Skip to main content

Looking back on 2018

A good year in the theatre – 2018. Not too traumatic. Many rewards.

1. New Australian Writing I liked a lot:

MOTHER, by Daniel Keene, at the Belvoir Upstairs. Play has been around – first time in Sydney – one woman piece.
BURIED, by Xavier Coy, at the Old 505. Two new one act plays of promise by a new writer. Also, well performed.
SINCE ALI DIED, by Omar Musa, as part of the Bach Festival at the Griffin. Memoir Monologue written and performed by Award-winning Slam-Poet, Omar Musa. It is having a return season at Griffin in January. Highly recommend.
HOME INVASION, by Christopher Bryant, at the Old 505. What an excitement rush!
THE SUGAR HOUSE, by Alana Valentine, at the Belvoir Upstairs. Gorgeous, old-faashioned form with a true beating heart. Beautifully owned by the actors and other collaborators.
LOVE AND ANGER, by ‘Betty Grumble’. A subversive political work, written and performed by ‘Betty Grumble’ that was part of the Bach Festival at the Griffin. It is outrageously fearless and from an artist who is not afraid to say it how it is. It, too, is having a return season at the Griffin late January. DO NOT MISS.
THEY DIVIDED THE SKY, by David Schlusser, based on a novel by Christa Wolf at the Belvoir Downstairs. A Melbourne visiting company, with the stylistic conceits of this company obviously front and centre.
AIR, by Joanna Erskine, at the Old 505. A marvellous play about Grief – funny and moving. Should be seen in a bigger venue.
LOST BOYS, by Lachlan Philpott, at the Merrigong Theatre, Wollongong. A new work commissioned by the Merrigong Theatre, from Lachlan Philpott, concerning the Murders of Gay Men at Bondi. This MUST be seen again in Sydney. Why isn’t it?
MUM, Me and the IED, by James Balian and Roger Vickery, at The Depot Theatre, Marrickville. An urgent, important, play concerning the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and our returning soldiers and the wider community. (I Directed this work through some 28 drafts! Dramaturge was Katie Pollock, the recent recipient of the SBW Writer’s Grant, for 2018).
THE HARP IN THE SOUTH, by Kate Mulvany, adapted from the three Ruth Park novels, for the Sydney Theatre Company, at the Roslyn Packer Theatre. Two full length plays, cherry-picking from the novels to create an impressive journey of some of Australia’s suburban heritage post-war. A monumental production.
THE MISANTHROPE, an adaptation by Justin Fleming, of a play by Moliere, for the Griffin and Bell Shakespeare, in the Playhouse Theatre at the Sydney Opera House. Wickedly wicked and cleverly re-shaped for an Australian contemporary audience. This is not the first Justin Fleming inspiration via Moliere.
DEGENERATE ART, by Toby Schmitz, at the Old Fitz Theatre. A play fancifying, cogitating, about Hitler and his Henchman. I have no idea if this is a good play or not, but, it was certainly an experience, that without the enterprise of Red Line at the Old Fitz, and its vision to produce it, we may not otherwise have had – it was worth the ‘pain’.
EAR TO THE EDGE OF TIME, by Alana Valentine, in the Reginald Theatre, at the Seymour Centre. Science and Art – a striking play of ideas and politics. An international prize-winning play having its first production in Australia.Why haven’t we seen it before this year? Weird!!!
THE FEATHER IN THE WEB, by Nick Coyle, at the Griffin Theatre. A dark comic sensibility glaring a gaze at contemporary life.
BLAME TRAFFIC, by Michael Andrew Collins, at the Old 505. Clever writing by a young writer.

