Saturday, 31 December 2011

Thank You, 2011: And everyone who contributed along the way


Rehearsing You Will Be Kissed By Princess Leia for The Wooden Leg
at The Owl & The Pussycat


2011 was an amazing year for me and my theatre-making endeavours.

Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to put on The Wooden Leg’s first season of shows at The Owl & The Pussycat in September.

Thank you to everyone involved in Richard Di Gregorio: On Time – my first foray into the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Thank you to Short & Sweet for continuing to showcase new works from emerging artists – and to Nicole Bilson for bringing Poems a Dead Boy Wrote to life.

Onward and upward in 2012.

Thanks to the creative team behind Painting with Words and Fire, which will premiere in February 2012.

Thanks to David Attrill and Sarah Connor, who are working hard on Like a House on Fire, for its late January premiere at Short & Sweet Sydney.

And more thanks to all involved with Richard Di Gregorio: On Time before we head off to Adelaide for Fringe in late February.

I’m already hard at work on shows that will hopefully see the light of day in late 2012: a full-lenth play or two and a short cabaret piece.

Thank you to all the amazing creative people I met this year, whose friendship and work inspire me. I hope to work with more and more of you!

And, finally, thank you to friends, family and theatre-going audiences who supported my work all year.  In the end, the work is for the audience – and I am so thrilled you seemed to enjoy so much of it.

See you all in 2012. Have a great New Year celebration!

Friday, 23 December 2011

My Favourite Theatre of 2011


With my theatre-going year over, here is a list of my favourite productions of 2011. The Top Ten, The Runners Up and the Honourable Mentions are all listed in alphabetical order. In years past, I’ve ranked my top ten or twenty shows. This year I decided I wouldn’t put myself through that kind of torture.

Without any further ado, my favourite shows of 2011...
  
THE TOP 10

Boxman – If Theatre

Daniel Keene plus Matt Scholten – an unbeatable combination. Again.



Christina: A Story with Music –Attic Erratic

This moving and haunting tale of lost love was beautifully realised by writer/actor/composer Tom Pitts and director Celeste Cody. And the set, the set! Amazing.



Clybourne Park  - Melbourne Theatre Company

A smart and funny satire on racial politics and real estate. A companion piece to the classic A Raisin in the Sun, it was fully deserving of its Pulitzer Prize.

Delectable Shelter - The Hayloft Project

After last year’s one-two punch of Thyestes and The Nest, this is the only Hayloft Project show to surface in Melbourne in 2011. It was a very strong post-Apocalyptic comedy and a reminder that no one quite makes shows like Hayloft.

The Economist – MKA

A thrilling and even-handed treatment of the real-life story of Anders Breivik. Writer Tobias Manderson-Galvin and director Van Badham – and the whole MKA team – should be very proud of this work. And MKA should be proud of their entire output in 2011.

Hamlet - Melbourne Theatre Company

After seeing a very strong production of Hamlet in DC last year, Simon Phillips’ production with Ewen Leslie in the lead blew every other version of Hamlet I’ve seen out of the water. From set to costume to some of the finest performers in Australia, this was an amazing night of theatre.

Little Match Girl – Malthouse

I have seen and loved Melissa Madden Grey and her alter-ego Meow Meow before, but this brilliantly ecelectic, wonderfully evocative show pushed her crazy cabaret envelope and was one of the absolute highlights of Malthouse’s 2011.



Skinhouse – Quiet Little Fox

What baggage do you carry with you when you retire from prostitution? And how does that affect the people you live with and your loved ones? Kristina Benton and Fleur Kilpatrick relived their real lives night after night is this warm and raw two-hander.

Tis Pity She's A Whore - Malthouse

Marion Potts directed my two favourite Malthouse shows this year and while I think Whore was flawed, it was so rich and multi-layered, beautifully designed and with such powerhouse performances, it has stuck in my mind all year. An incredible achievement.

Undine – Four Larks

After they won a few Green Room awards, I knew I had to find my way to Four Larks’ next show – which proved only as difficult as seeing a show in an undisclosed location can be! They call their shows “junkyard operas” but they are exquisitely rendered and beautifully composed an executed – a very, very long way from junk. Excited for their Malthouse show in 2012.


THE RUNNERS UP

The Bald Soprano – Threshold

A tight, on-the-ball production of Ionesco’s absurdist comedy.

Bombshells – Lil’ Frenchy Legs

A spectacular trio of female actors completely embodied Johanna Murray-Smith’s six sharply drawn monologues for women.

Circle Mirror Transformation – Melbourne Theatre Company

An insider comedy that lets outsiders in, this beautiful little script illuminated the question of when life changes and how we change with it.

Crossed – If Theatre

Matt Sholten brings Chris Summers’ wild and moving, energetic and confronting six-hander to life in an almost unrecognisable Courthouse Theatre.



A Donkey and a Parrot

Sarah Hamilton has penned a beatiful ode to her family and their history and brings to life many generations of their wonderful tale in this exquisite one-woman show.

