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REVIEW: Poorly Drawn Shark by Andrew Sutherland and Vidya Rajan – Midsumma

Andrew grew up in Perth but moved to Singapore, where he became a model and an actor – and a coveted very-white-man in the gay community.
Ming was born in Singapore but moved to Perth at a young age, unable to go back to his homeland, for fear of being trapped there, forced to do military service.
What happens next is a clash-of-cultures, a white boy feeling unappreciated and an Asian man being kept from his family and his history. But it’s messier than that, as history and gay sex tend to be. The spectre of colonialism remains in the form of a regressive law that makes sex between adult men illegal. And the lessons Andrew is learning are steering dangerously close to the cringeworthy novel by Elizabeth Gilbert – Eat, Pray, Love – later turned into a film starring Julia Roberts.
Sutherland and his co-writer Vidya Rajan throw a lot of ideas at the wall, scrape them off, put them in a blender, and have the traditional Singaporean symbol - the merlion - spit them out all over the stage.…
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REVIEW: This Bitter Earth by Chris Edwards – Midsumma

A young man sips a glass of wine, waiting for us to file into the theatre, while Kylie plays. As we settle in, he’s a long way from settled – nervous, anxious, eager to tell us about a dream he’s had. Even though he knows that when most people recount dreams, they are dead boring.
He’s a country boy who has moved to the big city – let’s call it Sydney – for university. He’s sleeping on his uncle’s couch and after being shown the expected touristy sites, he starts to explore the world by himself.
He’s gay and he’s never seen a penis other than his own. He’s drawn to a busker singing “My Heart Will Go On” and shaken up by two dude-bros shouting at gay couple kissing.
“Stop shoving it down our throats,” they shout, unaware of how unintentionally homoerotic they sound. The guy whose story we’ve been following, decides to follow them.
And this is just the start of the first vignette in a series of short moments by Chris Edwards exploring queer sex and relationships in this fantastical ga…

REVIEW: Cirque Stratosphere

The Clown (Salvador Salangstrang) walks through the audience, dressed as an astronaut, bouncing along as if doing a spacewalk. He warms up the crowd with calls of cooee, but also by orchestrating a communal rendition of the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey, “Also sprach Zarathustra” – with the audience on vocals and two volunteers on drums.
“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade…”
With these words from President John F. Kennedy, we are brought into the 1960s and the space race. A team of astronauts walks onto the stage – the men of the Apollo moon missions – and a voiceover describes their fitness, strength and the precise nature of their work.
And with that, Cirque Stratosphere begins; a show full of athleticism that requires precision from the acrobats and performers on stage. The background of the race to the moon is backdrop, colour and movement – a subtle trajectory from earth to the stars. The real strength of the show is in the incredible feats…

REVIEW: Chicago - The Musical

The real-life inspiration for the musical Chicago comes from nearly a century ago, when reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins reported on two unrelated court cases about women suspected and acquitted of murder. Watkins later wrote a satirical play about the attention both cases got, focusing on the media’s sensational headlines – something Watkins herself fed into.
The play became a silent film in 1927, a 1942 film named Roxie Hart (starring Ginger Rogers), and later the 1975 musical Chicago, for which husband and wife creative duo, Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, struggled to get the rights to make throughout the sixties.
The original Broadway production opened to mixed reviews, as it was considered cynical and subversive – the opposite of what audiences wanted from musical theatre. But times change and this black satire about merry murderesses returned to Broadway in 1996 in a slick, pared-back production, directed by Walter Bobbie with choreography by Anne Reinking – “in the style of Bob Fos…

My Favourite Theatre of 2019

This year I saw some amazing theatre in Melbourne, as always, and I was lucky enough to visit London for the first time, where I saw some wonderful West End theatre and some really inventive off-West End and independent theatre.
The thing about the theatre in London is that is really seems to be working toward the ideal of diverse casting, even if behind-the-scenes (writers, directors) are still male-dominated. And it’s not just in reinventions of shows like Death of a Salesman, which was a mostly black cast; a lot of shows I saw there were female-focused with racially diverse casts.
That said, I did see a show that was ostensibly about race, which was all white.
I saw some shows again this year, which were as great as when I originally saw them, but they have been on previous year-end lists, so sorry to Hamilton, Muriel’s Wedding and Cock – you’re not on my list again this year.
The lists are in alphabetical order and links in titles to review where available.
TOP TEN 

