2010, You’ve Been Good To Me

by Jane

A Thank You, and the obligatory Best Of Worst Of lists

To everyone who has supported me and my blog and my other writing this year: thank you.  This year has been truly magnificent, and getting so much respect for my writing has played no small part in that.  When I decided to not pursue my Honours degree I knew I was making the right choice; I could have never grasped just how right that choice was.  To everyone who has read, commented, subscribed, or talked to me about something I’ve written, you blow my mind.   To the companies and artists in particular who have taken me on as part of the community, in my strange hybrid of administrator / writer / reviewer / blogger / fan, I am eternally grateful.

Even those of you who have given me bad feedback, the overestimation of the impact of this blog warms my cockles.  Those of you who got here by searching for naked pictures of actors or Plain Janes, you creep me out a little and don’t get my thanks, sorry.

After much hemming and hawing over how (and if) to do a Best/Worst of The Year, I eventually decided to just go for the traditional top and bottom five.   Not necessarily the best and the worst, but in a completely subjective analysis my favourites and my biggest disappointments.  I loved 54 of the 88 productions I saw, and most of the rest leaned towards the love over the hate side, so it’s been a pretty fine year.

Most interestingly, to me, is my bottom five really were disappointments – I have seen fine work from many of the people who contributed to these, or at least have read good reports.  At least this prior knowledge makes me optimistic they will rise again.


My Top Five Favourites

5. When I was at uni and needed something to read as a study break I would often read scripts.  The uni library had a fine collection, and they typically don’t take too long to read, and I would make my way through four or five scripts by one writer before moving on to someone else.  One of the playwrights I read was Daniel Keene, and this year I saw a play of his which I hadn’t read The Share. Director Corey McMahon for five.point.one created a deliciously creepy production, with three powerful performances, bringing out the best of Keene’s script.

The Share. Photo Cassandra Backler.

4.  Any man who I give up eight nights of my life for can’t be too shabby.   Mark Nadler’s Broadway Hootenanny exemplified the Cabaret Festival for me: his mix of musical theatre knowledge and talent at the piano and in his tap shoes, and his ability to get slightly sloshed every night while brining up other performers who had also been having a fun time at the bar.  Within one show was everything I could ask for from a festival – and more.

3. I find it hard to do “best of” lists, not least because by the time December rolls around, January fells like a lifetime ago.   When placing it here, I did worry Hairspray is carrying with it the sheen of being the last production I saw, but what a fine fine last production it was.  Big budget, big music, big fun: I think it deserves this place.

2.  I have these ideals that an experience at the theatre should be more than what happens just when the house lights are down.  Generally when I take this argument, I’m talking about venues and their atmosphere (…and bar and meal options), but Man Covets Bird fits in to this certainly.  Walking on to the grass in the Space Theatre, being asked to “catch a train” to the play, having a lolly, taking part in an ice-melting competition – these all happened before the play even began.  Directed by Andy Packer and by Finegan Kruckemeyer for Slingsby, Man Covets Bird was a wonderful exploration of what it means to be lonely, to find joy, and to grow up.

1.  The most wonderful and curious and earth shaking moments in experiencing any art is when you see or read or hear something that you have felt or thought or said.  It’s this feeling that you’re not the only one, that others have thought this, others have gone through this.  Ruby Bruise – directed by Daisy Brown, written by Kruckemeyer, and devised by both – was the show which did this to me in 2010, and for that it gets top place.  I think I had more interesting conversations about this play than any other, too, both because it touched me so much, and because there were some people I spoke to who didn’t get it all.  An amazing piece about being a woman and growing up, taking place in a silk tent at Vitalstatistix’s home, from Vitals and The Misery Children about a fantastical creature named Ruby.

Ruby Bruise.

