Thursday, 27 November 2014

The "Well I liked it" awards

2014 was an interesting year in Canberra Theatre - I do seem to have reviewed less this year than I have in previous years, and ... I won't say it's always because there was less that I was interested in, but certainly there was an element of "resting on your laurels" in a few cases. Not in every case, some stuff stuck out well during the year, and this is meant to be a positive post about things that were good during the year, but ... it wasn't always the case that I left the theatre in a better mood than I walked into it this year.

Having started off on a moody note, let's go on to note what was good, in vaguely chronological order:

- Karen Vickery's dual performances bracketed the year gloriously, both as a strong loving mother in "Steel Magnolias" and in a monstrous terror of a mother in "August:Osage County".

- Supa Productions scored a strong one-two with two off-the-beaten-track choices for their musical season in "Witches of Eastwick" and "La Cage Aux Folles". Neither were entirely perfect productions, but each were fun, and, at the very least, both brought welcome performances from Michelle Klemke and Jarrad West that were among the highlights of the year.

- "Government Inspector" at Belvoir was flatout continuous hilarious fun, satirising pretence and presumption wonderfully in a fast, smooth romp.

- "White Rabbit/Red Rabbit" stuck with me and is going to fall in the "I liked it" category, at the same time as acknowledging many people would have hated it. I'm still not sure whether a show that manipulates it's participants quite as much as this one does should be considered a success... but it's stuck with me, for better or worse (it also gave us a chance to see Eliza Bell back on Canberra stages, and her human warmth kept the ropey parts of the evening together).

- Jenna Roberts showed up to handily grab another "Well I Liked It" with her performance as Paulette in "Legally Blonde", making her unique as a triple-time-winner.

- "The Burning" at the Q stuck out for giving two prominent roles to performers that helped redefine them in my mind - Amy Dunham went from her regular casting as wacky sidekick to a rounded, adult, warmhearted woman who left the stage way too soon, while Will Huang went from his regular casting as charmingly genial musical performer to something utterly creepy and evil.

- Benjamin Hardy's performance in "Equus" stuck out as something intriguing - as act two lead into his increasingly harrowing exorcism of his self-created demons, he kept us engaged, enthralled and astounded.

- Also from "August: Osage County" I have to mention Andrea Close, who plumbed rich veins in anger, rage, wrath and, eventually, a strange kind of familial love.

- EDITED TO ADD - one performance that has been ruminating in my brain since I wrote this is Angel Dolejsi's performance in Cabaret. In particular, his raw-as-guts and emotional-as-hell "I don't care much" comes back to me as one of the year's strongest musical performances, in a production that was otherwise quite uneven

A good bunch of WILI winners, I salute them all.

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