Best of Brisbane Arts 2012: Arts Ed’s Pick
Coming up with our annual best-of lists at Rave Magazine was always a challenge. How do we condense an entire year’s worth of artistic and/or musical output into a brief list? How do we justify what stood out above the rest? It’s Christmas and we are drunk; how do we remember what we’ve seen/heard? (That one is only really a little chuckle; it is the specialist role of the journalist to remember what happens while shitfaced.)
It seemed only right to continue the tradition at OffStreet. Brisbane conceives, produces and hosts hundreds of productions and exhibitions every year, many of them worthy of note. These nine productions (eight from Brisbane, with one sneaking in from interstate) make my list only because they’ve stood out so clearly in my memory; it feels like I sat in the theatre just yesterday (or never perhaps left).
THEATRE: The Raven — March, Metro Arts
Directed by Thomas Quirk. Produced by Laura Kwiatkowski.
I remember feeling cautious about this show, inspired by the work and life of Edgar Allen Poe, if only because I’d sat through so many undergraduate lit. classes where “The Raven” was the only poem most of us could name. But Quirk and Kwiatkowski’s production, delving into Poe’s mind, had me addicted. It was the first play I’d ever seen that scared me, and elements of its staging (the enstrangement of the Sue Benner Theatre, cold soil beneath our toes) will never leave me.
THEATRE: Vikram and the Vampire — May, The Old Museum
Produced by Zen Zen Zo. Directed by Michael Futcher and Helen Howard.
There’s something lush and dreamlike in my memory of this production, which morphed the Old Museum studio space into jungles, castles and boudoirs. Sandro Colarelli (the emcee in Zen Zen Zo’s Cabaret, in 2011) was suitably captivating in the eponymous role of King Vikram, and the episodic nature of the nested stories made this a production that rewarded multiple viewings. It was fantastic to see Lizzie Ballinger (the trickster vampire, Vital) again recently in Thérèse Raquin.
COMEDY/THEATRE: Australian Booty — May–June, Brisbane Powerhouse
Written and performed by Candy B. Musical direction by Busty Beatz.
Rarely have I left a show feeling so fantastic, especially regarding my derriere. Candy B. is a fierce and smart Australian comedian/activist whose rhymes and writing kick butt. Also, she had my mum shaking her booty to hiphop — that, right there, is an achievement. Australian Booty deserves to be enjoyed (and thought about, and discussed) by every Australian. I wish I’d seen it again when it dropped in at SYC Studios in December.
CIRCUS: Knee Deep — June, Judith Wright Centre
Produced by Casus.
My review of Casus’ debut production was one of those embarrassingly glowing ones. For me, Knee Deep hit circus in just the right spot: astounding, cheeky, intimate, and fresh, with an otherworldly ambiance. The troupe (who have companies like Circa, Flipside, Strut and Fret and Briefs on their CVs) are no circus spring chickens, but even so, their inaugural show (successfully crowdfunded) was disturbing flawless.
THEATRE: The Truth About Kookaburras — June, La Boite
Written and directed by Sven Swenson.
This production, refined and expanded from a 2009 season at Metro Arts, stands out as tearjerker of the year for me. The strong cast put the epic storyline (in three parts, over three hours) to work, making for a compelling thriller and a sharp examination of masculinity in Australia. Kookaburras also stands out as the most difficult show of the year to review without giving the game away, with more twists than a slinky.
OPERA: The Mikado — July, Griffith Conservatorium
Written by Gilbert and Sullivan. Produced by Opera Queensland. Directed by Stuart Maunder.
I openly admit that opera is an art form I’m still learning about, and the OQ brochure helpfully marked The Mikado as suitable for opera newcomers. (I have seen one other opera — La Bohème — but only with one eye, as I lost a contact lens on the way to QPAC. Hm.) Stuart Maunder’s direction reveals this very British comedy, written 100 years ago, to be every bit as absurd and relatable (and absurdly relatable) to Australian audiences in 2012. Eugene Gilfedder’s rendition of “I’ve Got a Little List”, with libretto rewritten just for us, was a highlight.
CABARET: Dangling My Tootsies — July, Brisbane Powerhouse
Written by Annie Lee, with songs by Agnes Bernelle.
Perfectly capturing the ambiance of Weimar-era cabaret, Lee paid tribute to Agnes Bernelle (1923–1999): a performer, translator, and WWII spy. I miss Berlin dearly, and for me this show was a chance to revisit the Berlin of my imagination. But, more importantly, Dangling My Tootsies opened my ears to the music and story of a heroine of cabaret subversiveness.
DANCE: fifteen — September, Queen Street Mall
Choreographed by Liesel Zink. Produced by Nicholas Paine.
I am certain that nothing quite like this has been staged in Brisbane before. For a week, Zink’s dancers weaved daily through peak-hour pedestrian traffic at the base of the mall, at the intersection of Queen Street and Edward Street. I was transfixed by interactions between dancers, passers-by and ticket-holders (all of whom were, simultaneously, performer and audience). Being so concerned with place, fifteen was a very fitting work to include in this year’s Brisbane Festival.
THEATRE/CABARET: JiHa Underground — September, Absoe car park, West End
Directed by Jeremy Neideck.
So, this is my show of the year. No surprises there. I expect the cast think I’m stalking them; I’ve seen the show, in its various manifestations, about four times. But who can blame me? 지하 Underground makes us happy to be alive. I’m grateful that art like this is being made, and I would’ve spent every night of Brisbane Festival partying in the Absoe car park mystery wonderland junk-bar if I could — restraining orders be damned.
That’s the year that was in Rave/OffStreet arts. Have a spectacular 2013. I charge you to see more art, make more art, and support more art. That’s how we keep each other’s brains and hearts alive (and, you know, fed and housed as well).