This year, I saw shows in Adelaide, New York, Sydney and Melbourne. Here are my Top Ten, Runners-Up and Honourable Mentions.
They are listed in alphabetical order. I didn’t want to torture myself by having to rank them.
THE TOP TEN
BOY GIRL WALL - The Escapists, Melbourne Theatre Company
A smart, insightful, cleverly-written, engagingly-performed monologue about a Boy, a Girl and the Wall in between them.
THE BOYS - Griffin Theatre Company, Sydney
Sam Strong’s powerful production of the heavy-hitting Australian classic. A tour-de-force for everyone involved.
INTO THE WOODS - Public Theatre, New York
Any show, even one of Sondheim’s best, might not be able to live up to the expectation I had for wanting to see it in Central Park so badly I based my trip to New York around when it was playing. It exceeded expectations.
ONCE - Broadway
The perfect little movie is developed into a perfectly crafted immersive stage musical. A revelation.
ON THE MISCONCEPTION OF OEDIPUS - Malthouse
The Oedipus myth fully interrogated by artists at the top of their game. Kudos Zoe Atkinson, Matthew Lutton and Tom Wright
POMPEII, L.A. - Malthouse
Declan Greene and Matthew Lutton combine their considerable talents into a searing depiction of celebrity and tragedy and rising stars being destroyed in front of our eyes.
PALE BLUE DOT - Optic Nerve
Optic Nerve’s collage of stories about space, time and space-time which hit many of my favourite subjects and combined them into a piece of theatre that I won’t soon forget.
SONS & MOTHERS - No Strings Attached, Adelaide Fringe Festival
Sometimes theatre-makers try every piece of artiface at their disposal to move people. No Strings Attached, an ensemble of disabled actors, tell simple stories of their lives and their mothers and there was not a dry eye in the house.
SUMMER OF THE SEVENTEENTH DOLL - Belvoir, Melbourne Theatre Company
This classic of the Australian stage is returned, in top form, from a production that began at Belvoir in Sydney and returned to the play’s spiritual home at the Melbourne Theatre Company. An incredible experience.
TOP GIRLS - Melbourne Theatre Company
A classic of modern theatre, this thirtieth anniversary production directed by Jenny Kemp was sharp and pointed and poignant; this ensemble of actors rivalled any I saw in any show this year or ever.
THE RUNNERS UP
ANGELA’S KITCHEN - Griffin, Malthouse
Paul Capsis’ mesmirising ode to his grandmother, her kitchen and the family she raised.
THE BLUE ROOM - 5 Pound
Jason Cavanagh’s beautiful production allowed actors Zak Zavod and Kaitlyn Clare to shine in the darkness.
EVERYNIGHT, EVERYNIGHT - Frank Theatre
A haunting, heavy production of Ray Mooney’s important prison drama by new company, Frank Theatre.
THE GOAT (OR, WHO IS SYLVIA?) - 5 Pound
Edward Albee’s black comedy made seriously voyeuristic by Christine Husband in the Collingwood Underground Carpark. (I didn’t see the transfer to the Owl and Pussycat.)
THE SEIZURE - The Hayloft Project
The Hayloft Project continue to bring sharp, intelligent theatrical reimaginings of classic texts to the independant Melbourne stage.
THE TEMPTATION OF ST ANTHONY - Four Larks
Four Larks had a mainstage show at the Malthouse this year, but it was this return to their junkyard opera roots that really shone.
TRIBES - Melbourne Theatre Company
Julian Meyrick’s stunning production of Nina Raine’s new work about inter-family communication and an interloper.
UTA UBER KOOL JA - Adelaide Fringe Festival
This hilarious and ultimately moving site-specific work was another highlight of the Adelaide Fringe Festival. Find Uta in a hotel room near you.
THE WILD DUCK - Belvoir, Malthouse
Simon Stone beautifully rewrites Ibsen’s classic work for a modern audience and a modern sensibility. The debate about re-writing classics will go on forever, but in the plus column is haunting productions like this.
THE WELL - La Mama
Robert Reid’s devised work with an acting company plucked from the Monash Student Theatre told the story of the end of the world in a way that was beautiful, haunting, hilarious and visually stunning – often all at the same time.
THE HONOURABLE MENTIONS
THE BOOK OF MORMON - Broadway
An hilarious, crass musical satire.
CHOIR GIRL - Attic Erratic, Melbourne Fringe Festival
A beautifully designed, wonderfully written cabaret experience.
5 POUNDS OF REPERTORY THEATRE - 5 Pound
I couldn’t go past mentioning this extraordinary achievement by 5 Pound theatre – 5 actors, 5 directors, 5 plays, 5 weeks. I missed one of the plays, but I supported this one all the way – and Melbourne audiences seemed to embrace this amazing ensemble of theatre-makers.
A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM - Her Majesty's Theatre
Sondheim at his most farcical under the clear direction of Simon Phillips and starring Geoffrey Rush and a whole host of great comic actors and musical theatre stars.
PETER AND THE STARCATCHER - Broadway
A visually inventive and smart retelling of the Peter Pan story.
RHONDA IS IN THERAPY - Hoy Polloy, 45 Downstairs
Bridgette Burton’s play is smart and funny and very insightful look at a woman dealing with the loss of a child.
THE UNSPOKEN WORD IS “JOE” - MKA, La Mama
As described in the press release, this is Zoe Dawson’s “really good” play about the reading of a really good play. Really.
And that, as they say, is that. Some amazing theatre in all the places I visited this year.