John Bailey | Ben Brooker | Urszula Dawkins | Nerida Dickinson | Kathryn Kelly | Matthew Lorenzon
| Bryony Kimmings, Taylor Houchen, Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model|
photo Richard Davenport
Red Stitch's production of George Brant's Grounded took the theatre of a more literal war as the starting point for something approaching the sublime (see RT122). Kate Cole's depiction of a fighter pilot landed with a desk job controlling a military drone evoked the heightened electricity of the combat-addict and the soul-crushing alienation of high-tech state-sponsored terror. Far from a ripped-from-the-news-pages war drama, its unfolding was more like a visitation from the beyond.
|Mary Hellen Sassman, Frankenstein, courtesy Malthouse|
If there's a common thread apparent in these three works it's one I'll be hunting for more earnestly in the year to come: an engagement with issues personal, political or philosophical that doesn't 'explore' so much as push through, taking its audience to a place that hasn't yet been articulated, leaving them with the task of finding their own way back. Or not. Maybe there's no way home.
See John Bailey’s Contributor Profile.
A reason to care for strangers
John Bailey: Bryony Kimmings, Melbourne International Comedy Festival, FOLA
RealTime issue #120 April-May 2014 pg14
Braving the limits of the monologue
John Bailey: Red Stitch, Angus Cerini, BalletLab
RealTime issue #122 Aug-Sept 2014 p46
John Bailey: Katie Warner’s Dropped; The Rabble’s Frankenstein
RealTime issue #120 April-May 2014 p41
|The Shadow King|
photo Prudence Upton
|Chris Nietvelt, Hans Kesting, Roman Tragedies|
photo Jan Versweyveld
“If there is a sphere whose very nature precludes all prognostication, it is that of culture, and especially of the arts and humanities.” With Creative Australia shelved and funding for the non-elite arts gutted by the Coalition, Vaclav Havel’s cautionary words resonate freshly. The only certainty looking ahead into 2015 is likely to be uncertainty as our artists and arts facilitators continue to attempt more with less. It is ominous that, judging by reports, the mood at this year’s Australian Theatre Forum was siege-like, culminating in a statement aimed at the Abbott Government and signed by 52 delegates: “… we are compelled to respond by our urgent concerns about the ideologically-driven erosion of our collective social fabric, which, unless checked, will radically reduce our capacity to hope, dream, imagine, build and share.”
While the forum was on, an independent two-week season of readings of new Australian plays was happening in Adelaide.* Eleven of the 14 playwrights were women, many of whom travelled from interstate to share the dreams—bold, angry, messy, beautiful—that they had each built on a shoestring. Perhaps we will always find ways of restaging Shakespeare as though the centuries that separate us are an illusion. This is one kind of vitality that sustains our stages. Another is predicated on the living playwright and it is to her that I hope 2015 will belong.
*One of my own plays was presented as part of these readings.
See Ben Brooker’s Contributor Profile.
Adapto-mania: insights and limits
Stephen Carleton: Brisbane Festival
RealTime issue #124 Dec-Jan 2014 p8
The trouble with tragedy
RealTime issue #119 Feb-March 2014 p16-17
The imagination writ large
Benjamin Brooker: 2014 Adelaide Festival—theatre
RealTime issue #120 April-May 2014 p22
courtesy the writer
|Roslyn Oades Hello, Goodbye and Happy Birthday|
photo Jeff Busby
photo Sarah Walker
I sense growing collectivity and togetherness within the performing arts especially, both in emerging/experimental arts, and across the established/emerging hierarchy. More flagship companies seem to be finding resources to create development opportunities and ‘emerging’ seasons for younger artists. At the same time, I sense ‘emerging/experimental’ artists themselves are collaborating more ambitiously to produce successful, larger-scale independent events. Perhaps there’s a politics of resistance at play, a sense of urgency that if artists don’t get together and do it themselves, things just won’t happen.
In 2015 I’d like to see more of all of this. More togetherness, more art as social intervention, more DIY and more support for the risky, the devised, the collective and the hard-to-define. A busting open of the divides between visual arts, performing arts and literature. More chances for great new work to further develop and tour. More small and medium-scale philanthropy, including creatively interactive crowd-funding. And for arts/non-arts collaborations to burgeon, loosening ‘the arts’ from its categories and letting creativity roam wider in a world where it’s sorely needed.
See Urszula Dawkins’ Contributor Profile.
It’s all about you
Gail Priest: FOLA, Arts House
RealTime issue #120 April-May 2014 p15
In others’ words
John Bailey: Melbourne International Arts Festival
RealTime issue #124 Dec-Jan 2014 p10-11
Risk yields new forces
Jana Perkovic: Next Wave 2014
RealTime issue #121 June-July 2014 p34-35
The primordial present
Urszula Dawkins: Melbourne International Arts Festival: Dance Territories
RealTime issue #124 Dec-Jan 2014 p12
Urszula Dawkins: 2014 Melbourne Fringe Festival
RealTime issue #124 Dec-Jan 2014 p19
courtesy the writer
|Situation Rooms, Rimini Protokoll|
photo Jorg Baumann
Beyond festivals have been steady productions from the Perth Theatre Company and Black Swan, who delivered a range of exciting and provocative new works—including 8 Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography—and solid straight theatre—A Streetcar Named Desire. Independent productions had a good year at The Blue Room Theatre, the highlight being the debut of Finegan Kruckemeyer’s Those Who Fall In Love Like Anchors Dropped Upon The Ocean Floor, and also at PICA Performance Space, where The Last Great Hunt’s Falling Through Clouds impressed on many levels (see RT124). Barking Gecko Theatre Company constantly inspires, with onefivezeroseven pushing theatrical boundaries beyond its nominal teen audience. STRUT Dance Company provided opportunities to see dance creativity in development, from SHORT CUTS, to IN SHORT and PRIME CUTS (see interview RT121). Touring dance companies provided inspiration—Chunky Moves with Keep Everything and Sydney Dance Company’s explosive 2 One Another stood out.
