Skip to main content

My Favourite Theatre of 2016

Picnic at Hanging Rock

I sat down to write this list with some trepidation. I thought perhaps Melbourne theatre had not quite lived up to expectation. I’d had a general sense of dissatisfaction, with a few memorable bright spots. 

But as I started to make my list of favourites, I noticed that our mainstages – Melbourne Theatre Company and the Malthouse – both had strong years. Their high points were among the best of all theatre I saw this year.

This is also the first time in a while I haven’t seen theatre outside of Melbourne. No trips to Adelaide or Sydney this year, though thankfully we got a couple of great Belvoir shows and a Sydney Theatre Company production to remind me to get up there again next year.

One particular highlight of my year was the National Play Festival, which I wrote about. I couldn’t quite figure out how to fit it into my list – with it mostly being play readings and discussion panels. But definitely a high point of looking at Australian theatre this year.

There’s also a bunch of cabaret in my list, more than usual. And, as always, my lists are in alphabetical order, because I am not going to rank art. Too much.

Adrienne Truscott

THE TOP TEN

Adrienne Truscott’s A One Trick Pony – Melbourne International Comedy Festival/Malthouse

Adrienne’s show about critical reaction to her previous show, Asking for It, was unforgettable. For the whole audience, but particularly for me in a haze of Alanis Morissette, Andy Kaufman, Mighty Mouse and the wrestling match. (my review)

Blaque Showgirls - Malthouse

One of the sharpest pieces of social satire I’ve ever seen on stage, Nakkiah Lui’s hilarious take on Showgirls was savage and hilarious. (my review)

Blaque Showgirls

Edward II - Malthouse

Matt Lutton and Anthony Weigh’s take on Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II – tackling history and museum theatre and breaking them both apart.

The Events – Belvoir/Malthouse/State Theatre Company of SA

This was one of many shows after which I was speechless. It was also one where someone from the Malthouse stuck a camera in my face to gauge my reaction. An important play so beautifully realised. Catherine McClements was as good as she’s ever been.

The Events

Lilith the Jungle Girl – Melbourne Theatre Company/NeonNext

With the disappearance of Neon as a festival, I was glad MTC programmed another Sixxter’s Grimm show in the Lawler. This is the kind of work – and the kind of company that our mainstages need to support so we can have another generation of theatre artists in this country.

Meow Meow’s The Little Mermaid – Malthouse

It’s theatre, it’s cabaret, it’s Meow Meow and how else can you describe such a big show about a story we all know put in a modern context? Bold, thrilling and entertaining as hell.

The Maze – Melbourne Fringe Festival

I’ve written a lot about this show and I’m going to keep talking about this one audience member immersive piece of theatre for a long time coming, because I want it to come back and it shook me up like no show has for a long time. And I didn’t even have anyone to discuss it with after. (my review, my other review)

The Maze

Picnic at Hanging Rock – Malthouse/Black Swan

A powerful adaptation of the classic Australian novel, with nods to the film and to a piece of Australian folklore. This was contemplative and scary in equal measure. A stunning piece of theatre. (My review)

Purge – Melbourne International Comedy Festival/Malthouse

A show about deleting friends from Facebook, it’s about connection in this era of social media and how people come in and out of our lives so easily – for good and ill.

Zoe Coombs Marr’s Trigger Warning – Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Dave is a frightening creation because he’s just a male comedian telling awful jokes and trying to ingratiate himself with the crowd and laughing just encourages that kind of bloke. And damn, Trigger Warning was an hilarious takedown of misogyny in comedy. (my review)

Zoe Coombs Marr as Dave in Trigger Warning


THE NEXT TEN

The Awkward Years – Melbourne Fringe Festival

A twenty-minute flashback to high school parties – first kisses and vomits and pass the parcel. Amazing what can happen in such a short time. (my review)

Bridget Everett: Pound It – Melbourne International Comedy Festival

I was going to say that Trigger Warning made me laugh so much it hurt, but Pound It absolutely did that for me. Bridget is filthy as hell, with the voice of a rocking angel. Extreme cabaret. (my review)

Bridget Everett: Pound It

Elegy
– Midsumma/Lab Kelpie

The story of gay refugees as related through the work of a photojournalist in the Middle East. Nick Simpson-Deeks’ performance was so layered and the production devastating. A highlight from early 2016 that I haven’t forgotten.

Jasper Jones – Melbourne Theatre Company

This was a great surprise, having not read the novel and having no idea what to expect. A remarkable cast, some beautiful theatrical tricks and the story of a small Australian town and its grief over a missing girl.

