Monday, June 08, 2009

So what have you been up to, then?

Quite a bit actually, and as usual I've been a bit tardy blogging about it.

In recent weeks, I've seen:
  • White Whale Theatre's magnificent MELBURNALIA No. 2, featuring five short plays by five Melbourne playwrights, each set in a different suburb and exploring a different aspect of Melbourne life. My favourites were the two plays which bookended the show: Andrea James' Birrarung, in which an Aboriginal warrior wreaked havoc on a trio of Yarra Tram ticket inspectors; and Aidan Fennessy's beautiful Mentone, inspired by Under Milk Wood (and cleverly incorporating part of the poem into its text), which had me wiping away tears at its simple, beautiful conclusion. A solid ensemble cast, with a standout performance by Margot Fenley, who brought pathos and emotion you could taste to every role; and directed by David Mence. Season concluded at 45 Downstairs.
  • The opening night of the St Kilda Film Festival at the Palais Theatre; a collection of superb shorts marred by projection and sound issues. Nonetheless, some wonderful films in the mix, especially Luke Doolan's haunting Australian drama Miracle Fish, and the confronting Scottish short about violence and redemption directed by Paddy Considine, Dog Altogether.
  • The opening night of Optimism at the Malthouse Theatre, quite possibly the most fully realised presentation of the vision of director Michael Kantor I've yet seen. This contemporary retelling of Voltaire features Frank Woodley as the eternally cheerful Candide, a piece of casting which didn't quite work for me, as Woodley seemed sometimes hindered by a lack of opportunities to express his trademark physical comedy. Nor did some other elements entirely gel for me, such as a long monologue about rape and murder by Alison Whyte, or the inclusion of yodelling. Nonetheless, as an expression of Kantor's creativity, it's an intriguing and rewarding show, especially in the second half. Showing until June 13.
  • The first of a series of four forums which I've curated and am presenting at the Arts Centre as part of the Full Tilt program. Called The Talk Show, you can read all about the next three forums in the series here.
  • The opening night of Avenue Q at the Comedy Theatre, a musical that's best described as Sesame Street for grownups, complete with puppet sex, and songs about porn and being gay. A solidly entertaining show which will delight anyone who grew up on The Muppet Show, although if you've seen Peter Jackson's obscenely wonderful Meet the Feebles, you've seen this done before, and more originally. Nonetheless, some wonderful staging and performances ensure that this is a fun, albeit slight night out. Running in Melbourne for at least a month, maybe two, depending on ticket sales.
  • A re-staging of Red Stitch's haunting and magnificent 2008 masterpiece Red Sky Morning at the Arts Centre, as part of the Full Tilt program. Written by Tom Holloway, and directed with devestating finese by Sam Strong, the play employs a series of intertwined monologues and superb performances by David Whiteley, Sarah Sutherland, Erin Dewar to explore the impact of depression on a small family in a rural town. One of the most memorable and powerful works I have seen this year, and highly recommended. At the Arts Centre until June 13.
  • And finally, last night, the 2009 Australian Dance Awards at the Arts Centre's State Theatre. This was the first time I've attended the Australian dance community's night of nights, and it was a spectacular evening, with performances by numerous companies, including Melbourne's BalletLab celebrating the 10th anniversary of an early work, Amplification, a great piece by Tasmania's Stompin Youth Dance, and an awesome taste of work to come from Adelaide's Australian Dance Theatre.
It's been a busy few weeks. No wonder I've had no time to blog properly!