drawn to powerful stories and strong emotions, and Run has both (and much more!)," he tells me. "I related to many parts of Yonni's story, and I think many people will for a variety of reasons. Yonni re-lives numerous universal moments in this coming-of-age story, such as his first kiss, and those late-night text conversations, and it's easy to relate to in all those moments because I've been there and many others will have too!"