December 19, 2015

The Best of 2015

Filed under: 2015,2016,Archive

“When you hear music,“ jazz saxophonist Eric Dolphy once remarked, “After it’s over, it’s gone, in the air, you can never capture it again.”

In varying degrees that is true of all live performances. They have their moment, their season and then are gone. Sometimes they remain vivid, but eventually, even excellent productions and outstanding performances drift into imperfect recollection and generalised hearsay.

I hope this website, for all its sometimes unwelcome opinions, is a useful record of some of the notable activity in Adelaide this year.

I want to thank all the companies and creatives who have generously invited me to performances in 2015 and to acknowledge your continuing commitment and achievement.

Looking back on my comments in the lists for previous years I find they are still fitting, if not more so, at the present time, and so perhaps can be usefully repeated again here :

It is always hard to create good work and these are especially difficult times in which to operate.

So much entertainment is now corporatized, global, commodified and noisily dominant in its marketing. This can overwhelm audiences and drown out smaller scale and more reflective creative work. It can also diminish the capacity and inclination of audiences to engage with art works which are original, challenging, independent and local.

It seems unfathomable that companies and governments can allocate (and write down) budgets in the billions and yet no-one can find funds or priority for this country’s cultural activity. Less and less is being done to support new works by Australian artists, performers, and makers of all kinds – many in mid-career and with proven reputations. That so many continue in their vocations – in uncertain circumstances and for often modest rewards – is not just admirable, it is inspirational.

2015 has surely been the most difficult and demoralising year for artists since before the Whitlam era. The slashing of Australia Council funding and the extraordinary confiscation of funds by Senator Brandis for his undefined so-called “Excellence “ fund (NPEA) was nothing short of scandalous. And the failure of Brandis’ successor, Senator Mitch Fifield to remedy the matter is even more disconcerting. The Turnbull government has done nothing to repair the Abbott wreckage and the 2015 end of year budget report has only worsened the parlous state of arts funding.

Like many others I wrote a submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Impact of the 2014 and 2015 Commonwealth Budget decisions on the Arts. I attach here an excerpt:

I would say categorically that the present calibre, range and ambition of the performing arts in Australia is as commendable and noteworthy as at any time in my reviewing career. The originality, conviction and skills shown by artists in this country is inspirational. Most young artists in the present arts milieu have had extensive and specialist training in their particular vocation, they are better educated and more skilled than most previous generations. They are also at least as idealistic and committed to their art as any of their predecessors in the past 50 years.
Quite simply, in 2015, this country has a large range of artists who are, by any reckoning, at national and international standard. Considering their training and credentials, they are among the poorest paid and resourced workers in Australia. And yet they devote their utmost and provide an enormous imaginative boost to our cultural life.

They challenge, inform, entertain and delight us. They make our experience as individuals and as a community fun, they enrich us and remind us of our essential humanity. This, is surely worth an allocation of our public wealth, our much talked about taxpayers’ funds. These are Australia’s artists – their energy, optimism, invention and sense of adventure is a precious resource and, like the current NASA expedition to Pluto, they reflect the very best of our human aspiration and curiosity.
When I consider the prospects for so many of my gifted former students and other younger artists who are presently working in Australia I am gravely concerned. The investment in the arts at both state and federal levels has declined alarmingly, with of course the usual complaint that there are no funds. Considering the almost daily revelation of waste and reckless over-funding in so many areas of public spending, it is clear that the issue is one of priorities and not of means.

Given such deliberate undermining of Australian creativity, the achievements of our artists, operating in such hostile conditions, are nothing short of heroic. My thanks and admiration to them is greater than ever.

Here is a selection of my highlights for the past year – not in any rank order, and by no means all that deserve mention.

Best Adelaide Productions of 2015

Beckett Triptych: Three plays by Samuel Beckett (Eh Joe directed by Corey McMahon, Footfalls directed by Geordie Brookman, Krapp’s Last Tape directed by Nescha Jelk.) State Theatre Company/Sydney Theatre Company.

The Good Son by Elena Carapetis (directed by Corey McMahon) The Other Ones

The Aspirations of Daise Morrow (adapted from a story by Patrick White ) (directed by Chris Drummond) Brink Productions with Zephyr Quartet.

Madame : The Story of Joseph Farrugia (Created and directed by Ross Ganf, Ingrid Weisfelt and Vincent Crowley) Vitalstatistix with State Theatre Company and Torque Show)

A Kid Like Me presented by True North Youth Ensemble (directed by Alirio Zavarce (Come Out Festival)

Best Five Touring Productions

Black Diggers by Tom Wright /Queensland Theatre Company) (Adelaide Festival)

Beauty and the Beast/ One of Us/Improbable (Adelaide Festival)

Orbo Novo /Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet ) (Adelaide Festival)

Fake it ‘Til You Make It by Bryony Kimmings and Tim Grayburn /Theatre Works (Adelaide Fringe)

Small WaR devised and performed by Valentijn Dhaenens , SKaGeN (Adelaide Festival)

Best Five Cabaret/Fringe Productions

Smashed/ Gandini Juggling (Arts Projects Australia) Adelaide Fringe

His Master’s Choice/ Meow Meow, Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

Cut by Duncan Graham (Hannah Norris Presents) Adelaide Fringe.

