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Theatre Thoughts’ Best of 2022 (Justin’s Thoughts)

As the end of the year starts to come to a close, we’re releasing some of our teams’ thoughts on their favourite productions from 2022! We’re starting with content co-ordinator and editor, Justin’s thoughts on what he loved this year.


What a year 2022 has been! We’ve seen the arts industry well and truly come back after the impacts of 2020 and 2021, despite some setbacks in scheduling and that darned virus lingering around, Australian theatre has managed to produce some of the most spectacular content seen in recent years. Bravo to all!


As for me? I’ve let my palette explore what the theatre world has to offer. I saw not just one, but two operas this year, as was my goal from 2021. Turandot and Carmen presented by Opera Australia were my first forays into the world of Opera and thus I was opened to the spectacle as well as the scandal that some productions and texts hold. I also managed to go to the Melbourne Comedy Festival for the first time ever and, my god, this must become a regular trip! Between our team we saw over 20 productions across the great city of Melbourne. One or two may have crept their way into my top five…


Speaking of my Top Five Productions of 2022: This is a much more eclectic mix this year and holds with it some big names, smaller productions that held great impact, comedic performances and some that cut some deep emotions behind the laughs. I’ve also added some special mentions because I just couldn’t keep them out.


Enjoy reading and let us know if you agree or disagree with any of these choices, let us know your top five from this year!

 

Greece Lightning

Melbourne Comedy Festival Written and Performed by Damien Warren-Smith


After hearing this production being lauded by friends and talking with Damien Warren-Smith on The Theatre Thoughts Podcast, I knew that Greece Lightning had to be a must see this year. Warren-Smith brings to life the character of Garry Starr, a clown who believes he really can just do anything, including showing you the entire history of Greek Mythology in under an hour.


The result is so hilarious, so pants wetting, so absurd, that by the end of it you are gasping for breath as you book to see it again. I would honestly take anyone and everyone to see Garry Starr perform, even if to just watch their reactions to the absurdity that unfolds before their eyes.


Read my Melbourne Comedy Festival review here.


Fangirls

Sydney Opera House Book, music, and lyrics by Yve Blake. Directed by Paige Rattray



Yve Blake’s Fangirls made explosive waves since its debut at Belvoir St Theatre and has since garnered national applause for its relevant script, heart thumping score, and emotional resonance. 2022 saw Fangirls level up with its premiere at the Sydney Opera House.


Having already seen Fangirls in Wollongong in 2021, starring Karis Oka in the lead role, I knew what to expect from the Sydney production. What I didn’t expect was to see how amplified the production was! From energy, talent (Manali Datar stepped into the lead role this time round), sound and choreography, the entire production stepped up to play on the Opera House stage.


Read my Sydney Opera House review here.


Never Closer

Belvoir’s 25A Theatre Directed by Hannah Goodwin. Written by Grace Chapple.



Belvoir’s 25A Theatre program was perhaps my favourite source for theatrical highlights this year. Never Closer was one of those juicy shows that I love: full of tension, conflict fuelled by alcohol, surrounded by a significant part of history, and involving deeply well-written characters.


Grace Chapple’s text was full of heart and was clearly written from a place of passion. Coupled with direction by Hannah Goodwin, the story itself was captivating over the 80-minute runtime. If this makes a return to the stage in 2023, you can best be sure my tickets will be booked.


Read my full review here.


Average Bear

Factory Theatre, Marrickville Written and Performed by Michelle Brasier



As a performer, Michelle Brasier was first introduced to me through her hilarious guest roles with the Aunty Donna boys. But 2022 proved to me that Brasier is destined (and deserves to be) a superstar export of the Australian theatre scene. After seeing her Melbourne Comedy Festival show Reform and sitting, mouth opened, taking in her tale of online deceit, semi-psychology, and the dangers of Facebook Marketplace, I knew Average Bear was a must-see.


Part drama, part comedy, part autobiographical therapy session, Average Bear was loaded with metaphor, tuneful songs, and tales of naughty sheds at the back of schools. Not only this, but it was also extremely heartfelt, and made you want to hug your loved ones just that bit tighter the next time you saw them. Also, her voice, I mean…do yourself a favour and put her next show on your 2023 to do list.


Read my review of Reform here. You can find more shows of Michelle’s in 2023 here.


The Picture of Dorian Gray

Sydney Theatre Company By Oscar Wilde. Adapted and directed by Kip Williams.



It may come as no surprise to see this topping the list of 2022 productions if you are one of the privileged many to have witnessed it. Kip Williams’ directs Eryn Jean Norvill in this one-performer take on Oscar Wilde’s classic. Utilising STC’s funds and technology in a way a young child could only dream of, Williams created something extraordinary in this continuously returning production.


In the 21st century, technology plays such an integrated part of our lives, and Williams took this and imbedded it into the theatrical experience. Harnessing the power of live video, live editing and pre-recorded footage, Norvill takes on each character in Wilde’s text, essentially performing to herself, by herself and with herself all at the same time. The result is something I can, hand on heart, say I have never seen before, and something that truly must be seen to be understood.


You can book tickets for the return Sydney season in 2023 here.


Special Mentions


Labyrinth

Flight Path Theatre, Marrickville Direct by Margaret Thanos. Written by Beth Steel.


Back in August, every person I came across in a foyer would have heard me rave about the recent production I’d seen at the Flight Path Theatre. Labyrinth was one of those shows where you entered with the intrigue of the plot description only and was immediately presented with a slick, stylish and professionally directed and put together production.


Margaret Thanos built this production like a well-oiled machine, in that each element was moving fluidly, purposefully, and succinctly with each other in the intimate space of the theatre itself. This special mention needed to be highlighted to serve as a message that independent theatre has the power to be just as entertaining as those on the mainstage.


Read my full review here.


The Italians

Belvoir’s 25A Theatre Directed by Riley Spadaro. Written by Danny Ball.


Ah, The Italians, as soon as that name came through my inbox, I knew that I had to see it. After having the privilege to talk to Emma O’Sullivan and Philip D’Ambrosio on The Theatre Thoughts Podcast, I knew I had to see it even more.


Danny Ball’s writing highlighted the best of the Italian archetypes and stereotypes, for better and for worse. With Riley Spadaro’s direction, the pair produced a show that wasn’t afraid to laugh at itself, with itself, and produce catharsis for each audience member. Leaning into the absurd, The Italians is a production that deserves a restaging in 2023. Make it happen producers!


Read my full review here.



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