20 November 2017

What Melbourne Loved in 2017, part 1

Sometime after the comedy festival, I stopped writing the list of shows I'd seen; I regret that. But it's been a quiet year for me; at best count I'm at around 160 shows so far. No doubt that this series is going to remind of some of the amazing ones and make me regret missing at least another 160.

Remember that everyone is welcome to contribute and that the best way to hear from an artist that you love is to ask them to get writing.

Stephen Nicolazzo 
Little Ones Theatre

Stephen Nicolazzo

Favourite moments in 2017
My favourite moment of Melbourne theatre in 2017 was the breathtaking opening segment of The Rabble's Joan. The light, sound and bodies gloriously choreographed – it was thrilling, completely alive and completely made on its own terms. All that followed it, too, was stupendous. Each visual sequence an example of sumptuous, elegant and inspiring theatrical practice.

Also adored Fraught Outfit’s The Book of Exodus Part 1; Malthouse Theatre’s The Real and Imagined History of The Elephant Man; Lucy Guerin’s Split, Susie Dee, Patricia Cornelius etc's Caravan; Melanie Lane’s Nightdance; Tangi Wai as part of Dance Massive; Fringe Wives Club’s Gliitery Clittery; and the emotional and vulnerable ride that was All The Sex I’ve Ever Had as part of Melbourne Festival.

Standout theatre moment of the year, though, happened at Dark Mofo when I finally got to see The Second Woman by Nat Randall. Fuck. That is just the best piece of theatre I think I have ever experienced. Truly brilliant and addictive.

Looking forward to in 2018
I am desperately excited to see Patricia Cornelius’s House of Bernarda Alba at MTC and everything and anything that plays at Theatre Works and Arts House in 2018.

SM: It's been an amazing year for Little Ones Theatre with The Happy Prince, The Moors (as part of the Red Stitch season), and Merciless Gods (which has sold out it's current Sydney season and become the highest-selling Griffin indie show!). Find the artists who see the world like you do and the ones who will challenge you, make the work you want to make, don't listen to the voices that don't get it, and you will find an audience who love you and share your vision of the world. I loved all three Little Ones shows this year, but The Happy Prince at La Mama, with it's tiny proscenium and roller skates, was my favourite favourite. I can't wait for Abigail's Party at MTC next year.

I also saw The Scarlet Pimpernel by the all-female Takarazuka Revue in Tokyo because I knew they were Stephen's favourite company. It was totally sold out and I missed out on returns. Then a women who didn't speak English gave me a ticket and she will be getting theatre karma for ever because I am so grateful that I saw this incredible company. It was like being in his head. I still don't know if it was the queerest or the straightest piece of theatre I've seen, and I would go back to Japan for 24 hours just to see them again.

Tim Byrne
Critic, writer, interviewer

Tim Byrne

Favourite moments in 2017
I missed some heavy hitters this year – was overseas during the festival and I know, Taylor Yakkity Mac, shut up already! – but my favourite moment in a Melbourne theatre was the two nights I spent at fortyfivedownstairs being pounded and broken and remade by the glorious ensemble of Gary Abrahams’s production of Angels in America. It was sublime and searing and reminded me of where I’d been as a gay man on the fringes of our own destruction, back in that dark time we old people like to call the ’90s.

Looking forward to in 2018
The thing I most look forward to next year is any work by director Stephen Nicolazzo. He’s finally getting a gig on MTC’s main stage, and I suspect we will only see more and more from this extremely talented man. I adored his The Moors for Red Stitch, was impressed but not as moved as everyone else by his Merciless Gods, and cannot wait for him to direct for Opera Australia in the near future. He has Barrie Kosky’s brazenness but his aesthetic is far more sophisticated and nuanced. As long as he takes his spirit animal along with him – designer extraordinaire Eugyeene Teh – he can’t fail to impress.

SM: Every disagreement Tim and I have about a show is a favourite moment. If you don't read all of Tim's reviews in Time Out, you're missing out on some of the best critical writing around.

Sayraphim Lothian

Sayraphim Lothian
Favourite moments in 2017
In a way, this was a bad and excellent year for art for me. I'm not sure I went to see anything this year ... apart from one of my fabourite bands doing a caberet on one of my favourite topics. Idiot Magnet did The Big Book of Conspiracies at Fringe and I was there every night to see it and I fricken LOVED it. Disclaimer: I may be married to one of them.

But apart from that, I've had my head down working all year and recovering from an exhausting year last year. And then when things started to clear, the Marriage Equality postal nonsence was looming and I spent time doing and sharing the hell out of the YES side and their awesome, creative activism.

And then i got a book deal. HOLY GODS I GOT A BOOK DEAL to write about Craftivism and Creative Resistance. (It's called Guerrilla Kindness and Other Acts of Creative Resistance – Making the World a Better Place Through Craftivism and it's out in April! EEEEE!!) So I slowed everything else to work on that.