Naughty or Nice /Ray Jessel, Adelaide Cabaret Festival.
Vale Mr Jessel, a career of wit and musical frolic.

Stephen Sheehan’s Tristan and Isolde (Stephen Sheehan with Norma Knight) Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Vale Arapahoe, the show-stopping miniature horse.

Five Most Intriguing Productions/Events

Destroyer of Worlds by Caleb Lewis (Rock Surfers Theatre Company) Adelaide Fringe.

Art Lite/ Hannah Gadsby (Adelaide Cabaret Festival)

Songs from the Middle / Eddie Perfect (Adelaide Cabaret Festival)

Hot Brown Honey /Black Honey Company (Adelaide Fringe)

Piece for Person & Ghetto Blaster /Nicola Gunn/Sans Hotel (Vitalstatistix)

Five Productions I Regret Not Seeing

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee (Theatre Guild)

A Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill (Independent Theatre)

Reasons to be Pretty (Bakehouse Theatre)

Intimacy (Michelle Ryan / Torque Show)

Music for Strings and iThings (Zephyr Quartet)

Best Five Lead Performances (Female)

Alison Bell (Betrayal /State Theatre Company)

Nicola Gunn (Piece for Person & Ghetto Blaster/Vitalstatistix)

Pamela Rabe (Footfalls/ State Theatre Company)

Kris McQuade (The Aspirations of Daise Morrow/Brink Productions

Eugenia Fragos (The Good Son/ The Other Ones)

Best Five Support Performances (Female)

Jacqy Phillips (The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll/State Theatre Company)

Lizzie Falkland (The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll/State Theatre Company)

Amber McMahon (The Popular Mechanicals/State Theatre Company)

Julie Forsythe (The Popular Mechanicals/State Theatre Company)

Lucy Lehmann (The Aspirations of Daise Morrow/Brink Productions)

Best Five Lead Performances (Male)

Renato Musolino (The Good Son/ The Other Ones)

Paul Blackwell (The Aspirations of Daise Morrow/Brink Productions)

Nathan O’Keefe (Masquerade/ State Theatre Company)

Rory Walker (The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll/State Theatre Company)

Colin Friels (Mortido/StateTheatre Company/Belvoir)

Best Five Supporting Performances (Male)

James Smith (The Aspirations of Daise Morrow/Brink Productions)

Tim Overton (The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll/State Theatre Company)

Mark Saturno (Betrayal /State Theatre Company)

Chris Scherer (Madame: The Story of Joseph Farrugia/Torque Show/State Theatre Company/Vitalstatistix)

Tom Conroy (Mortido/State Theatre Company/Belvoir)

Best Five Designs

Manda Webber (The Good Son/The Other Ones)

Jonathan Oxlade (The Popular Mechanicals/State Theatre Company)

Michael Hankin (The Aspirations of Daise Morrow/Brink Productions)

Anna Cordingley (Masquerade/ State Theatre Company)

Geoff Cobham (Madame: The Story of Joseph Farrugia/Torque Show/State Theatre Company/Vitalstatistix)

Best Five Lighting Designs

Nigel Levings (The Aspirations of Daise Morrow/Brink Productions)

Nigel Levings (The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll/State Theatre Company)

Geoff Cobham (Madame: The Story of Joseph Farrugia/Torque Show/State Theatre Company/Vitalstatistix)

Ben Flett (The Good Son/The Other Ones)

Mark Pennington (The Popular Mechanicals/State Theatre Company)

Best Five Music and Sound Design

Luke Smiles (Madame: The Story of Joseph Farrugia/Torque Show/State Theatre Company/Vitalstatistix)

Jason Sweeney (The Good Son/ The Other Ones)

Jason Sweeney (Betrayal /State Theatre Company)

Mikelangelo and The Black Sea Gentlemen (Masquerade/ State Theatre Company)

Hilary Kleinig and Zephyr Quartet (The Aspirations of Daise Morrow/Brink Productions)

Best Five Music Performances in Adelaide

The Gavin Bryars Ensemble (Laude and madrigals program) Elder Hall (Adelaide Festival)

Abdullah Ibrahim Quartet / Public Service Broadcasting (WOMADelaide)

Augie March (Her Majesty’s)

Unsound Adelaide (Adelaide Festival)

Ingrid Fliter (Dunstan Playhouse) Morgans International Piano Series (2015)

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