A Golem Story – Malthouse

Proving to be one of the strongest young voices on the Australian stage, Lally Katz’s smart recreation of the Jewish tale of the golem in Prague received a stunning production that won’t soon be shifted from my mind.

Hairspray

From the sublime to the ridiculously fun, this musical based on the John Waters classic is a top-tapping digital wonder – with a really strong message in there about acceptance of all kinds.

The Hatpin

A dark, moody musical based on an horrific tale from Sydney’s colonial past, James Millar and Peter Rutherford’s show finally made its way to Melbourne this year. An absolute treat.

In the Next Room (or, The Vibrator Play) - Melbourne Theatre Company

What begins as almost silly – its premise really milks the cheap laughs in act one – evolves into rich and poignant study of relations and relationships on a set that slowly opens up to reveal hidden depths barely glimpsed at the start.



Prodigal

Dean Bryant and Matt Frank’s first musical is revived ten years later – reminding us that we all must start somewhere (in the play’s case, the NSW coastal town of Eden) and once we grow up and move out, we can become extraordinary. But that usually means going home again, a theme Bryant & Frank would again explore in their more recent show, Once We Lived Here.


HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Batt on a Hot Tin Roof - Adelaide Cabaret Festival

The Importance of Being Earnest – Melbourne Theatre Company

Shopping Centres and Gutters

Sleepyhead - MKA

The Terminativity – Bella Union


The Unexpected Variety Show

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And that's it for seeing theatre in 2011. There might be another post about making theatre before the year is out, but until then, have a Merry Christmas and see you in the theatre in 2011.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Three Shows, Three States, Three Months: Already Very Busy in 2012


In fact, from the opening of Like a House on Fire through the two week season of Painting with Words and Fire (formerly Three Women) to the end of Richard Di Gregorio: On Time – it’s less than six weeks. Late January to early March.

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First up, as part of Short & Sweet Sydney, my ten minute ode to pyromania and sexuality, Like a House on Fire will play at the Newtown Theatre from January 25 to January 28 (8pm) and January 29 (5.15pm). Directed by David Attrill and starring Sarah Connor, I’m thrilled to have something on in Sydney – finally – and it’s a good excuse to go back after having been there so recently.

Actor Sarah Connor

Also, while in Sydney, I get to check out Griffin’s new production of The Boys – which should be suitably confronting in that small space. Also tempted to check out Hayloft’s Thyestes – which Belvoir is producing at Carriageworks, but I’m afraid that seeing it a second time might dilute its power.

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Next up, at Revolt Melbourne Artspace in Kensington, a tryptic of monologues for female actors culminating in a fourth piece where these disperate characters meet – Painting with Words and Fire is my biggest show yet and something the entire team is very proud of. Formerly titled Three Women, the show will play ten nights from Feb 15 to Feb 25 at 8pm in Revolt’s loading dock.


Produced by The Wooden Leg - which I co-founded this year with producer Wallis Murphy-Munn, writer/actor Hayley Lawson-Smith and writer/actor/inspiration Andy Dodds – it’s going to build on the company’s aesthetic for site-specific theatre, as well as being accessible, immediate and a bit in-your-face.

I’ve been working on this project for a while, after meeting actor/directors Christine Husband, Renee Palmer and Adrienne Sloan through the Cold Reading Series. We have developed the fourth piece collectively and the actors have been directing each other in their solo pieces, while building toward a show that will also combine movement, music, and beautiful design work by Andre Stefan White.

I feel lucky to have found such great collaborators and moving towards production is going pretty smoothly – with a press release put together and lots of photos taken last week for promotional and publicity materials. Note to self: at some point need a decent headshot for the inevitable program.

Look for publicity material soon on Facebook and on the Revolt website.

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Last, but certainly not least, the reappearance of Richard Di Gregorio: On Time at the Adelaide Fringe Festival.  Tickets are already on sale online and we’re already getting promotional material ready. Including this snappy little promo video:


And, later tonight, there will be a podcast interview with me on the LinkAdelaide website. I can’t wait to hear it back – see if I said anything too embarrassing.

As I said in the interview, even in our post-Melbourne Fringe analysis of the show, the whole team was pretty happy with the show as a whole. But we’re still thoroughly excited to get a chance to polish it up a little bit and tighten it up in places, so that Adelaide gets the absolutely best show we can give it. (Also, for a show about time, the fact that 2012 is a leap year gives me some really immediate new material – especially for the Feb 29th show!)

Richard Di Gregorio: On Time is playing the Metropolitan Hotel in Adelaide for Five Shows Only from Feb 28th to March 3rd. Book tickets now!

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Meanwhile, of course, since these projects are basically all written, I have started work on new plays and new collaborations - trying new things, polishing old things and keeping the momentum going. For the second half of 2012.

