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
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
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
“What year is this?” Dale Cooper asks in the final scene of Twin Peaks: The Return, the last of many
unanswered questions left as the 18-part feature film concluded a week ago.
It’s far from the first time we’ve seen someone who looks like
Dale Cooper lost for answers over recent months. But it might be the first time
we have definitive proof that he’s in over his head.
Mr C, Dale Cooper’s doppelganger, who was first seen in the
original series’ finale back in 1991, returned to the town of Twin Peaks with a
goal in mind. Mr C was flexible, though. He had to be; he’d set so many things
in motion over twenty-five years, if he’d remained fixated, he would never have
come as far as he did.
Dougie, Dale Cooper’s tulpa – created by and from Mr C,
wandered aimlessly through life, but slowly made every life he touched better.
Plans change and Dougie changed with them. Slowly but surely, Dougie pieced
together Cooper’s past life and became richer for it.
Agent Cooper, the third part of this T…
Last year, Garry Starr explored every genre of theatre in
order to try to save it. Now that he’s saved theatre, he wants to make sure
actors out there know how to be the best skilled actor (or, skactor) they can
be. Garry has written a book called “An Actor Pretends” about the history of
Chapter by chapter, Garry’s vast knowledge of being a triple
threat is explored on stage in front of our very eyes. He explains how to
audition for a director when you’re waiting on them in a restaurant. He tells
us how to act when we inevitably move to Hollywood and get botox and we can’t
move our face. And then there’s his unconventional method for learning lines by
Rubber-faced actor and comedian Damien Warren-Smith is so
damn charismatic that he’ll have you on his side within minutes – and have some
of you up on stage as part of Team Garry, if you dare. If you don’t want to participate,
don’t sit in the front row like I did; though my moment in the spotlight only
The latest film in the Marvel Universe series feels like
nothing so much as a season finale. And since Joss Whedon was once the master
of creating season finales that were both emotionally satisfying and
thematically resonant, it’s good to have him in charge for the second Avengers
movie, Age of Ultron.
I’d like to compare it to the epic scope of Buffy’s “The
Gift” but it feels more like Angel, if anything. Things change, the world moves
on – and the best you can do is keep fighting. And embrace change.
Tony Stark has always been flawed, but by the third film in
his own trilogy, he seemed to have found an emotional peace. But with that
peace comes the idea that he can use his technology – his faith in machines
being his tragic flaw – to create a replacement for the Avengers. He births an
army of robots to calm the populace and fight alien foes.
Robert Downey Jnr’s Stark is such a towering figure in the
Marvel Universe films – and to make him partly the villain of this new film is
Flick, known on Instagram as Flick.Eats, and George, known
on Tumblr as Boyance, are social media influencers. Flick.Eats posts FODMAP
recipes and Boyance is living his best gay life online, but both are lies –
constructions of the kind of personalities that get likes and shares and
re-blogs. When Microsoft releases a new artificial intelligence bot onto
Twitter – Tay, whose followers are #TaysTeam – the world of fake online
personas gets trickier to navigate.
Who are Flick and George, really? Do they even know anymore? Disinhibition plunges the audience right into the
internet, the opening scene a perfect recreation of a Twitter interaction:
someone posts a photo of their cute dog, lots of other users retweet it and someone
@s the original poster, telling them their dog is prettier than they are. All
social niceties are gone; people will say anything to each other online.
Presented by Monash University Student Theatre (MUST) and directed
with a sure hand and clear intent by Artistic …
Arriving on a space station orbiting the planet Solaris, Kris
Kelvin (Leeanna Walsman) is confronted by beings who are almost human, while
digging through the digital archives of Dr Gibarian (Hugo Weaving), who
recently died. She must try to understand what these creatures are and what
other mysteries lie on the planet below, under the roiling oceans that cover
Like the Malthouse’s other current production, Wake in
Fright, David Grieg’s new play is based on a novel that has also previously
been a film. In fact, Stanislaw Lem’s book has been adapted into two films,
several operas and a play or two before this. It’s no surprise that it would
inspire great filmmakers and playwrights to bring their own versions to life;
alien entities, memory and lost loved ones are all rich elements with which to
explore the themes of loneliness and otherness.