So I saw the inside of my house a lot. I stared at my computer screen and sewing machine a lot. I researched a bunch of amazing activism from around the world a lot. And I made a bunch of cool stuff and wrote a lot of words.

I'm sorry Melbs Art Scene, I didn't see you much this year. But I'll be back next year, I promise.

SM: Sayra thought that she hadn't seen enough this year to take part, but she inspired me so much this year that I didn't give her a choice. I spent a lot of time channeling frustration and anger and ultimately a lot of love into yarn this year. There were #pussyhats in the first half of the year and then came #QueerGrannySquares. I've had so much joy from seeing these out in the world.


19 November 2017

Interview: Dean Bryant

Vivid White 
Melbourne Theatre Company
18 November–23 November

Vivid White

Eddie Perfect's new show opens this week at MTC. I joined director Dean Bryant on his morning walk to rehearsals for The Music.

16 November 2017

Contribute: What Melbourne Loved 2017

It's been a year when we've been reminded how art can change us.

There have been artists, shows and experiences that dug deep and left their audiences raw – and angry and broken, and loved and accepted. I've felt devastated and elated and I've felt like I am part of a community that is determined to say "fuck you" to the boring and ignorant.

Hannah Gadsby
Melbourne loved a lot this year. So it's time to write your "What Melbourne Loved in 2017".

The regulars know what to do – and if you are a regular, there are so many people who want to read your take on this year. If you haven't contributed before, 2017 is the perfect year to get involved – everyone is welcome.

Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker
I promise that your opinion and your experiences are interesting to other people; Melbourne's arts community loves hearing about Melbourne's arts community. I think I can safely predict that we're going read a bit about Taylor Mac and Hannah Gadsby, but it's wonderful to hear about the shows and memories that less people saw.

Let's talk about those memories that changed us, the ones that made us feel in ways we didn't expect to feel, the ones we can't forget.

It's easy to get involved. Email your answers to these two questions:

What was your favourite moment in Melbourne theatre in 2017?
It doesn't have to be something you saw on a stage.

What are you looking forward to in Melbourne theatre in 2018?
Again, it doesn't have to be something on a stage.

Some people like to write a lot, but some of the best and most-read responses have been succinct.

Also send me your favourite photo of you and credit the photographer if you can.


Give: Glitterfist Libertine

Glitterfist:Libertine have a Pozible campaign for their Midsumma show. If we want to see exciting queer and glittery work like this, we've gotta support it. Here's the link.

15 November 2017

Give: Andi's Lyme Light

Andi Snelling is a Melbourne actor. She's great. She's also dealing with chronic illness and needs some help.

If every SM reader gave $1 (or $10), it would help get her closer to her goal. Here's the link to her MyCause page.

Here are some pics (by Sarah Walker) from her not-a-spare-seat-in-the-house fundraiser at the Wesley Ann.

Andi Snelling with Tash York. Photo by Sarah Walker
Astrid & Otto. Photo by Sarah Walker
Alia Vryens & Colin Craig. Photo by Sarah Walker
Dolly Diamond. Photo by Sarah Walker
Andi Snelling with Charlotte Strantzen & raffle prizes. Photo by Sarah Walker

03 November 2017

Links to the Taylor Mac reviews

A 24-Decade History of Popular Music

Taylor Mac, Pomegranate Arts and Nature's Darlings
Forum Theatre

Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

It's been two weeks and we're still talking about Taylor Mac's A 24-Decade History of Popular Music.

A friend said it was like the week after Christmas when you're a child: a week where you're drifting and not sure what to do because the best day is over.

Taylor Mac in Melbourne. Photo by Sarah Walker

More reviews have been published and, if reviewers talking to each other on Facebook is anything to go by, we're still in the post-show haze of tears, glitter and determination to make that world we lived in for 24 hours, the world that we live in.

Machine Dazzle & Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

I keep remembering bits I'd forgotten – the Alphabet song with a determined "zed", singing "Love will tear us apart", an audience member talking about the club Connections in Perth – and wondering how 24 hours of work could be so consistently astonishing.

Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

Our go-to critic adjectives feel inadequate; they can't describe the complexity and what it's like to have your heart and brain squeezed in the ways you've dreamed of.

It was like falling in love – that warm swirl of adrenalin, hope and confidence that lets you know that you're flippin' awesome – without any of the fear and doubt.

Photo by Sarah Walker

And those smiles. Hundreds of people smiling the smile that's usually reserved for "I've been fucked so well that you couldn't wipe the smile off my face if I were run over by a bus right now."

Photo by Sarah Walker

Smiles from people who have all felt like the freak in the room. Smiles from people who have hidden who they are because it's easier or safer.

