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January 02, 2021

The Best of 2020

Filed under: 2020,Archive,Current

I have been compiling my Best of the Year lists for a while now but 2020 has presented all kinds of problems. How to report on a year which was mostly cancelled ? What an awful year of COVID-19 havoc and dismay. So many projects postponed, thwarted and abandoned. It has been a global catastrophe – medically, socially, economically and creatively.

In Australia the problems for the creative arts have been enhanced by federal government spite and indifference – in conjunction with the deliberate harm caused for universities, obstructing progress in both sciences and the humanities. No JobKeeper for either sector, assistance announcements proclaimed with zero follow up. The Lucky Country has been very unlucky for many – and our artists conspicuously and cruelly so.

The history of events in 2020, when fully documented, will be a portrait of infamy and philistinism.

As we think of 2020, it is of a year in segments. From January until late in March it was a worried but normal time. In Adelaide, the Fringe and Festival went ahead, as did WOMADelaide. Events proceeded as usual even while news of Covid – in China and Europe, then the US – began to disturb us. As the Festival got underway, reality hit home when a music event was cancelled because the guest conductor tested positive for the virus.

By the weekend of March 15, activities and events were being cancelled and anyone feeling unwell was asked to stay away. In the Fringe, the much anticipated RCC concert by Laurie Anderson was abandoned as, instead of diverting to Adelaide after her stint at the New Zealand Festival, she headed directly back to New York.

And, in the weeks following, the full-scale cancellations began. Whole seasons from State Theatre, the ASO, the Adelaide Chamber Singers and many others were suspended. The Adelaide Cabaret Festival was cancelled, as was OzAsia. The pattern was similar across the country. Live venues closed, international concerts were postponed and then ditched, and we battened down for months of Zoom and gloom.

My lists then will be skewed to the first few months of the year and cover a scattering of brave and determined events subsequently. As always there are events I missed even among the few which occurred, but it is especially important that this year the performances we saw are remembered and saluted. 2020 was not the year when nothing happened even though so much was cancelled.

Some events will be rescheduled in 2021– in the State Theatre program for instance – others, lamentably will not. And even as I write this, there are hotspots and Covid concerns dotted around our comparatively very safe nation. This coming year is as unknown as the past twelve months have been. Let us hope for better. We need live performance more than ever and we need to support the army of artists and creatives who enrich our experience and our imaginations.

“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 individuals who have generously invited me to performances in 2020 and to acknowledge your continuing commitment and achievement. Especially in a year of unprecedented challenge and tribulation.

Several years ago when I posted my list of Best Of’s, among the many online comments and responses came the vinegary remark- “Who cares ?” The answer to that question is that I care. And audiences, friends of the artists, and their peers care. Outstanding work deserves to be recognised and warmly applauded. My admiration for all concerned is greater than ever.

Here is a list of my selections for this weird, uncertain year – not in any rank order, and by no means all that deserve mention.

Best Adelaide Productions

Dance Nation by Clare Barron. Directed by Imara Savage. State Theatre Company and Belvoir in association with Adelaide Festival.

Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton. Directed by Catherine Fitzgerald. State Theatre Company.

The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll . Opera composed by Richard Mills, libretto by Peter Goldsworthy after the play by Ray Lawler. Directed by Joseph Mitchell. State Opera South Australia.

The Bleeding Tree by Angus Cerini. Directed by Corey McMahon. Theatre Republic.

Best Touring Productions

The Doctor. Directed by Robert Icke and adapted from Arthur Schnitzler. Almeida Theatre. Adelaide Festival.

Dimanche. Cie Chaliwate and Cie Focus. Written and directed by Julie Tenret, Sicaire Durieux and Sandrine Heyraud. Adelaide Festival.

Mouthpiece by Kieran Hurley. Directed by Orla O’Loughlin. Traverse Theatre Company. Adelaide Festival.

Requiem by Wolfgang Amaseud Mozart. Directed by Romeo Castellucci. Adelaide Festival.

Best Fringe Productions

The Nights by Henry Naylor. Gilded Balloon and Redbeard in association with Holden Street Theatres.

Tartuffe adapted from Moliere by Liz Lochhead. Ed Littlewood Productions and Holden Street.

Grounded by George Brant. Directed by Poppy Rowley, featuring Martha Lott. Holden Street Theatres.

Frankenstein : How to Make a Monster. Battersby Arts Centre and BAC Beatbox Academy. RCC, Adelaide University.

Best Lead Performances (Female)

Amber McMahon. Dance Nation by Clare Barron. Directed by Imara Savage. State Theatre Company and Belvoir in association with Adelaide Festival.

Eileen Darley. Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton. Directed by Catherine Fitzgerald. State Theatre Company.

Nancye Hayes. Ripcord by David Lindsay-Abaire. Directed by Mitchell Butel. State Theatre Company South Australia.

Elena Carapetis. The Bleeding Tree by Angus Cerini. Directed by Corey McMahon. Theatre Republic.

