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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


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