This year I saw shows in Melbourne and Sydney. The Top Ten are my favourite shows of the year, but the Next Ten are basically all in eleventh place. After a slow start to the year, the Melbourne Theatre Company’s NEON Festival kicked things into high gear – and after that, the rest of the year was full of exciting, imaginative, passionate and memorable theatre.
Note: these are listed in alphabetical order
THE TOP TEN
ANGELS IN AMERICA: MILLENNIUM APPROACHES & PERESTROIKA – Belvoir
The classic American play about AIDS in Reagan’s America in a stunning production at Belvoir.
BY THEIR OWN HAND – The Hayloft Project, Neon Festival/MTC
Hayloft shakes up Oedipus in this smart triptych.
LIFE AND TIMES, PARTS 1 to 4 – The Nature Theatre of Oklahoma, Melbourne Festival
A ten-hour epic that played out in the Playhouse, bringing an audience of 600 together to experience a life (and their own lives) in a way we’ll never forget.
NIGHT MAYBE – Stuck Pigs Squealing, Theatre Works
It’s difficult to put into words how beautiful this show was, not to mention how moving and intelligent, passionate and insightful. Theatrical perfection.
NO CHILD... – Nilaja Sun, Theatre Works
Sometimes, all you need, is one woman on stage playing a couple of dozen characters. A tour-de-force.
ROOM OF REGRET – The Rabble, Theatre Works, Melbourne Festival
And sometimes you need a maze of rooms and corridors and a strong company to lead you through their unforgettable take on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.
SAVAGES – Forty-Five Downstairs
Patricia Cornelius’ poetic and penetrating and powerful examination of masculinity and misogyny.
THE BLOODY CHAMBER – Malthouse’
A masterful stage adaptation of Angela Carter’s short story. Theatre making at the absolute top of its game.
THE MAIDS – STC
Benedict Andrews. Andrew Upton. Cate Blanchett. Isabelle Huppert. Elizabeth Debicki. Jean Genet’s The Maids. Seriously, what else needs to be said? Black comic perfection.
THE SOVEREIGN WIFE – Sixxters Grimm, Neon Festival/MTC
Declan Greene and Ash Flander’s bring their unique sensibility to an epic story of Australia. A fitting end to the Neon Festival, with a few digs at conservative theatre companies for good measure. Hilarious and biting.
THE NEXT TEN
COLUMBINE – MUST Theatre, Daniel Lammin
Daniel Lammin’s devised and verbatim meditation on the Columbine massacre. Sharp and devastating.
CONSTELLATIONS – MTC
Sometimes life turns on the words you choose to say and those left unspoken. Parallel universes and a performance for the ages from Alison Bell.
MENAGERIE – Daniel Schlusser Ensemble, Neon Festival/MTC
A tribute to Tennessee William’s work and creative process. Brilliant and untamed.
ON THE BODILY EDUCATION OF YOUNG GIRLS – Fraught Outfit, Neon Festival, MTC
An almost silent meditation on youth, puberty and the traps of a rote education.
PALACE OF THE END – Theatre Works
Three tragic monologues that take three different points of view on the American invasion of Iraq. Performances and direction, magic.
PERSONA – Fraught Outfit, Malthouse
By every right, a stage adaptation of the film Persona should not work. Adena Jacobs pulls off the impossible.
SOLOMON AND MARION – MTC
A lovely little surprise at the Melbourne Theatre Company, that didn’t need star power to pull it off.
SUMMERTIME IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN – Sixxters Grimm, Theatre Works
Southern melodrama was never so hilarious. What a cast. What a script. What a crocheted set!
SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE – Opera Victoria
Sondheim’s masterpiece on the creative process is precise and delicate and very moving.
THE CHERRY ORCHARD – MTC
Simon Stone is let loose at the Melbourne Theatre Company and while the arguments about adaptations continued around him, this show proved what a smart theatre maker he is.
THE HONOURABLE MENTIONS
BECAUSE OF REASONS – Five Pounds of Repertory Theatre
GYPSY – The Production Company
OTHER DESERT CITIES – MTC
ROTPETER – Butterfly Club
SHADOWS OF ANGELS – The Owl and the Pussycat
SONGS FOR EUROPE – Melbourne Fringe
STORIES I WANT TO TELL YOU IN PERSON – Malthouse
SUPER DISCOUNT – Back-to-Back Theatre, Malthouse
WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT – Malthouse
ZOO STORY – Revolt Theatre