December 13, 2016

The Best of 2016

Filed under: 2016,2017,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. Maggie Smith once remarked- “Every performance is a ghost.”

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 2016 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, yet again, they can be usefully repeated :

“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 was surely 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 now the failure of Brandis’ successor, Senator Mitch Fifield to remedy the matter is even more disconcerting. The Turnbull government did nothing to repair the Abbott wreckage; the 2015 end of year budget report only worsened the parlous state of arts funding. And the 2016 Federal Election– cravenly silent on the subject of arts funding- has ushered in an even worse state of neglect .

Like many others, last year, 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.

2016 has brought little in the way of acknowledgement and encouragement to the performing artists of South Australia but, in spite of this, they have often produced original and  exceptional work. My thanks and admiration to you all 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 2016

  • Things I Know to be True by Andrew Bovell (State Theatre Company/Frantic Assembly) directed by Geordie Brookman and Scott Graham.
  • The Country by Martin Crimp (Stone/Castro) directed by Paulo Castro.
  • Red Sky Morning by Tom Holloway (State Umbrella) directed by Sarah Dunn.
  • The 39 Steps adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan (State Theatre Company)  directed by Jon Halpin.
  • Rumpelstiltskin by Rosemary Myers and Julianne O’Brien (State Theatre Company and Windmill Theatre) directed by Rosemary Myers.

Best Five Touring Productions

  • The James Plays by Rona Munro (National Theatre of Scotland/ National Theatre of Great Britain) directed by Laurie Sansom.
  • Nelken (Carnations) (Tanztheater Wuppertal) Pina Bausch
  • Little Shop of Horrors by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken  (Tinderbox Productions)
  • Twelfth Night (The Company Theatre Mumbai) directed by Attul Kumar Mittal.(OzAsia)
  • Singin’ in the Rain directed by Jonathan Church, songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed(Lunchbox Productions et al )

Best Five Fringe Productions

  • Penny Arcade (Royal Croquet Club)
  • Red Ink by Duncan Graham (Tuxedo Cat)
  • Fag/Stag  (Royal Croquet Club) Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Chris Isaacs.
  • Labels by Joe Sellman-Leava (Holden Street Theatres /Edinburgh Fringe)
  • Echoes by Henry Naylor (Holden Street Theatres/Edinburgh Fringe)

Best Five Cabaret Productions

  • Decadence  Ali McGregor (Adelaide Cabaret Festival)
  • Dancing on the Volcano  Robyn Archer with Michael Morley and George Butrumlis (Adelaide Cabaret Festival)
  • The Wharf Review Celebrating 15 Years Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe, Phillip  Scott
  • Hard Rain: The Songs of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen  Barb Jungr
    (Adelaide Cabaret Festival)
  • Price Check by Sean Weatherly and Cerise de Gelder (Loaded  Productions) Bakehouse

Five Most Intriguing Productions

  • Go Down, Moses by Romeo Castallucci  (Societas Raffaello Sanzio) Adelaide Festival
  • Golem, directed by Suzanne Andrade (1927 ) Adelaide Festival
  • Split Flow and Holistic Strata Hiroaki Umeda (OzAsia)
  • Life is Short and Long (Vitalstatistix and Country Arts) Written and performed by Emma Beech. Directed by Tessa Leong.
  • The Record  600 Highwaymen (OzAsia)

Five Productions I Regret Not Seeing

  • Cloudstreet adapted by George Palmer and Tim Winton
    (State Opera )
  • The Holy Body Tattoo Monumental (Adelaide Festival)
  • 12 Angry Men by Reginald Rose (Matt Byrne Media)
  • When the Rain Stops Falling by Andrew Bovell (St Jude’s Players)
  • The Juliet Letters devised by Elvis Costello and the Brodsky Quartet
    (Flying Penguin Productions and Zephyr Quartet) Adelaide Cabaret Festival)

Best Five Lead Performances (Female)