2. Other plays that I was really glad to have seen this year:

BROKEN GLASS, presented by Mooghalin Performing Arts and Blacktown Arts Centre. Installation and Performance piece. A spiritual transformation for all who saw it. Lily Shearer, Lise-mare Syron, Andrea James – an insight into the psyches and histories of some of our Indigenous sisters.
THE TOWN HALL AFFAIR, from the Wooster Group, as part of the Sydney Festival. Thought provoking stuff, as well as witty and provocative in its form and performances. A true Art Festival event in the sense that it extended its audience beyond its more usual experiences in the theatre.
MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG and THE WILD PARTY, two musicals presented by a little company called Little Triangle – both shows had negatives but so many really performance positives.
THE CHILDREN, by Lucy Kirkwood. This British writer is so good and important.
THE FLICK, by Annie Baker. One of the incredible American writers completely ignored by the STC and Belvoir. JOHN, is to be seen at the Seymour Centre in 2019.
Ab [intra], a Dance work from the Sydney Dance Company, Choreography, by Rafael Bonachela, Music by Nick Wales, Design by David Fleischer, Lighting by Damien Cooper – sensational!
REVOLT. SHE SAID. REVOLT AGAIN, by Alice Birch. An amazing play in a botched production. Another of her plays: ANATOMY OF A SUICIDE, is to be seen next year at the Old Fitz.
STUPID FUCKING BIRD, by Aaron Posner. An American playwright giving us a startling but affectionate adaptation of the SEAGULL. A sometimes indulgent production at the Amateur Theatre the New Theatre, in Newtown, punching way above its weight – though one should, always, keep an eye on what they are showing: there can be rewards.
THE ROLLING STONE, by Chris Urch. A British play that was a traumatic, devastating experience in the theatre. The company of actors uniformly terrific.
CALAMITY JANE – the musical shake-up that we saw last year at The Hayes. Still rambunctious in its definite affection for the work and the genre, as part of the Belvoir Season.
THE HUMANS, by Stephen Karam. Another great American contemporary work ignored by the STC and Belvoir. Why, oh why? With only six actors – the bean counters of both companies ought to have jumped at its contemporary content as part of their seasons.
JERSEY BOYS – the second revival of this glorious juke box musical. A masterclass of its kind.
YEN, by Anna Jordan. A British play of great angst.

3. Performances I cherished:

Noni Hazelhurst in the one person monologue, MOTHER, by Daniel Keene.
Hugo Weaving giving a tour-de-force in THE RESISTABLE RISE OF ARTURO UI, despite the Directorial camera distraction, and a rambling adaptation of a great work by Bertolt Brecht.
Kate Cheel and Morgan Maguire creating amazing work in HOME INVASION – a new Australian work.
Emily Barclay – in a one person monologue, LETHAL INDIFFERENCE.
Omar Musa, in his own memoir monologue SINCE ALI DIED.
Mia Lethbridge and Justin Amankwah in THE FLICK.
Tony Sheldon, as Bernadette, as fresh as daisy, in the revival of PRICILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT.
Kris McQuade, infinitely subtle and powerful; Sheridan Harbridge having been given a challenge, at last, pulled it off, in THE SUGAR HOUSE.
‘Betty Grumble’ in her one woman political provocation LOVE AND ANGER.
Stephen Phillips and Niki Shields in a Melbourne show THEY DIVIDED THE SKY.
Eloise Snape, in remarkable form in AIR.
Sarah Snook, as SAINT JOAN, in the Performance of the YEAR.
Taylor Ferguson triumphing as Jo in a botched (and unnecessary) production of A TASTE OF HONEY.
Elijah Williams, an amazingly sustained performance in THE ROLLING STONE.
Virginnia Gay and Shedian Harbridge being ‘naughty’ together for our benefit in the touring production of CALAMITY JANE.
Melissa Jaffer, making a spectacular, and relatively overlooked return in THE LONG FORGOTTEN DREAM, by H. Lawrence Sumner.
Ella Scott-Lynch, focused brilliance in many characters in KING OF PIGS, by Steve Rogers.
Heather Mitchell, giving a ‘lesson’ of bravura acting in THE HARP IN THE SOUTH, as Grandma.
Guy Simon, for his double act in THE HARP IN THE SOUTH. Subtle, detailed and full of compassion – no histrionics can be seen – an actor’s actor.
Georgie Parker, in LUNA GALE.
Diana McLean, giving wonderful performances in AIR and, especially, THE HUMANS.
Ryan Gonzalez, in the musicals, IN THE HEIGHTS and JERSEY BOYS.
Ben Gerrard, pulling it off in cheeky, incisive, style as Cymbeline in THE MISANTHROPE.
Belinda Giblin and Gabrielle Scawthorn, both fiercely engaged in EAR TO THE EDGE OF TIME.
Kate Mulvany as Dr Katherine Stockman in AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE.
Michelle Lee Davidson and Tina Bursill giving their all in THE FEATHER IN THE WEB.
Lyn Pierse, in LIE WITH ME, a newly devised work. Amazing commitment and dedication in a difficult exploration of bewildered grief and guilt.
Jeremi Campese and Ryan Hodson in YEN. Heartbreaking.
Jamie Oxenbould in EURYDICE, as brilliantly clever, as always!
Phillipe Klaus in MUM, ME and the IED.

4. Other Artists:
Designers, Isabel Hudson, Michael Hankin.
Sound Artist, Ben Pierpoint.
Directors, Alexander Berlage, Anthea Williams, Sarah Goodes.

I Directed MUM, ME and the IED, at The Depot, with a company of actors that I should like to acknowledge: Elaine Hudson, Martin Harper, Josh Shediak, Matilda Brodie and Phillipe Klaus, who worked tirelessly and generously with the writers, James Balian and Roger Vickery.