Friday, 2 December 2011

FOURSOME: Thoughts on The Economist, Return to Earth, Boxman, Little Match Girl

Brad Williams, not in The Economist

Let’s hear it for new Australian work – from pop-up theatres to our mainstages, new work from established and emerging artists is flourishing across Melbourne. And these are only the ones I’ve seen. But it’s thrilling to have seen four new Australian shows in a row, even when the end results are mixed.

THE ECONOMIST by Tobias Manderson-Galvin, directed by Van Badham

There’s been a lot said of The Economist, even before its first preview on Tuesday night. It tackles the difficult subject of Norwegian terrorist Anders Brevik – slightly fictionalised here as Andrew Berwick. Local media didn’t like Manderson-Galvin’s criticism of the media in regards to the case, nor of his highlighting the fact that Brevik had quoted rightwing Australian politicians and pundits in his manifesto.

The play, as I expected, cannot be judged on the conservative backlash it has received. The play is an interesting meditation on how a man like Brevik and his worldview is formed, but it doesn’t really attack his political beliefs any more than it deconstructs his love of first-person shooter games and World of Warcraft. It does have interesting commentary on the media’s role in creating the madman they want rather than the cunning terrorist they have, but it’s the fusion of all these little pieces that make both the person (be it Brevik or Berwick) and the play fascinating.

Manderson-Galvin’s script is thoughtful and poetic and Badham’s direction keeps the whole thing moving like a freight train, which makes it all the more unnerving when the shooting begins. Though the question might be “too soon?”, the answer most surely is a thrilling piece of up-to-the-minute theatre that I think will grow over its season - and probably seasons to come.

Open until December 10


RETURN TO EARTH by Lally Katz, directed by Aidan Fennessy

As has been written in several places, Return to Earth feels like a transition play for Katz – from her anarchic beginnings to the more controlled and mature work that was on display at the Malthouse this year with A Golem Story. (I wish I’d seen Neighbourhood Watch at Belvoir this year, just to know where it fell on the Katz continuum.)

Earth is a few years old now, but exciting to see such a daring writer on the Melbourne Theatre Company’s main stages. Unfortunately, while I think the script is strong, the production didn’t seem to serve the text very well at all. It’s as if someone was scared that they were putting Lally Katz on stage in front of MTC subscribers – and everything was played with a heavy-hand or too literally.

The strength of the script to me is that reality abuts the bizarre here; it’s family dramedy mixed with magic realism. But I felt at a remove for almost the entire show. I didn’t engage with these characters, even though there were moments that I should have; moments that demanded passion and got nothing of the sort.
It’s puzzling that MTC would program such a daring script only to try to make it easier to digest.

Open until December 17


BOXMAN by Daniel Keene, directed by Matt Scholten

I first came aware of Scholten’s work when he directed a production of Keene’s play The Nightwatchman at TheatreWorks last year. The writer and director have a history of working together, though Scholten says this was the first play Keene wrote specifically for him. I have seen everything Scholten has directed since – it’s been a busy year with Crossed and Black Box 149, which were both strong scripts that Scholten took to another level. But the Scholten/Keene combination seems to make them both even better.

The story of a child soldier who nows lives in Melbourne’s western suburbs in a box – a home he has built for himself in a park – is both moving and joyous. It’s intimate and epic, almost at the same time. Ringo (his real name is hard to pronounce for Australians, he says) is played by Terry Yeboah, who held the audience in the palm of his hand for the entire seventy minutes. And the combination of writer, director and actor all working together from early in the development of the piece, makes for a very memorable night at the theatre (or in a shopfront in Footscray).

Boxman was part of the Big West Festival and closed on November 26


MEOW MEOW’s LITTLE MATCH GIRL by Meow Meow & Iain Grandage, directed by Marion Potts

Cabaret and Hans Christian Anderson’s bleak fairytale don’t seem – at first – to be very suited to each other at all. In fact, having seen Meow Meow’s Little Match Girl, it still seems incredible that it works so very well. Actually, scratch that. Given the talent involved – Meow Meow, Grandage, Potts and “guest star” Mitchell Butel, of course it worked. In the most wonderful of ways and for the most spectacular reasons.

While it’s hard to translate the Little Match Girl story to Australia, its subject continues to be universal. Homeless children is still a major issue all over the world and that is certainly discussed between the songs – spanning Cole Porter, Megan Washington, Noel Coward, Wagner and Meow Meow’s own compositions. But structurally the most important part is that the Little Match Girl tried to get people’s attention and Meow Meow tries her hardest to keep our attention, even when disaster strikes and the theatre loses power less than ten minutes into the show.

Potts directs Meow Meow’s epic imagination onto the large stage of the Merlyn and we are caught inside a dream, but reminded all along that were are there in the theatre with this force of nature, helping her to keep going, supporting her through every song, every moment and every piece of physical comedy.

Meow Meow’s Little Match Girl closes on December 4


Disclaimer: I know people involved in two of these productions, but I’m not telling you which ones. Unless you ask nicely.