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REVIEW: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde – Ridiculusmus

Oscar Wilde’s 1895 play, The Importance of Being Earnest, is subtitled “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People”. In its satirical way, though, it’s not so trivial at all, even as it appears farcical. Yes, the story is about two men who lie about their identities to get out of numerous obligations, but in his criticism of a certain social strata, Wilde is effectively calling out the people sitting in the audience. And with its clockwork like structure, in some ways it’s really a Serious Comedy for (or about) Trivial People.
Back in 2011, the Melbourne Theatre Company produced a star-studded production of the play, with director Simon Phillips recreating his 1988 production, reuniting some of his original cast with some new theatrical stars like Christie Whelan-Browne and Toby Schmitz. This was a gorgeous rendering of the play in full, savouring Wilde’s delicious language and turning up the tension of his finely-tuned plot with some incredible physicality and top-notch performances.
A few…
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REVIEW: The Feather in the Web by Nick Coyle

A woman has baked her friend a cake to celebrate surviving the year – she’s been through chemotherapy and a divorce. Her friend tries to be grateful for the gesture, but it’s clear that the cake tastes bad and –
Next thing we know, both women are smeared in cake and one has hot coffee poured all over her.
Kimberly is leaving home forever and this is her final destructive moment there. No wonder her mother is glad to see the back of her.
Kimberly is chaos and driven by pure impulse. She has no social graces and adheres to no societal norms. She humiliates and assaults a shopping centre make-up artist and he leaves her smeared with red lipstick, which she wears as a kind of war paint for most of the rest of the play.
All of the above sounds grotesque, which it is, in an absurdly delightful way. It’s uncomfortable and shocking and hilariously funny. The comedy comes from the outrageousness of every single character, slammed against their reactions to Kimberly, who is an unrelenting for…

REVIEW: New Balance by Christopher Bryant - Midsumma

Christopher Bryant is a playwright. I know that, because I’ve seen plays he’s written. He’s queer, because I saw his one-man show, Intoxication, which was about his sexuality but also about his addictions and the accident that almost killed him. Each show I see of his tells me more about him; even if it just tells me how good of a writer he is - how insightful and thoughtful he is about the world around him and his process of making theatre.

Chris is also disabled. His new show, New Balance, partly reckons with that new facet of his self and identity - and it also places his story in the wider context of the queer community. How does Chris see his cis, queer, disabled self? How does he see himself inside the community he lives in? How does that same community see him? Complicated, thorny questions to be addressed in only an hour of theatre - but potent and galvanizing.

Chris is a fine storyteller, whether behind-the-scenes or on stage in front of us. When I saw Intoxication, it was i…

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.…

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 –…