  • Catherine McClements, The Events by David Grieg (State Theatre Company)
  • Emma Beech, Life is Short and Long (Vitalstatistix)
  • Ashton Malcolm, Rumpelstiltskin (Windmill Theatre /State Theatre Company )
  • Jo Stone, The Country (Stone/Castro)
  • Eugenia Fragos, Things I Know to be True by Andrew Bovell (State Theatre Company/Frantic Assembly)

Best Five Supporting Performances (Female)

  • Elena Carapetis,  Rumpelstiltskin  (Windmill Theatre /State Theatre Company )
  • Julie Wood, Red Sky Morning (State Umbrella)
  • Rachel Burke, Red Sky Morning (State Umbrella)
  • Lizzy Falkland , Red Cross Letters devised by Verity Laughton (State Theatre Company)
  • Astrid Pill, Tartuffe  (Brink Productions / State Theatre Company)

Best Lead Performances (Male)

  • Tim Overton,  The Young King by Oscar Wilde (Slingsby) The 39 Steps (State Theatre Company)
  • James Smith, Gorgon by Elena Carapetis, directed by Nescha Jelk (State Theatre Company)
  • Nathan O’Keefe, The Country  (Stone/Castro / Tartuffe (Brink Productions / State Theatre Company)
  • Paul Blackwell , Things I Know to be True (State Theatre Company/Frantic Assembly)
  • Paul Capsis , Rumpelstiltskin  (Windmill Theatre /State Theatre Company )
  • Nathan Page , The 39 Steps (State Theatre Company)

Best Five Supporting Performances (Male)

  • Alirio  Zavarce,  Rumpelstiltskin  (Windmill Theatre /State Theatre Company )
  • Matt Crook, Rumpelstiltskin  (Windmill Theatre /State Theatre Company )
  • Rory Walker, Tartuffe (Brink Productions / State Theatre Company
  • Stephen Sheehan, Red Sky Morning (State Umbrella)
  • Hugh Parker, Straight White Men by Young Jean Lee directed by Nescha Jelk(State Theatre Company)

Best Five Scenic Designs

  • Jonathan Oxlade / Chris Edser  Rumpelstiltskin  (Windmill Theatre /State Theatre Company )
  • David Lampard, The Country  (Stone/Castro)
  • Geoff Cobham, Things I Know to be True (State Theatre Company/Frantic Assembly)
  • Michael Hankin, Tartuffe (Brink Productions / State Theatre Company)
  • Ailsa Paterson ,  The 39 Steps (State Theatre Company)

Best Five Lighting Designs

  • Gavin Norris,  Rumpelstiltskin  (Windmill Theatre /State Theatre Company )
  • Nigel Levings ,  Tartuffe (Brink Productions / State Theatre Company)
  • Alexander Ramsay, Red Sky Morning (State Umbrella)
  • Daniel Barber, The Country  (Stone/Castro)
  • Chris Petridis, Gorgon (State Theatre Company)

Best Five Music and Sound Designs

  • Jethro Woodward, Rumpelstiltskin (Windmill Theatre /State Theatre Company )
  • Stuart Day, The 39 Steps (State Theatre Company)
  • Carol Young/ John Browne, The Events  (State Theatre Company)
  • Will Spartalis, Gorgon (State Theatre Company)
  • Belinda Gehlert, Red Sky Morning (State Umbrella)

Best Music Performances in Adelaide

  • Guitar Festival Symphony Gala (Adelaide Symphony Orchestra) conducted by Benjamin Northey
  • Arrivals, Zephyr  Quartet  with Motez, South Australian Maritime Museum.
  • Songs of Longing , Adelaide Chamber Singers
  • Requiem, Adelaide Chamber Singers

Best Five Music Touring Performers

  • Gillian Welch and David Rawlings
  • Lisa Fischer and Grand Baton
  • Godspeed You ! Black Emperor
  • Sufjan Stevens
  • Punch Brothers

Best wishes for 2017.

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