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Monday 19 December 2011

SOYP's 5 Biggest Theatre Fails of 2011

It only seems right on the announcement of the Sydney Theatre Awards of 2011 that I announce what I believe to be the shows we wish we’d avoided during the year. Some of these will come as no surprise if you have been avidly reading my reviews for the last 6 months. Also, there were some shows I thought might be dogs from the start so avoided them (read here shows like No Man’s Land and The White Guard). So here’s the list as I call it:

1.     The Seagull- Belvoir St Theatre. Yes, pretty obvious really. I did see the second preview show so maybe it grew legs but chances are, most legs left at interval and had a very stiff drink to mourn the work of Chekhov, who seemed to have absented himself from Andrews’ interpretation. For more details, read the full review in the backlog. Needless to say, three hours of relentless theatre wank left me with intellectual RSI. On a positive note, it was this show that finally compelled me to start this blog, along with number two…

2.     Baal- STC. This dickfest, in every sense of the word, may have impressed with a wonderful set design and who knew you could recycle stage water? What you can’t do is take a second rate play, get your gear off, play bad heavy metal with banal poetry, swig a bottleneck or two, throw in a bit of badly simulated sex, a few death scenes and expect it to impress anyone. Actors and audience looked uncomfortable and not because there was a stage full of willy but because there was no point to it at all. What sounded good in concept for Simon Stone did not translate to the stage. Boring and pointless.

3.     Zebra- STC. Decent enough concept in Mueller’s play. Impressive naturalistic set by David McKay. Direction by Lee Lewis- questionable- I’m not convinced she gave the text layers in her direction. But what made this play a firm entry into this list was Bryan Brown. There’s a reason Brown hasn’t done a lot of theatre in his long career and I think it’s fair to say that he demonstrated that clearly in this show. Wooden. Did I believe his character at all? No. Did I disengage then from the crux of events that lead me to the climax of the play? You betcha. It was like being promised gourmet fare at an expensive soiree and being served vegemite on a spoon. Brown is so busy playing Australian he forgot to act. Sad for the rest of the cast and for the audience.

4.     Jack Charles v The Crown- Belvoir. I know we are meant to blindly appreciate the staging of Indigenous monologues and there is a long tradition of storytelling within the culture but this was one of those attempts that never hit the mark. There has to be a point when getting a non-acting Indigenous storyteller who unpacks his hard life story on stage, badly, in aimless spatial meanderings, is not an automatic entry to the stage. It was like listening to your grandfather after a few beers retell a story he vaguely remembers from 40 years ago whilst he spins a pot, spins a yarn and then breaks into a bit of karaoke. Enough already. Develop Indigenous writers and expect more from an incredible culture who have so much to give and stop dumbing down offerings and expectations.

5.     Now this one is hard - whilst the four above were pretty easy, the 5th place offering did have some good elements to it. But just by a nose hair, I’m giving 5th place to Loot- STC. I thought the play was dated, the pace and timing made its audience feel like they were watching a bad sitcom more than a farce. Whilst the second half picked up and the boys of the play tried to make this one work, Caroline Craig’s lack of commitment and general lacklustre mincing let this play down. There were more sighs in the audience than laughs. A disappointing outing of Orton’s work.

So there it is- 2011 unwrapped. I’m forcing myself to go to most shows in 2012, even when I sniff disaster so maybe I’ll see you there. Next year I’ll also be on twitter so I can give you updates during the show- I’ll be sure to let you know how to join if you need instant reviews or want to send me vitriol, after all, I am an equal opportunist.

And here’s hoping Belvoir and STC offer more work we can love in 2012.


  1. Jane Jane Jane.

    Never stop what you're doing.

    You rock.

  2. It is interesting, I didn't see Belvior's Seagull, but my students who went to State Drama Camp did and all four of them raved and raved about it, best piece of theatre they had ever seen, life changing and all that (in our defence we do live in a little rural town where the only theatre they see is what we make). I mentioned that the reviews I was hearing were very different, but I was wrong apparently, I didn't see it, I wouldn't know etc etc

    Then I took them to see Version 1.0's Table of Knowledge and we haven't heard about Seagull since :D


  3. I thought the Seagull was brilliant.

    Otherwise, I agree with every other of your choice, although the 5th place spot might have just as easily been given to No Man's Land, Blood Wedding, The White Guard, The Threepenny Opera or even Bloodland for my money. The long and short of it - a completely shit of a season from the STC, with a very small handful of exceptions. Fingers crossed for 2012.

  4. ^ I definitely should have proofread that.



  6. Is it a bit contradictory to instruct in your most recent post that audience members turn off their phones, as well as inform us that you will be tweeting during shows?

    Surely tweeting during a show would break any chance of it having an impact upon you..

  7. Darl- have you heard of an interval? Perfect chance to tweet. I promise all communication devices will be off during the show so just breathe and relax.

  8. An interval? What's that? It must be some sort of Australian thing..

    Sure, I didn't think of that... I was just curious.

  9. I agree with pretty much all of this. I avoided Jack Charles and Loot strategically but unfortunately saw The White Guard AND No Man's Land. I have not renewed my STC subscription for 2012 as I got so little out of it.