I was slow dancing with a stranger at The Wrap closing party and had to stop (only for a moment) and say "look around this room".

Tigger & Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

Here are the media reactions. If I've missed some, message me and I'll link them in. (And any excuse for some more of Sarah Walker's photos and Machine Dazzle's costumes.)

Rose Johnson in Time Out.

Maxim Boon in The Music.

Cameron Woodhead in The Age.

Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker
Steph Harmon in Guardian.

Chris Boyd in The Australian.

Richard Watts in Arts Hub.

Bradley Storer in Theatre Press. 

Sarah Walker (who took the amazing photos) on her blog.

Me, here. I, II, III, IV.

Machine Dazzle & Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

Chapters and The Inauguration

Melbourne Critique

Chapter 1: Opera Chaser (and Herald Sun)

Chapter III: Herald Sun

Australian Stage


The Conversation

Matt Ray & Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

And I have a new batch of #QueerGrannySquares ready for anyone who wants one.

24 October 2017

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL: Taylor Mac, Chapter IV & Manifesting Pussy

A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, Chapter IV: 1957–present

Taylor Mac, Pomegranate Arts and Nature's Darlings
13 October 2017
Forum Theatre

Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

Is it really time to wash off the Taylor Mac glitter and go back to real life?

Every so often a work changes how we see and make theatre. We are now post–A 24-Decade History of Popular Music and we're going to see its influence on our stages for a very long time.

Every so often a work changes how we see our world and we're going to see its influence in our lives for a very long time.

Taylor Mac, Steffanie Christi'an Mosley. Photo by Sarah Walker

Taylor describes the 24-hour experience as a "radical faerie realness ritual sacrifice" and adds that the audience is the sacrifice. Back in Chapter I, we had no idea of how much of ourselves we were going to willingly sacrifice or how much we had to let go of.

James Tigger! Ferguson. Photo by Sarah Walker

I'm still struggling to find the words that come close to describing the joy and absolute fucking happiness that this work has created. And the uncontrollable tears – that start again as soon as I try to explain and understand why I'm still crying.

When the Forum fire curtain lifted, we were heading to the 1960s – the decade many of us were born. Taylor descended from the gods reprising his rock "Turn! Turn! Turn!" (Matt Ray's musical arrangements deserve their own multi-page review). Looking Jacqui Kennedy–esque with polka dots, soup cans and a USA-flag dress (Machine Dazzle's costume designs also deserve pages), judy was harnessed to matching polka-dot pop-art angel wings, which Machine had made the day before. With finger guns and "BANG", they were a tribute to the Art Deco angel on the fire curtain and a response to gun control – something the political right got right in Australia.

Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

And it was time for us white people to flee back to the suburbs at the sides of the room and embarrassingly express our white guilt to the point that we finally dump it and start understanding and sharing our fucking power.

I knew Chapter IV was going to be something else, but I had no idea.

Chanon Judson, James Welsby. Photo by Sarah Walker

I started crying at Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall". I think this was before Nina Simone's "Mississippi  Goddam", when I knew I needed to get to the bar and fill up my water bottle and marvel at the waterproof blue mascara I bought in Tokyo and never thought I'd wear.

Taylor Mac, Viva DeConcini. Photo by Sarah Walker

As I wasn't on a media ticket, I didn't take notes, I turned off my devices and drank gin – leaving Chapter IV a magnificent blur of tears, rock, glitter and joy. (But please read Cameron in The Age and Steph in the Guardian.)

There was Daniel and I squealing at "show tops".

There was the Cold War giant inflatable USA and USSR cocks floating around the audience.

Photo by Sarah Walker

There was slow dancing with Katie at the queer prom to destroy the credibility of a homophobic singer.

Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

There was hugging Richard during "Purple Rain" – and only now remembering that it was a section about back room sex parties. But it was the late1980s: a time when friends were dying from AIDS. Taylor was wearing a head piece of skulls screaming in clouds and a coat made of cassette tapes, we'd already sung "Oh Superman", and I didn't know if I wasn't coping or if it was the most powerful hour of my life.

And I  couldn't imagine how my heart was going to melt as we made our way to the present with a manifestation of pussy.

Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

Bitch and Animal's "Pussy Manifesto" (look it up; I want it in search engines rather than an easy click) – "Let Pussy manifest and let freedom sing!".

The Womb. Photo by Sarah Walker

Lesbians moved only onto the stage, with beers and a barbeque. Lesbians were front and centre. Without jokes, without question. Women were celebrated. Pussy (I'm even saying "pussy" and I was such a "cunt" reclaimer) was celebrated. For a couple of hours, pussy was central to our world.