All About Eve –…

REVIEW: Punk Rock by Simon Stephens

You’re a teenager and your hormones are racing and you’re in school and you’re supposed to be studying but there’s a girl… there’s a boy… there’s your awkward body and your perspiration and emotions and masturbation and kissing and daydreams and nightmares… you want to act out but you’re taking your mock A Level exams at a grammar school in Stockport and there’s some pressure to do well but… you just want to dance and fuck and turn over tables and feel everything.
Simon Stephens’ Punk Rock is a two-and-a-half-hour drive into the malaise of being a teenager, where you think you know all the answers, but can be taken down a peg or two by a look from a girl you fancy or from a bully who might fancy you. Where you might feel nervous or uncomfortable in your body, but inside you’re ready to rock the hell out. It’s a delicate and dangerous balance.
Patalog Theatre Company’s production of Stephens’ play is slick in parts and rough around the edges in others, which seems fitting. Director Ru…

REVIEW: This Wide Night by Chloe Moss

“Twelve years inside and I’m still not free. Not properly.”
Lorraine is just out of prison and she’s dropped in on Marie, who she met and got to know while they were both locked up. She’s thirsty. Parched. Unsettled and unsettling. She can’t sit still.
Marie has been out for a while and seems, at first, to have found her feet. She’s looking fresh-faced and has shiny hair and she might be living in a studio apartment, but she knows that’s just a fancy name for a bedsit.
Playwright Chloe Moss has based her play on women she met while volunteering at a prison in England. The play touches briefly on their prison lives and only alludes to why they might have been sent there in the first place. The story doesn’t focus on life behind bars, but on life upon release – and how difficult it is for these women to re-enter society.
Marie is uncomfortable with Lorraine encroaching on her space, even as she wants to help her friend. Lorraine wants companionship, before she moves into a shelter and –…

REVIEW: Apocalypse Meow – Crisis Is Born

Meow Meow is trying to find somewhere to birth her new Christmas show. There’s no room at the Royal Albert Hall or the Sydney Opera House, so the old brick building on the Southbank in Melbourne will have to do. Apocalypse Meow: Crisis Is Born is Meow Meow’s holiday show that was original commissioned by the Southbank Centre in London in 2014. Now it has finally found its way to Melbourne and it’s not even Christmas. It is an early Christmas present, though.
Meow Meow is such a singular presence on stage, she will outshine everyone when appearing in shows not of her own making, but when it is her own show and you’ve seen her before, you know what you’re getting yourself into. A self-described gargantuan performance artist, her singing is sultry and smooth – she will have you laughing one moment and moved to tears soon after.
If you think this all sounds a bit heavy for a Christmas show, you’re right, but you’re probably forgetting you’ve been disappointed by Christmas before. Sometim…

REVIEW: The End of Eddy – Melbourne Festival

The End of Eddy by Pamela Carter is based on the book En finir avec Eddy Belleguele, a memoir by Edouard Louis about growing up gay and poor in a small French village.
Normally I would describe the world of a play before I get to the credits and give a sense of the kind of story you’re going to see. But this production is as much about adapting the book into theatre as it is about Eddy himself.
Two performers, Oseloka Obi and James Russell-Morley, play Eddy and all the other characters – sometimes on stage and sometimes on one of four video screens. There were four televisions in Eddy’s house when he grew you, you see. It’s that kind of production, too.
The actors also take their time to explain the differences between the book and the play: you can’t fit everything from a book into ninety minutes on stage, and theatre has different responsibilities than books, too, apparently. The show makes statements like this and never really explores them. They fundamentally change one of the fin…

REVIEW: The Nico Project – Melbourne Festival

“It costs me nothing to show you everything. It might hurt, though. It does hurt.”
Nico was a German singer, songwriter, musician and actress. She recorded vocals for The Velvet Underground’s debut album and appeared in films directed by Andy Warhol and Federico Fellini.
In September 1968, Nico recorded The Marble Index, an avante-garde album full of songs memorable for her somber lyrics and the strains of her playing the harmonium. This work and the femme fatale persona she created at this time has been cited as inspiration for Siouxsie Sioux, Dead Can Dance and Bjork.
It’s also the key stimulus for The Nico Project, created by actor Maxine Peake and director Sarah Frankcom, a co-commission of the Royal Court, the Manchester Festival and the Melbourne International Arts Festival.
Peake and Frankcom haven’t simply created a biographical work about the singer, but a performance art piece that’s as surreal as Nico’s music. The title itself suggests that this is a project inspired by Ni…