Out of the dark: Malthouse & HUMAN ANIMAL EXCHANGE’s They Saw A Thylacine

In September 1936, the last thylacine (or Tasmanian Tiger) died in Hobart’s Beaumaris Zoo, due to exposure, cold, and lack of care or concern by the superintendant. My grandparents remember seeing that thylacine – a female, called Benjamin – and for years I was fascinated by this bizarre creature with its dog-like gait, dark stripes, straight tail, and eerily large yawn, and more than a little frightened of the grainy black-and-white footage that would be rolled out every time someone mentioned extinction or cloning (this was the early 2000s, when the Australian Museum – headed by Dr Michael Archer – was attempting, however foolishly, to clone the creature). HUMAN ANIMAL EXCHANGE’s They Saw A Thylacine – presented by Malthouse Theatre – is a simple story about two women whose paths crossed with this animal in the 1930s, and despite the simplicity and elegance of its staging, it is powerful and quite moving.

Cosmic particles: MTC’s The Boy at the Edge of Everything

Finegan Kruckemeyer has the unique ability to capture a childlike sense of wonder and storytelling, yet unlike so much theatre for young people he is never patronising, but simply asks ‘would you like to hear a story?’ and away we go. Following Kate Gaul’s production of The Violent Outburst That Drew Me to You at Griffin Theatre last year, I set about trying to track down as many of Kruckemeyer’s plays as I could; when Melbourne Theatre Company announced The Boy at the Edge of Everything as part of their 2015 season, I knew I had to see it. But sometimes great expectations can be their own worst enemy.


All is lost without a kayak: Belvoir’s Ivanov

Written in 1887, Ivanov is perhaps Chekhov’s thorniest play – even to Chekhov himself – and he rewrote it a year later, while a third version appeared in print before his death in 1904. From the very beginning of its life, audiences couldn’t make up their minds about Ivanov – the play as much as the character – and whether they sympathised with him or not. This was something of a dilemma for Chekhov, and he subsequently reworked it, perhaps never being fully satisfied with it. Astonishingly, this production at Belvoir is its first Australian mainstage production under the direction of Eamon Flack, and it is a strange play, but it is also something of an antidote – a way to close one door and open another.


My heart going boom boom boom: Montague Basement’s All About Medea

Following on from their incredibly strong debut with Procne & Tereus at last year’s fringe festival, independent theatre-makers Montague Basement have again turned their attentions to Greek mythology, and embarked upon a new retelling of the story of Jason and Medea. Using the genre of the romantic comedy to explore the story in a new light, Montague Basement have not only given us a thrilling new play, but have subverted the age-old trope of the manic pixie dream girl (MPDG) in giving us All About Medea.


Iphigenuous: Stories Like These & Griffin Independent’s Minus One Sister

Off the top of my head, this is the fifth retelling of the myth of Orestes (and/or Elektra; they were siblings after all) that I have seen in the past couple of years. There is nothing necessarily wrong with that, except that I am still confused as to the finer points of what actually happens in the myth, traditionally-speaking. Some of the retellings, like Kit Brookman’s Small and Tired chose to set their action decades after the events, while others, like Elektra/Orestes earlier this year thrust us right into the thick of it.
Winner of the 2013 Patrick White Playwrights’ Award, Anna Barnes’ Minus One Sister is based off of Sophocles’ version of the story, and unfolds in a fractured whirlwind of naturalistic dialogue scenes and chorus scenes. The story of a family – three sisters, their younger brother, and their parents – as much as the unspeakable crimes the parents commit, and the siblings’ need for retribution, Minus One Sister is a furious and fast-paced play, but I wonder if its swirl of words actually detracts from telling its stories.


Melita Rowston’s 6 Degrees of Ned Kelly

Accompanied by grainy film footage, comedian Melita Rowston bursts onto the stage wearing the all-too-familiar metal helmet, waving two toy pistols. Her t-shirt reads ‘Such is life.’ Over the next sixty minutes, Rowston not only illustrates, but gently teases and, ultimately, illuminates the poignant and more-often-than-not bizarre world of Kelly-lore in this light-hearted look at the legend of Ned Kelly.


Peter Evans: bringing period back to Shakespeare

In October 2011, following two enormously strong productions for Bell Shakespeare – John Bell’s exuberant Much Ado About Nothing, and Michael Gow’s theatrically-encyclopaedic Faustus – Peter Evans’ production of Julius Caesar arrived in Sydney at the end of a four-month national tour. Intelligent, concise, and subtly condensed for a cast of ten, Evans’ Caesar was a rare example of a production which eloquently captured the contemporary mood (and political climate) in a raw, poetic and theatrical way. Robust, haunting, and profoundly gripping, it made me sit up and take notice of Evans’ work, and remains one of the cornerstone productions in my theatrical fascination with Shakespeare.
Peter Evans is Bell Shakespeare’s co-artistic director, and is about to take the reins of the company once John Bell concludes work on The Tempest. I sat down with Evans at the end of July for a discussion about playing the classics, his career as a director, the challenges facing a specialist company like Bell Shakespeare in Australia’s theatrical climate, his fascination with Meyerhold’s system of biomechanics, and what might lie ahead from 2016.