My Bottom Five:

5. Three short plays of mixed fortunes, I have a confession to make about NIDA: Sex Wars – two of the plays had me googling while I was writing my review to try and make sense of the plot.  I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to do that.  It mainly lands here for Madea Material (w. Heiner Müller, d. Kat Henry)– not only incomprehensible in plot in this production, but also largely obscured due to having the audience stand in a huddle on the stage.  On another note, the Bakehouse will forever be the theatre where my friend got bled on in Through The Leaves (w. Franz Xaver Kroetz, d. Netta Yashchin).

4. Superheroes from Stone/Castro had some intriguing elements in moments of choreography, in the set design, and in the use of video projections, but the script and characters were confused and the play didn’t achieve what director Jo Stone and writer Paolo Castro set out to do.

Superheroes. Photo Rodeo.

3. Based on the strength of Flying Penguin Productions’ True West, Blackbird (w. David Harrower, d. David Mealor) was one of the productions I was most looking forward to in 2010, yet it was a rather dull reflection on two characters whom I didn’t care much about – and due to the subject matter, I rather think I should have.

2. Well, it would hardly be fair for Kruckemeyer to have two plays in my top five and then skip out on the bottom all together, would it?  Wait… that doesn’t seem like a very good rule.  Unfortunately, Sex, Death and a Cup of Tea which featured one (out of four) short play written by Kruckemeyer was, overall, a night of underdeveloped and unsupported writing, which was presented cheaply in this production directed by Robert Jarman for the Tasmanian Theatre Company.

1. What to say that I haven’t already about The Sapphires (w. Tong Briggs, d. Wesley Enoch)?  Nothing I suppose.  Except the praise it receives (both faint and otherwise) still continues to baffle me absolutely.  I hold the four major arts organisations which brought this to Adelaide (Black Swan State Theatre Company, Company B, the State Theatre Company, and the Festival of Arts) to a much higher standard than they chose to present.

The Sapphires. Photo Gary Marsh.

And just because I can, the top five Most Read No Plain Jane Blog posts of 2010

5.  Possibly the most controversy around any play in Adelaide this year, romeo&juliet was either loved or loathed… and mostly loathed.   Some critics felt the production was so bad they were all but holding funerals for everyone who worked on it, and tolling the death knell for director Geordie Brookman.  Not an overreaction to a piece of theatre at all. Yet, I fell in to the love camp, perhaps because of my general hate of Romeo and Juliet.

4.  I travelled up to the Barossa to see the Australian Ballet Dancers Company perform Don Quixote.  I have no doubt a large cast of young performers helped contributing to many of the hits.

3.  Another play creating much conversation in Adelaide, Harbinger: many (including myself) felt it lost its way in the final third, with a general consensus with some more work to pull the ending in line with the quality of the start.  This review also got me in a touch of trouble, when I failed to realise on the internet not everyone can hear your sarcasm – no, I don’t have Brink’s offices bugged, nor do I have any insiders passing me information, worse luck.  (I am sarcastic a lot, just for future reference.)

Harbinger. Photo Chris Herzfeld.

2. Not too impressed that the Adelaide Critics Circle Award Nominees (and updated winners) made it in to my top five to be honest, because I’m very unimpressed that I – someone who is not a member of the circle – was the first person to post it, when the media release came out a week after nominees were told (and they were told to pass on the news!) (also, because it knocks my AFC food rant down to number six). I rather think the responsibility of posting the nominees should be given to the members of the Circle and the publications they write for.  But I am glad to have done it if it meant bringing more people to my blog (and, being first, means I won!).

1.  In my analysis of 2011 theatre which grew and grew, I got about half way through writing it up and thought who would want to read this? I thought it was far to nerdy for my own good, and once everyone got their google alerts they would move on.  But If You’re Not Shakespeare, it’s Good To Be Brecht (Or Lally Katz) was by far my most popular post.  I’ve heard reports about it being shared among many people, have been forwarded on an e-bulletin it was in, and gotten some spectacularly amazing feedback from it, and for all that I am quite chuffed.