Best Supporting Performances (Female)

Rebecca Massey. Dance Nation by Clare Barron. Directed by Imara Savage. State Theatre Company and Belvoir in association with Adelaide Festival.

Carmel Johnson. Ripcord by David Lindsay-Abaire. Directed by Mitchell Butel. State Theatre Company South Australia.

Miranda Daughtry. The Bleeding Tree by Angus Cerini. Directed by Corey McMahon. Theatre Republic

Annabel Matheson. The Bleeding Tree by Angus Cerini. Directed by Corey McMahon. Theatre Republic.

Best Lead Performances (Male)

Mitchell Butel. Dance Nation by Clare Barron. Directed by Imara Savage. State Theatre Company and Belvoir in association with Adelaide Festival.

William Zappa. The Iliad. Out Loud. Written by Homer. Directed by William Zappa. Adelaide Festival.

Best Supporting Performances (Male)

Tim Overton. Dance Nation by Clare Barron. Directed by Imara Savage. State Theatre Company and Belvoir in association with Adelaide Festival.

Chris Asimos. Ripcord by David Lindsay-Abaire. Directed by Mitchell Butel. State Theatre Company South Australia.

Best Scenic Designs

Jonathan Oxlade. Dance Nation by Clare Barron. Directed by Imara Savage. State Theatre Company and Belvoir in association with Adelaide Festival.

Ailsa Paterson. Ripcord by David Lindsay-Abaire. Directed by Mitchell Butel. State Theatre Company South Australia.

Simone Romaniuk. The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll . Opera composed by Richard Mills, libretto by Peter Goldsworthy after the play by Ray Lawler. Directed by Joseph Mitchell. State Opera South Australia.

Victoria Lamb. The Bleeding Tree by Angus Cerini. Directed by Corey McMahon. Theatre Republic.

Best Lighting Designs

Alexander Berlage. Dance Nation by Clare Barron. Directed by Imara Savage. State Theatre Company and Belvoir in association with Adelaide Festival.

Trudy Dalgleish. The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll . Opera composed by Richard Mills, libretto by Peter Goldsworthy after the play by Ray Lawler. Directed by Joseph Mitchell. State Opera South Australia.

Gavin Norris. Ripcord by David Lindsay-Abaire. Directed by Mitchell Butel. State Theatre Company South Australia.

Chris Petridis. The Bleeding Tree by Angus Cerini. Directed by Corey McMahon. Theatre Republic.

Best Music Scores/Sound Design

Luke Smiles/ Andrew Howard. Dance Nation by Clare Barron. Directed by Imara Savage. State Theatre Company and Belvoir in association with Adelaide Festival.

Andrew Howard. Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton. Directed by Catherine Fitzgerald. State Theatre Company.

Jason Sweeney/ James Oborn. The Bleeding Tree by Angus Cerini. Directed by Corey McMahon. Theatre Republic.

Best Classical Music Performances

150 Psalms. Adelaide Festival.

Adelaide Chamber Singers. Escapology Program II.

The Firm. Featuring Konstantin Shamray, Elder Hall.

The Firm. Featuring Michael Ierace. Elder Hall.

Best Five Touring Music Performances

The Necks. RCC Adelaide University.

Truckload of Sky. The Lost Songs of David McComb RCC Adelaide University.

Kathryn Joseph. WOMADelaide 2020.

Mavis Staples Band featuring Rick Holmstrom. WOMADelaide 2020.

Most Intriguing Performances/ Zoom Events

Eight. Michael Van Der Aa . Featuring Kate Miller-Heidke. Adelaide Festival.

Cold Blood by Thomas Gunzig. Michele Anne De Mey, Jaco Van Dormael & Kiss & Cry Collective. Belgium. Adelaide Festival.

Decameron 2.0. Digital Theatre for the Pandemic. ActNow and State Theatre South Australia.

The Seagull by Anton Chekhov. An online version by Eli Kent and Eleanor Bishop. Auckland Theatre Company.

Productions/Events I Regret Not Seeing

Enter Achilles. A work by Lloyd Newson/ DV8 Physical Theatre. Presented by Ballet Rambert and Sadler’s Wells. Adelaide Festival.

Laurie Anderson. All The Things I Lost in the Flood. RCC Adelaide University. (Cancelled)

The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy by Finegan Kruckemeyer. Slingsby. Directed by Andy Packer. In the first stage performance in Her Majesty’s splendid new theatre.

Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Natsuko Plays Beethoven featuring departing Concertmaster Natsuko Yoshimoto. Conducted by Dane Lam. September 19. Festival Theatre.

The Holden Street Theatres return to Live Shows in June. And their launch of the Arts Park.

Best wishes for 2021. We can but hope.

1 Comment »

  1. Thank you, Murray, for chronicling our live performance history — what was and what wasn’t — in this challenging year.

    Comment by PJ Rose — January 6, 2021 @ 2:14 pm

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