Cosmic dancer: Belvoir’s Blue Wizard

This review was originally written for artsHub.

Billed as “the gayest one-man show ever!”, Nick Coyle’s Blue Wizard is like nothing you’ve seen before. Presented by Belvoir as part of the Mardi Gras festival, it’s the story of a cosmic wizard who crashes to earth in a comet, and sings and dances in an effort to return home. First presented by PACT centre for emerging artists in 2013, Blue Wizard is a show that doesn’t apologise for being itself. Playing in Belvoir’s Downstairs theatre, Coyle’s wizard cavorts and dances, shimmies struts and frets amongst piles of junk and detritus set atop a mirrored floor. Lasers flash and strobe, smoke creeps along the floor, and the blue wizard must care for an egg which hatches uncharacteristically early.


Like a dream: STC’s Suddenly Last Summer

This is the third Tennessee Williams production I’ve seen inside of five months, following Eamon Flack’s lyrical and haunting production of The Glass Menagerie for Belvoir, and the NTLive presentation of Benedict AndrewsA Streetcar Named Desire for the Young Vic. Rather than saturating the theatrical landscape, these plays have a way of opening up and revealing a personal system of inner refraction in Tennessee Williams’ work, an autobiographical repertory company of characters who shift and morph from play to play but are always present. In Suddenly Last Summer, directed by  Kip Williams for the Sydney Theatre Company, we see many echoes with The Glass Menagerie and shades of A Streetcar Named Desire, but here they are shaped into a new and compelling play which premiered in 1958.


War of the roses: SUDS’ Richard

Richard III is one of Shakespeare’s most enduring villains. The famous crook-backed king straddles two worlds – that of the tumultuous past of warring roses, and the ever-present now of his opening speech – and his character amplifies this duality in his mannerisms, behaviour and language, seeming “a saint, when most [he plays] the devil.” Simply titled Richard, this SUDS production – staged in their tiny Cellar Theatre – not only gives us the villain who’ll “set the murderous Machiavel to school,” but we also get the backstory of this “crook-backed prodigy,” the story of how he came to be caught up in history’s machinations and how his downfall was ensured years before he became king.


We are the answer: Belvoir’s Kill the Messenger

Nakkiah Lui’s Kill the Messenger is the barest, most simple form of theatre you can imagine. Five people on a stage, telling one story. Or, more specifically, one person telling their story and the others are dramatic components to – in – the story. In its most pared down essence, it is pure autobiography: Lui wrote the play because two people died in what were preventable circumstances; in wanting to tell the truth about them, and in trying to understand what happened and why, she knew she had to start with herself. Thus Kill the Messenger was born – a play written by Lui about her own life, starring Lui as herself.


Listen for the truth: Performance 4a & Griffin Theatre Company’s Yasukichi Murakami: Through A Distant Lens

In the early twentieth century Yasukichi Murakami, a successful Japanese photographer and entrepreneur, lived and worked in Broome and Darwin. Following the outbreak of World War Two, he and his family were interned as enemy aliens, and his extensive photographic collection was lost. Presented by Griffin Theatre Company and Performance 4a, Yasukichi Murakami: Through A Distant Lens brings Murakami’s life and work come alive with the help of projections, sound, video, and is a poignant and moving exploration of what matters to us, what we value as important, and how we can be remembered once we pass away.


Sea-fairing: National Theatre’s Treasure Island (NTLive)

I remember reading Treasure Island when I was younger, shivering in excitement as Long John Silver swept the crew of the Hispaniola into his murky plans. I remember Captain Flint (Silver’s parrot), Jim Hawkins the cabin-boy, the blind man tap-tapping his cane in the darkness, the dreaded black spot, finding the wild man Ben Gunn on the island… But strangely enough, I don’t really remember the story at all. More recently, I read Andrew Motion’s Silver, the 'return to Treasure Island', but that felt more like seeing something familiar refracted through an endless mirror and trying to piece it all back together. But here, in this production by London’s National Theatre, Treasure Island springs into full-blooded thrilling life, and is much darker and far more mercurial than I ever remember it.


A cry in the dark: SUDS’ 4.48 Psychosis

First produced in 2000, a year and a half after playwright Sarah Kane’s death, 4.48 Psychosis is a mesmerising and harrowing portrait of a mind at war with itself, whilst encompassing ideas about love, dependency, isolation, depression, and mental stability. In Kane’s own words, it is about “a psychotic breakdown and what happens to a person’s mind when the barriers which distinguish between reality… and imagination completely disappear.” Produced here by SUDS in their tiny Cellar Theatre, Kane’s play is an experiment in form, breaking down existing boundaries whilst making new ones which only stop where words do.


Apocalypse Theatre Company’s ASYLUM

Rapid-response theatre flies in the face of theatrical tradition, but it shouldn’t always be like that. The average play takes approximately two years to reach the stage, by which time any topicality it may have had initially has long-since passed. Enter rapid-response theatre, where plays appear on stage mere weeks after being pitched or commissioned. You might remember Hollywood Ending at Griffin in November 2012; where that project took nine weeks to journey from concept to the stage, Asylum – a twenty-four-play cyclical response to the federal government’s Operation Sovereign Borders – appears approximately four weeks after pitching. The plays here are raw, unsentimental, unflinching; visceral. Under the artistic direction of Dino Dimitriadis, Apocalypse Theatre Company hosts 97 artists in a fearless and challenging exploration of what it means to seek asylum, what it means to come to Australia by boat, how it affects us – personally, as a community.