Welcome to Theatre 2014. Before telling you about what I have seen this year let me go through the shows I saw after my final column last year. Most important was the Sydney Theatre Company (STC) production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. This is possibly the most famous play of all and certainly creates debate whenever it is produced. Many dismiss or praise it as a play about nothing: I find it presents a discussion of the state of the world at any point. I found that this production definitely reflected the current state of Australia in the land of the Abbott Government. It was the best of the many productions I have seen. Hugo Weaving, Richard Roxburgh, Luke Mullins and Philip Quast were all as brilliant as expected and the show was a highlight of the year — or any year.
At the other end of the scale was a production from the experimental arm of the STC, a surprise knockout. Machinal is one of the few plays from the early 20th century written by a woman, Sophie Treadwell. While it was written almost a century ago it was directed by Imara Savage with a 21st century sensibility. All the performances in this surreal production were excellent and the central character, played by Harriet Dyer, was superlative.
No less important was the final show from Belvoir which continued its commitment to Indigenous theatre with this production of Coranderrk by Andrea James and Giordano Nanni and presented with the Ilbijerri Theatre Company, directed by Isaac Drandic. This is a really wonderful story from the town of Coranderrk in Victoria. While I found the production wanting, having Jack Charles as the narrator lifts the show considerably. The story is so interesting, positive and important that it shores up the Belvoir’s policy of regularly presenting Indigenous theatre. Nobody else is doing it as consistently as the Belvoir.
On the Fringe I caught an excellent production at The King Street Theatre in Newtown. The Maintenance Room was a two-hander starring Kim Knuckey and Lynden Jones. I don’t get the chance to see much theatre out of the mainstream and was glad to see this little thriller with a great set designed by director Allan Walpole.
And so to 2014, which has started really well. It is festival season and while I was unable to see any of the marquee Sydney Festival shows (the shows have very short runs and you have to be in Sydney for them, which I cannot afford) I did get to an excellent piece at the Belvoir, to Empire at the Entertainment Quarter and to the Short and Sweet Cabaret.