|Adriane Daff in Falling Through Clouds|
photo Jarrad Seng
In 2015 if these festivals, venues and companies continue to thrive, they will provide the infrastructure for talent to work in Perth, as well as create new opportunities for artists to develop creative practice. In broader terms there should be plenty of opportunities for audiences to experience new things, feeding back into a vigorous local creative culture. Of particular interest in the next 12 months will be the development of politically charged intimate performance from Toyi-Toyi Theatre, who have been tackling topical issues of social justice and immigration policy (see my review of their The Queue in the Proximity Festival).
Nerida Dickinson joined the RT team in 2014 writing about theatre and dance.
Five days in other worlds
Keith Gallasch: 2014 Perth International Arts Festival
RealTime issue #120 April-May 2014 p17-19
What’s big about being small?
Nerida Dickinson: 2014 Proximity Festival preview
RealTime issue #123 Oct-Nov 2014 p13
Intimate delights and dark disturbances
Nerida Dickinson: Proximity Festival 2014
RealTime issue #124 Dec-Jan 2014 p20
Flight from extinction
Nerida Dickinson: The Last Great Hunt, Falling Through Clouds
RealTime issue #124 Dec-Jan 2014 p45
Choreographic boom for WA
Erin Brannigan: Interview, Paul Selwyn Norton, Director, STRUT
RealTime issue #121 June-July 2014 p30
Screen culture as framed by film has long been old fashioned in mediatised work but last year we went organic with media experimentation in performance: a fluid psychological interiority that echoes the bell chamber of screen culture in darkened media rooms or tunnels of concentration with i-Phones. Highlights for me included Circa Associate Ben Knapton's projection work in Margi Brown Ash's He Dreamed of Trains which began with the most subtle distortions within a picture frame that gradually colonised the entire naturalistic interior of the set, as if we were inside the mind of the dead man who owned the home.
|Hedonism’s Second Album, La Boite Indie|
Look out for a monograph by academic Sandra Gattenhof in 2015 all about how under 16s go to the theatre for each other, not for the content. Liveness is all. So cause for optimism perhaps? While joyful about the potential of performance as experience in the coming age, I couldn’t shake the feeling last year that we were the New Edwardians and that like them, we have lost the ability to predict the future based on the past.
Australian theatre has finally woken up with a start to its whiteness and maleness and the resulting initiatives are like water in the desert. Big highlights include Future Fidel's autobiographical show at LaBoite: a live boxing match as Fidel recounts the experience of being a child soldier in the Sudan. Rather than a centre giving way to a margin, this seems to me the way forward: authentic cultural collaboration, artist to artist in rooms of our own, live or digital.
See Kathryn Kelly’s Contributor Profile.
Degrees of risk and violence
Kathryn Kelly: Finding the Silence; Hedonism’s Second Album
RealTime issue #123 Oct-Nov 2014 p35
courtesy the writer
|Margaret Cameron, Opera for a Small Mammal |
photo Daisy Noyes
The year was also one of returning. ELISION made a much-anticipated tour of Australia and Liza Lim returned from Huddersfield. I look forward to hearing more of Lim’s detailed and enchanting music in 2015. Richard Barrett’s visit with Speak Percussion showed that the complex and virtuosic textures of Lim and Barrett’s generation have reached an almost classical maturity.
|Eine Brise, Maurice Kagel|
photo Jason Tavener
In 2015, Chamber Made Opera will wake up from a year of development and mount several new shows. Keep an eye out for a new Liza Lim and anything by the emerging composer Samuel Smith, who recently accepted a commission from Adelaide’s Soundstream Collective with his fascinating piece BUTTERFLY 3. Check in with Melbourne’s quiet achiever the Medley Hall Concert Series, especially for the musical responses to Heather Swann’s “Nervous” exhibition.
See Matthew Lorenzon’s Contributor Profile.
Matthew’s music blog Partial Durations is published in association with RealTime; https://partialdurations.wordpress.com
The consolations of philosophical theatre
Matthew Lorenzon: Margaret Cameron, Opera for a Small Mammal
RealTime issue #119 Feb-March 2014 p48
Obituary & Archive: Margaret Cameron
Keith Gallasch & Virginia Baxter
RT Profiler 7, Nov 12, 2015
Matthew Lorenzon: Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music
RealTime issue #123 Oct-Nov 2014 p41
RealTime issue #124 Dec-Jan 2014 pg. web
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