Some years, you don’t really know what your theatre-going year has been like. Sometimes, you’re seeing good things and bad things and when you get to the end of the year, the top ten might come easily – because they are outstanding or because there wasn’t that much competition.
I knew things were strong. This year, the major companies were doing great
things. And the independent scene was going off – with some really
groundbreaking stuff appearing all over the place.
realise, though, how tough it was going to be for me to choose my Top Ten and
my Next Ten. Even in other great years, there were usually stand-outs – even if
I did agonise over who I might have to drop down to my Honourable Mentions
list. Or not mention at all.
This year I
had to expand my list… I try to be tough on myself when I make these lists, but
this year, it was theatre that was tough on me. Because so much of it was so
the individual lists are in alphabetical order. And any shows I’ve seen in
previous years in the same production are not eligible.
Here we go
– The Bloomshed, Northcote Town Hall
is doing some of the best work on our indie stages and this Australian version
of Animal Farm which focuses on a government investigation into the
events of the book was the sharpest, funniest of satires.
Paradise – Pony Cam, Melbourne Fringe (my review)
performers on treadmills, cooking food, dancing, fill out a funding application
and trying to tick off a to-do list was a too-perfect encapsulation of trying
to find balance in a far too busy world. Maximalism at its invigorating,
– Spinning Plated, Forty-Five Downstairs
theatrical take on Dostoevsky’s short story about fame and trying to overthrow
Sydney Theatre Company
American play – on stage in Australia for the very first time (!) with an
incredible cast, including Bert LaBonte and Zara Newman. Beautifully handled by
Director Shari Sebbens.
Theatre – Pony Cam
Pony Cam show in the top fifteen, because of course. They are such inventive,
exciting theatre makers. And this tribute to the theatre that shaped them, and
changed us was so wonderfully judged and stunning executed.
I Sat and
Waited but You Were Gone Too Long – VIMH, La Mama
in Liv Satchell’s grief trilogy (but the last one I saw) is so gentle, so
moving and so generous in its depiction of two strangers finding a way to be
there for one another. Emily Tomlins and Chanella Macri shone bright.
Woods – Belvoir
cabaret-style production of the Sondheim/Lapine classic musical, proving that
you don’t need large sets when you’ve got beautifully drawn characters and a
stage filled with incredible musical theatre talent.
Lady Day at
the Emerson Bar & Grill – STCSA/Belvoir/Melbourne Theatre Company
When I saw
this show on Broadway with Audra McDonald as Billie Holiday – such an exquisite
performance in a perfectly judged production, I never expected I would need or
want to see it again. But when Zahra Newman was cast in the role of Billie, it
was another must-see. Newman did not disappoint. This was a jewel of a show
with a knock-out central performance.
For a story
that was such a literary success, later a bold, confronting film, I was
wondering if it would work as a one-man show. And boy, does it. The updated
setting, crafted by novelist Christos Tsiolkas and playwright Dan Giovannoni,
is jarring but just works. And the powerhouse performance by Danny Ball, under
Stephen Nicolazzo’s strong direction, made this the equal of its previous
China 2.0 – Malthouse
I still don’t
want to say too much about this simple but powerful tale of making art under
difficult circumstances. But it’s stayed with me.
Melbourne Theatre Company
meditation on the story of Sunday Reed and her husband and the Australian art
world was a showcase for Nikki Shiels, absolutely, but it was also such a great
insight into a little piece of Melbourne history and how their lives fit into a
– The Maybe Pile, Forty-Five Downstairs
private school boys are tasked with debating the topic “that feminism has
failed women” and the end result is brutal deconstruction of the thoughts of
privileged boys and the world that is safe for them. Emmanuelle Mattana’s debut
play is so striking and so perfectly crafted and I hope it gets to live on and
on. Show it in schools everywhere.
Visitors – Moogahlin, Sydney Theatre Company
Harrison’s simple but powerful play about First Nations Elders watching the First
Fleet arrive in Sydney Harbour has so much to say about how our country still
functions and how will have failed the original owners of this land. It’s touring
all over in 2024 – don’t miss it.
Butler’s poetic examination of the story of this old mining town in Western
Australia – now fenced-off because of the danger it holds – was full of humour
and pathos. Exposing yet another dark chapter in Australia’s history and
putting voice to people who were used and discarded by an industry that still
dominates the state.
Wolf Play –
has stayed with me because the story spins and turns in ways I didn’t expect on
reading the premise or even as I watched it unfold. It’s so bleak and so moving.
– Melbourne Theatre Company
Mulvany as Sarah Bernhardt preparing to play Hamlet? What more do you need? A
great ensemble piece about theatre and performance and how far you might go to
get what you want.
Far Away - Forty-Five Downstairs
classic take on war and conflict was brought to life in a striking production
at Fortyfive Downstairs.
Nor Money – Victorian Theatre Company, Melbourne Fringe
Cameron’s examination of truth and power in art and politics and threesomes was
so complicated and provocative and searingly funny.
Hour of the
Wolf – Malthouse
wonderfully-crafted hour of immersive theatre with a voice-over guide who
helped you through the resetting timelines, even though they may have been an
unreliable narrator themselves.
Just a Boy
Standing in Front of a Girl – Fifteen Minutes from Anywhere, Forty-Five
Beng Oh and
Jane Miller’s “funniest Medea you will ever see” was so piercing in its
exploration of misogyny and the patriarchy. The central, devastating
performance by Annie Lumsden was incredible.
Lou Wall vs
the Internet – Melbourne Comedy Festival
search through their nemesis’ online history is inventive and reflective in a
way comedy shows rarely are.
Prime Minister and her stylist clash over power and privilege is such a simple
idea – and Emily Sheehan’s play executes it terrifically well.
Greene’s classic play might feel like a story of its era (the late 2000s) but
it’s still potent – and the school kids in the audience loved the hell out of
Antipodes Theatre Company, Forty-Five Downstairs
Woolf’s classic story is updated to include a handful of gender-diverse
performers playing Orlando across time, accompanied by lovely songs and some
The Fence –
29 Scenes, Darebin Speakeasy
Murphy’s play tells a story that feels so fresh – how much do you get involved
with your neighbours when things are going terribly wrong next-door. And who
could blame you if you choose to stay out of their way? The writing is
Lesbians of Sodom – Little Ones Theatre, Forty-Five Downstairs
to Little Ones Theatre in the form of some ridiculous camp. Everyone is having
fun on and off stage and sometimes that’s more than enough. So silly. So funny.
- Forty-Five Downstairs, Melbourne Fringe
Grey Arias –
Malthouse, Melbourne Comedy Festival
Seaweed – Theatre Works, Melbourne Fringe
Jacky - Melbourne
Space – Baggage Productions, Forty-Five Downstairs
– Melbourne Fringe
Living – Malthouse
- Keith Gow, Theatre First