Julius Caesar – Melbourne Fringe Festival

An all-female Caesar that was sparse and brutal. A shock to the system. (my review)

Essential Theatre's Julius Caesar

Lady Eats Apple – Melbourne Festival/Back to Back Theatre

Back-to-Back’s most epic work yet, about learning to see thing’s through other perspectives – while sitting in a space some of us were so familiar with and yet we saw it anew.

Lungs – Melbourne Theatre Company

A great play enhanced by a singular production and incredible performances.

Petrasexual – Butterfly Club

My friend Petra Elliott’s show about sex and sexuality is bloody brilliant and so important. See it in Adelaide at the Fringe in 2017.

Straight White Men – Melbourne Theatre Company

A show about privilege that’s not so much about Straight White Men as it is about a society that messes with us all. A strong choice by the MTC to make a show that shines a light on much of the expectations we have for a show we see at the MTC.

Wit – 45 Downstairs

For the performance by Jane Montgomery-Griffiths alone.

Jane Montgomery-Griffiths in Wit

OTHER MEMORABLE SHOWS

Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs

Alice Tovey: Personal Messiah – Melbourne Cabaret Festival

Comma Sutra – Melbourne Cabaret Festival

David Sedaris

Disgraced – Melbourne Theatre Company

3 Acts, 2 Dancers, 1 Radio Host

Switzerland – Sydney Theatre Company/Melbourne Theatre Company

War & Peace – Melbourne Festival


PAST YEARS


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

REVIEW: And Then She Became A Chair by Michelle Myers

  Michelle Myers in And Then She Became A Chair A woman emerges from the darkness, head covered, moving slowly, weighted bags are attached to her dress and drag along the ground behind her. She is in a waiting room. A doctor’s office. A hospice. Inside a commercial begging her to start a new life in Queensland. This is purgatory. Michelle Myer’s one-woman performance, And Then She Became A Chair , is an unsettling, confronting and poetic study in grief. We watch as a woman deals with the inevitable death of her mother, remembering absurd moments of her life, of their lives, in the years, weeks and days leading up to… C.S. Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed , a reflection on the passing of his wife, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” And it’s this observation that Michelle explores in this work – grief being the fear of loss, the fear of the unknown and the fear of what comes next. It’s interesting that the first work of theatre I have seen this year is focused so mu

Careful the things you say... Joe Wright’s HANNA & the combination of genres

Once upon a time... I tried to write a film script that melded noir and Grimm’s fairytales, where the femme fatale , clad in a slinky red dress, was also (in a way) Little Red Riding Hood. Where the lover of a hit man discovered his true identity from something hidden under his mattress. Evil (step)mothers, adopted children, hunters, princesses and family fortunes. Noir and fairytales have a lot in common and yet... I had real trouble finding the right tone for the piece. And, in the end, my script read too much like I was trying to get the concept to work, rather than telling a compelling story. Saoirse Ronan as Hanna Joe Wright’s film HANNA , screenplay by Seth Lockhead and David Farr, finds the perfect balance between a high tension thriller and a fairytale coming-of-age story. And travels further into the story of this mysterious girl than the trailer suggests. Going in, I was worried this might be too close to Leon or La Femme Nikita – the original films of which I t

You are far away: Agent Cooper and his troubling return to Twin Peaks

“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, th

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: THE AVENGERS assemble on the big screen

I like superheroes. I grew up with reruns of the 1960s Batman TV series. The Superman films were released when I was really young. The Amazing Spider-Man , Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk were nighttime TV shows. And one of the defining motion picture releases of my teenage years was Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989. I was never a big comic book reader as a kid – I’ve probably read more comic books, uh, graphic novels in the last ten years than any time before that. But superheroes were always very cool. And Burton’s Batman took my favourite superhero very seriously. Well, until Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins appeared – taking it ultra-seriously and much darker than I’d ever hoped for. As a non-comic reader, I find it hard to align myself as a DC ( Batman , Superman , Wonder Woman ) or Marvel Universe ( Spider-Man , X-Men , The Avengers and its consitutent parts) person. They appeal to different parts of my brain. In effect, DC’s superheroes are often lone warrior

Carrie Fisher: No More Postcards

Two Princess Leias, a medal and some broken jewellry Did I ever tell you about the time Carrie Fisher kissed me on the cheek? Stick around, I’ll tell it again soon. Carrie Fisher was Princess Leia; no getting past that. Except, of course, she did. And then she stepped right back into being her last year. She was the right person to play Leia because she was the right age at the time and she is part of Hollywood royalty. She was also the right person to have been Leia in retrospect, too. Can you imagine anyone else describing Jabba the Hutt as a “giant saliva testicle”? Anyone else who would bring an audience member up on stage to mount a Leia “sex doll” and whip it away before they get close enough to fulfil their childhood fantasy? Actors, even those of Star Wars­­­ -level fame, go in and out of the spotlight. Oh, you could spot Fisher on screen in the 1980s and 90s, but much of her hard work went on behind the scenes, as a script writer and script doctor. Hook , Sist

