Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Theatre: The 2012/3 Turnstile Awards

The Pav responds to Fiona Bruce's set for Boy Gets Girl
We're delighted to confirm the rumour that this year’s glittering Turnstile Awards Ceremony will be held in a hastily erected tent on the MCG immediately after the AFL Grand Final. The master of ceremonies will be Matthew Pavlich, who, hopefully, will be cup in hand.

Turnstiles are awarded to outstanding locally produced stage shows between September and August each year. There’s no set number of winners, and no attempt to rank the shows in order of merit.
In the past year, I reviewed 52 eligible productions for either or both The West Australian and this blog. It’s not an exhaustive list, and I apologise for the absences. Once again, I didn't consider cabaret, comedy or improv theatre, although there were some terrific productions in those categories.
It’s interesting how similarly each year’s rankings have panned out, even though I’ve made no effort to reach that outcome. Two years ago, ten shows collected a Turnstile; last year it was eight, and this year it’s nine. The good news is that this year the shows I thought well worth seeing (30) very substantially outnumbered those I’d have strongly encouraged you to avoid (11). There was only one production I gave my lowest rating to, and I know many people would be horrified at my low opinion of it! 

So, here, in chronological order, are the productions I thought earned a Turnstile:
    •     Perth Theatre Company’s brilliantly conceived and executed, high gloss On the Misconception of Oedipus, directed by Matthew Lutton with Natasha Herbert, Daniel Schlusser and Richard Pyros as modern manifestations of the infamous Sophoclean triangle.
    •    The tense, menacing Boy Gets Girl, Rebecca Gilman’s stalker thriller directed by Adam Mitchell for Black Swan, with great performances by Alison van Reeken and the genuinely creepy Myles Pollard, and a superb and, at one point, shocking set design by Fiona Bruce. 
    •    One of the performances of the year by Margi Brown Ash in Eve at the Blue Room, the sad story of the largely forgotten writer Eve Langley, written by Ash, Daniel Evans and Leah Mercer, who also directed.
    •    Mainly because it was so good, partly because Black Swan took a punt on it for the Perth Fringe, Stephen Adly Guirgis’s joyfully erudite New York drama The Motherfucker With the Hat, directed by Adam Mitchell (again) with a mighty performance by Rhoda Lopez and a scene-stealing one by Fayssal Bazzi.  
    •    Barking Gecko’s adventures continued with the delicate, good humoured Duck, Death and the Tulip, a story for kids about death, directed by John Sheedy with exemplary performances by George Shevtsov and the irresistible Ella Hetherington.
    •    At the Perth Fringe, the Duck House production of Jeffrey Jay Fowler's funny, fierce and sad Minnie and Mona, firmly controlled by director Kathryn Osborne and fearlessly performed by Arielle Gray and Gita Bezard.
    •    John Sheedy and Barking Gecko again, this time in partnership with WAAPA to deliver a fresh, energised Hamlet, with a passionate, sexy performance by James Sweeny in The Part, and a brilliant sound design by James Luscombe.
    •    Black Swan’s production of Other Desert Cities made John Robin Baitz’s sparkling story of familial and political disintegration in High Republican Palm Springs even better. Immaculately directed by Kate Cherry and designed by Christina Smith, with stellar performances by Janet Andrewartha and Conrad Coleby.
    •    Marthe Snorresdotter Rovic brought authenticity and magnetism to Hedda, her seamless, electric adaptation of the Ibsen classic, directed by co-adaptor Renato Fabretti with a cast including her fellow Norwegian Tone Skaardal and the charismatic, intelligent Phil Miolin (who had a very good year).
    •    And, finally, John Milson, who died early this year. Here, mate, have a Turnstile to go on with.  

The Blue Room showed they are at the heart and soul of theatre in Perth, with three Turnstiles and an avalanche of honourable mentions – for The Polite Gentleman, The Warrior and the Princess, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Improved, Never Mind the Monsters, Robots v Art, Great White, Yirra Yaarnz and The Little Mermaid – going to shows mounted under their auspices. Quite a list, from a diverse group of producers including our fine indigenous company Yirra Yaakin. Very prominent among them, as writer, director and actor was Will O’Mahoney, who does everything well, and looks likely to do them even better.
As well as hosting one of the Blue Room Turnstiles, PICA gets an honourable mention of their own for another Duck House production, One Night Echo.
Three Turnstiles also for Black Swan, and an honourable mention for Day One, a Hotel, Evening, a so-so play much improved by an impressive production and a wonderful set.
Perth Theatre Company didn’t make every post a winner this year, as they did the last, but they earn an honourable mention for A Number on top of their Turnstile.
One Turnstile (shared with Barking Gecko, who also won one of their own) for WAAPA, but the students also deserved honourable mentions for Thoroughly Modern Millie, Love and Money and Easy Virtue. WAAPA has become more and more important, not just because of the internationally recognised training they provide, but for the quality of the productions they present for Perth audiences.
A couple of locally produced shows at the awesome Awesome kid’s festival, Spare Parts’ Hachiko and Wolfe Bowart’s Letter’s End deserve honourable mentions, as do two shows making encore appearances at this year’s Fringe (which hosted two Turnstile winners), Rachel Dease’s City of Shadows and Turnstile winner (for Minnie and Mona) Jeffrey Jay Fowler’s A History of Drinking. Both, I have no doubt, would have made Turnstile in their debut seasons).
Another Fringe show, The Cutting Room Floor’s Poly, and the HIVE collective’s Playhouse Creatures round off the long list of locally-produced shows it was a great pleasure to see.

Congratulations, and thanks, to the nine Turnstile awardees, and the 21 that cracked an honourable mention – let’s see which of them are nominees and winners at this year’s Perth Equity Guild Awards.

A special thanks to everyone who visited my little blog over the last year – From the Turnstiles more than doubled its readership this year, and I’m grateful to everyone who called by, to Steve Bevis and The West Australian for sending me to most of these wonderful shows, all the companies and producers who’ve saved me a couple of seats, and my trusty handbags for digging me in the ribs when I nod off.

Please let me know what you think – especially if you disagree with either my inclusions or omissions!

You can go to complete, or at least extended, reviews of each of the Turnstile winners with a little trawling through this blog. Many posts will then link to the original reviews in The West Australian.

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