Stop reading and try to replace every reference to cock and male power in your world with pussy. Now take away every bit of language that uses women, pussy and cunt as an insult and a reference to weakness. For the last hours of this show, that world existed.

 Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

(I nearly didn't wear my #pussyhat when we were making things in Chapter 1, but the company manager said "Yes" when I suggested it. I'll also be saying "Yes!" a lot more from now on.)

 Machine Dazzle, Taylor Mac, Matt Ray. Photo by Sarah Walker

For 24 hours, we'd been part of seeing how communities are built from marginalised, ignored and shamed people being torn apart. We'd been sacrificed, we sacrificed others and everyone who was there became a community where otherness didn't exist.

At the company's In Conversation on Saturday, Taylor said, "Manifest the world that we want by creating the world we want."

We were so involved and so safe that I want to see it all again tomorrow, even if just to see the contributions of the 32 people who came with the company and every other artist who is a part of this experience (their names are in the program). But I suspect I'd be just as involved.

Photo by Sarah Walker

For the last hour Taylor wore a dress made from a giant vulva and sang his own work. The band were gone – one left every hour for the last 24 hours. We sang along and I have never cried so much in a thearte.

I washed most of the glitter off – the glitter I put on in the Forum bathrooms with other women who also hadn't worn glitter since we were in our 20s – and am back in day-to-day life, with a pile of work waiting for me.

Photo by Sarah Walker

What's left to say when I experienced the theatre experience I've been waiting my life for?

But perhaps life is going to be different. I'm still going to roll my eyes at dull theatre, but I'm going to:
  • Spend less time alone. Maybe with the new friends I made at this show.
  • Talk more with people I don't know.
  • Dance in public.
  • Wear all the high heels I have in my cupboard.
  • Wear more blue mascara.
  • Sing "Purple Rain". 
 Machine Dazzle, Matt Ray. Photo by Sarah Walker

PS. Can we have a 24-hour long recording, please?

23 October 2017

MELBOURNE FESTIVAL: A Requiem for Cambodia: Bangsokol

A Requiem for Cambodia: Bangsokol
Cambodia Living Arts, Asia TOPA
14 October 2017
Hamer Hall

Photo by Tey Tak Keng

A Requiem for Cambodia: Bangsokol is for the two million who died or were killed during the Khmer Rouge genocide.

At the end of this performance, the audience are given a small orange envelope. It holds a photo. Mine is a black and white image of a young woman and man at the steps of a traditional Cambodian house on stilts. Their combination of Western and Cambodian clothes and their semi-formal pose says 1970s.

I don't know anything more except that they didn't survive the 1970s.

I visited Cambodia in 2010. I fell in love with the country and the people I met and it took me a few days to realise what was so obvious that it was hard to see it: there weren't many people older than I was.

Photo by Tey Tak Keng

Bangsokol is created by two artists who survived the regime: artist and film maker Rithy Pahn and composer Him Sophy. Sopy says: "My generation in Cambodia experienced war – I lost my family, I saw people killed. I don't want this again, for anyone."

With a western chamber orchestra and chorus with Khmer music, this astonishingly beautiful work  combines a requiem for the dead and lost with the Buddhist bangsokol funeral ritual for spirits to find peace.

It creates humanity and hope out of horror that is possibly unimaginable to anyone who hasn't experienced it, and it passes hope and tradition onto the next generation.

I've put my photo of the people I don't know in a frame.

The Khmer Rouge took thousands of photos of  people imprisoned and tortured and killed at the S 21 prison in Phnom Pehn, which is now the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocide. Some of these photos were used in Bangsokol. For thousands, the only photographic record of their existence is of them in hell.

To be given photos of Cambodians from those generations when they were happy is a treasured gift.

22 October 2017


A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, Chapter III: 1896–1956

Taylor Mac, Pomegranate Arts and Nature's Darlings
13 October 2017
Forum Theatre

Last chance to be a part of thus magnificent experience is TONIGHT at The Wrap.

Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker

As I'm still grinning inanely or crying uncontrollably from chapters III and IV, here are some more of Sarah Walker's incredible photos.

Taylor Mac & the exhibitionists. Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac & men who would've been conscripted. Photo by Sarah Walker.
Taylor Mac & the youngest and oldest person at the show. Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac w Declan Greene & Matt Lutton. Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker
The burlesque dancers. Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac . Photo by Sarah Walker
Mama Alto. Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac & Does someone know this amazing woman's name? Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac & Matt Ray. Photo by Sarah Walker
Neil Morris & Brent Watkin. Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac & the straight men. Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac. Photo by Sarah Walker
Jack Beeby giving birth. Photo by Sarah Walker
Viva DeConcini (#QueerGrannySquare). Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac . Photo by Sarah Walker
Taylor Mac . Photo by Sarah Walker
The flee to the suburbs. Photo by Sarah Walker