Designer Hyemi Shin creates a cool, minimalist environment that’s
efficiently modular; its swiftly moving doors and sliding panels e…
The crew of a space ship, dressed in bold primary colours,
rock from left to right in front of us, as they try to keep control of their
craft. The group is racially diverse but it’s the white guy, a larrakin Aussie
from Melbourne, who boldly steps forward to save the day. “It’s something I have
Keziah Warner’s Control, a science fiction triptych,
begins with a scene of broad comedy, a nod to Star Trek and then jumps
back in time to see how this crew ended up in such a dramatic situation. Starting
a story in media res can be a pretty tired trope, but here Keziah uses
it as a dramaturgical sleight-of-hand; this story is much more complicated than
it first appears to be.
A pregnant woman, a puppeteer, a singer and a detective have
been hand-picked to be on this space ship, leave Earth and strive to survive in
“Fifteen Minutes on Mars” – a Big Brother-type reality show that is manoeuvring
this ensemble toward interstellar cabin fever.
Twenty years later, in a library that promises…
Muriel Heslop’s life in the Queensland town of Porpoise Spit
is one humiliation after another. She didn’t finish high school, she didn’t
come out of secretarial school with any marketable skills and the friends she
has don’t treat her very well. In the age of social media, nothing she does
gets any likes.
To escape from her friends and family, she disappears into
her bedroom and listens to ABBA songs and dreams of the perfect white wedding, proof
– in her mind – that she has achieved greatness.
Based on the 1994 film by P.J. Hogan, the stage musical
version, which premiered in Sydney in 2017, has been reworked a little since
its premiere season and has just opened in Melbourne.
I have fond memories of the original film starring Toni Colette
and Rachel Griffiths in their break-out roles of Muriel and Rhonda. Underneath
the joyous ABBA songs and the upbeat ending, though, Muriel’s Wedding is quite a sad film; Muriel may suffer from some
kind of depression and her mother, Betty, has been…
How well do remember the episode of The Simpsons where Sideshow Bob gets out of jail and tries to
murder Bart? If you needed to tell the story, could you? Do you remember any of
the jokes or set-pieces? How about the film references contained within?
In the first act of Mr
Burns: A Post-Electric Play, a group of survivors in a post-Apocalyptic America
gather together around a fire, trying to remember the details of “Cape Feare”,
the second episode of the fifth season of The
Simpsons, which first aired in 1993 and has been replayed thousands of
The grid is offline, nuclear power-plants have melted down,
and in the weeks and months after this world-wide disaster, people are telling
stories to pass the time and to connect with each other. This is and isn’t
people telling ghost stories around a fire; the details are important, and this
TV show is haunting them.
Telling stories and passing them on is a recurring trope in
fiction about the end of the world. Beyond survival, pe…
It’s that time of year again, when I look back over
everything I saw on stage and put together a list of my favourite shows. I saw
over 100 shows this year, mostly in Melbourne and a small number on one visit
I will link to reviews if I wrote one. TOP TEN (alphabetical order) The Almighty Sometimes – Griffin Theatre, Sydney
Kendall Feaver’s extraordinary debut play is about Anna,
dealing with mood disorders and medication and the complicated relationship she
has with the treatments and her mother. Superb cast and beautifully directed by
Lee Lewis Blackie Blackie Brown – Malthouse Theatre
Nakkiah Lui’s work is always amazing but this production,
directed by Declan Green, was another step up for her – the satire sharper and
bleaker and more hilarious than ever before. Blasted – Malthouse Theatre
Sarah Kane’s debut play from 1990s London is a tricky beast
tackling difficult subjects but Anne-Louise Sarks nailed it with a superb
production. The Bleeding Tree – Arts Centre Melbourne …