ICYMI: 2015 in WA Theatre (Best of)

This Best of List was originally published in the app issue #1507 of X-Press Magazine on 30.12.15

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2015 has been an interesting, roller coaster of a year for Perth performing arts. We’ve had some contentious decisions over government arts funding thanks to the not-so-dearly departed George Brandis, we’ve seen the cancellation of an entire half season by Perth Theatre Company (whose future still appears to be in limbo, though by all accounts it doesn’t look good), we’ve launched a whole new flagship contemporary dance company with Co3, and all the independents have been chugging away steadily, creating fabulous art for next to nothing, as they always do, with the help of the likes of The Blue Room Theatre, Fringe World, and their own blood, sweat and tears.

But now the year is coming to a close, so it’s time to reflect on the year that was and highlight the best of Perth theatre in 2015. Contenders for the list are works made in WA, and include straight theatre, dance theatre, and music theatre.

#1 The Fever and the Fret, Yirra Yaakin – this absolutely gorgeous piece of theatre had it all. A wonderful cast of veterans and an emerging actor telling the story of a close-knit family’s struggles. Set against a haunting soundtrack and placed in an evocative visual space, laughter, tears, sadness, pain, joy and hope were all part of the package.

#2 Under This Sun, The Emergence Co. and The Blue Room Theatre – An ode to Australia by a theatre-maker returning from abroad, Warwick Doddrell’s clever original work about three young people venturing into the bush was full of delight and soul. It too is making a return to Fringe World 2016 as part of The Blue Room’s Summer Nights.

#3 Monroe & Associates, The Last Great Hunt – feel like a kid again with a choose-your-own-adventure immersive theatre work for one person, set in a caravan. Put clues together to solve a mystery and have an absolute blast while you’re at it. A wonderfully unique experience, but difficult to get a ticket to! Thank goodness it’s back for another run at Fringe World 2016.

#4 Gudirr Gudirr, Marrugeku Theatre and Yirra Yaakin – Dalisa Pigram is a sensational performer. Her one-woman show was exciting, heartbreaking, challenging, awe-inspiring and funny. This one should have had a much longer run so more people could see it.

#5 Next to Normal, Black Swan State Theatre – at last Black Swan mounted a musical in the Heath Ledger, and it opened to rave reviews. Extremely well sung, sincerely acted and beautifully designed, this offbeat tale struck the right chords.

#6 FAG/STAG, The Last Great Hunt – honest, gripping, unashamed and personal, this complex piece is deceptively simple on the surface, but takes the audience to unexpected places in the lives of two men, one straight and one gay.

#7 re: Loaded 2015, Co3 – launching a new flagship dance company with a highly anticipated first show must be an extremely harrowing ordeal for a team of creatives, but luckily Co3 met and exceeded the challenge with an exciting program of youth and professional works.

#8 Glengarry Glen Ross, Black Swan State Theatre – a notoriously difficult playwright’s most famous play was handled with confidence by BSSTC. Peter Rowsthorn made it funny, relieving the inbuilt tension with touches of sad clown humour.

#9 The Cockatoos, Happy Dagger and The Blue Room Theatre – a poetic adaptation of the Patrick White novella that delivered strong ensemble work, intricate staging, and a compelling story told in an unusual way.

#10 White Matter, Shona Erskine and The Blue Room Theatre – Erskine’s contemporary dance piece explores MS and sibling relationships. It’s a beautifully executed, highly personal work that becomes universal.

Other honorable mentions for 2015 are The Epic, Between Solar Systems, Moominpappa at Sea, The Mars Project, All That Glitters, Benjamin & Me, The Red Balloon, and mouseprint.

CICELY BINFORD

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