Colder by Lachlan Philpott - Red Stitch

Colder Photo: Teresa Noble I’m there. I’m sitting there in the dark. Sitting there in the dark watching a play by Lachlan Philpott at Red Stitch. A child has gone missing at Disneyland but nothing evokes Disneyland for me, not even the actors wearing mouse ears. Especially not the actors wearing mouse ears and affecting exaggerated American accents. I want to feel what the mother is feeling, while officious behind-the-scenes Disney workers assure her everything is going to be fine. I want a sense of her being frantic and frustrated. But I don’t get this sense because the language of the play is putting me at a distance. The expository monologues don’t paint a picture or flesh out a world beyond the very basic (“padded concrete, padded seats”) and the facile (“padded people”). This choral arrangement of voices is not singing. Eight-year-old David remains missing all day and we learn that his single mother has felt separate from him ever since. We ar

Walking out... I couldn't do it, could you?

Every so often, I think about walking out of a play, but I can't. I've never done it and I don't think I ever could. I've never walked out of a film, either. It's not in my nature. In the end, I'd rather suffer through the entire thing so I can criticise the entire play, rather than leave halfway and never know if it got any better or any worse. This has come to mind now, not because I wanted to walk out of Terence Malick's big budget experimental film The Tree of Life , but because apparently walk outs are becoming a phenomenon with that particular movie. And in a packed theatre at Cinema Nova last night, the walk outs were notable by their absense when the lights came up at the end. It certainly won't be to everyone's taste. It's very much an impressionistic film that explores grand ideas through mood and beauty, rather than telling a coherent narrative. But, even those moments in the film that were the most challenging on a "need for

REVIEW: This Genuine Moment by Jacob Parker - Midsumma

Christmas Eve. A bedroom. Two strangers, their limbs entangled; the doona cover and pillows hiding their identities just a little while longer. Riley wakes first to chimes from his mobile phone; an alarm or an early morning text message. He carefully manoeuvres himself away from last night’s hook-up and drags himself out of bed. His family are coming over for dinner and he’s got to clean up his new apartment before they arrive. But first thing is first, he’s got to get rid of “L” – the man he slept with last night, whose name escapes him right now in his early-morning, hangover fog. L doesn’t seem in a hurry to leave, though. He’s checking his messages; friends are texting photos of their Christmas Eve barbeque, trying to talk him into coming over. He’s not sure he wants to. He’s also sending messages to someone in his phone known only as FUTRE HUSBND and ignoring texts from his dad. Riley, in a haze, is trying to put the pieces together from the night before. He got wasted at

REVIEW: Stay at Home, Kasey Gambling – Melbourne Fringe

Have you ever felt trapped at home? I know, it’s 2020. If you can work from home, you must work from home. There are only four reasons to leave your house. You can only leave for one hour a day for exercise. No one can visit. But have you ever felt really trapped at home? And scared? Unable to leave. Four years ago, theatre-maker Kasey Gambling created an immersive audio experience for a single audience member on the streets of North Melbourne called The Maze . It’s still one of the most memorable pieces of art I have ever experienced, headphones in and following a woman on the street. Wearing headphones on the street can get you killed. At home, they should be a form of escape – listen to music, listen to podcasts, phone a friend. And yet, Kasey’s new show, Stay at Home , isn’t an escape. It’s another immersive audio experience, but this time you’re not following a woman, you’re in her shoes. But this is your house. How well do you know your own house? You’d think, after loc

REVIEW: Riot Stage Gets Famous - Melbourne Fringe

Early in 2020, Riot Stage – the youth theatre company – was getting ready to launch their show Everyone is Famous at the Next Wave Festival in May. They had been working on it for two years. They even got as far as appearing at the launch for the Festival. Then COVID happened. The members of Riot Stage had to wrestle with what to do next, just like theatre companies all over the world. They wanted to keep making theatre but had to think outside the box. Instead of premiering a show about persona in the age of social media, they made a documentary about trying to get famous in three weeks. Social media connects us all and every platform has its own quirks and expectations. And they all need content. The Riot Stagers launch new accounts to post art, sexually-revealing photographs, thirsty pics of Harry Styles, bad makeup tips from a learner, and reviews of pickles. The goal, of course, is to get as many followers as they can in three weeks. One Riot Stager goes the old-fashioned