The main takeaway is that there is good work being done year round in Perth. Not only in major hubs such as the theatres in the Perth Cultural Centre and at WAAPA but in the suburbs with vibrant community and independent theatre.
Fringe World offers a smorgasbord or productions every year though it will be interesting to see if its growth spurt can be sustained. There are sizeable rumblings of discontent from local artists about being cut out of a fair share of the pie. Time will tell if that situation will be remedied so that the people bringing in the punters, quite rightly, get a more equitable share of the profits for their creative labour.
Here now, my Top Ten plays that I saw during the year...
1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - The National Theatre of Great Britain
Nothing short of dazzling in its execution, this was world class theatre staged in the beautiful His Majesty's Theatre.
"The stagecraft on display is world class in all facets - set design, lighting design, sound design, movement and acting all working seamlessly. The play is moving, funny, thought provoking in an excellent script by Simon Stephens... a revelation. When a play is firing on all cylinders like this it is an utter joy to witness."
2. A Streetcar Named Desire - WAAPA
The Academy went all in on classics this year, mounting productions from revered playwrights such as Arthur Miller, Oscar Wilde, Anton Chekhov, as well as The Bard. None was more vividly brought to life, however, than this Tennessee Williams classic.
3. Stuff Happens - WAAPA
One of the advantages WAAPA has is that it can cast 18 actors in its productions, something that is prohibitive cost-wise in professional theatre and strains available talent in community or independent theatre. The full effect of being able to deploy the full cohort was never more evident than in this damning indictment of the lead up to the Iraq War.
4. Fever - WAAPA
The Aboriginal Performance students continue to mount excellent end of year productions. An achievement made all the more laudable by the fact that it is only a one year course. Fever follows in the footsteps of Rodeo Moon and last year's Windmill Baby as vibrant showcases of the outcome of that intensive yearlong training.
5. End of the Rainbow - Koorliny Arts Centre
One of the premiere community theatre clubs in the state, Koorliny is perhaps best known for its musicals. That DNA does pulse through this tragic recounting of the last days of the legendary Judy Garland's life with many of her most famous songs featured. But it's the acting of all three leads that made this so compelling.
6. Arabian Nights - WAAPA
The 2nd year musical theatre students are always plunged into a non-musical production for their first public performance. WAAPA takes the third aspect of 'triple threat' seriously as acting chops are tested early. Simply put, this is the best introduction to a MT cohort I've seen in the last 5 years. There was a sense of playfulness that was infectious.
7. 4x4x4: One Punch Wonder - The Actors' Hub
A passionate condemnation of toxic masculinity using comments and testimony from actual one punch cases combined with a boisterous physicality set in a boxing ring. Impressively, this was performed by young men speaking directly to their generation. Powerful.
8. The Seagull - WAAPA
Another introduction, this time to the 2nd year acting cohort tackling a classic in the early going of the year. Staged in the black box space of the Enright Studio I found this suitably entertaining and a promising beginning for this group.
9. The Three Deaths of Ebony Black - Amberly Cull
A two-hander with puppets and live musical accompaniment that was touching, funny, and quirky. A gem of this year's Fringe World.
10. Lysistrata - tempest
Speaking of classics, this comic tale of feminine empowerment in a time of war written over two millennia ago was updated to incorporate the #metoo movement to pointed satirical effect.
The now graduated WAAPA student took on one of the iconic roles in theatre, that of Blanche DuBois, and simply blew the walls off the Roundhouse Theatre. The audience I saw the play with were mesmerised and happily discussing Rouse's performance afterwards. I was quite amped by what I had seen. The skill involved was outstanding, from the authentic southern accent to the slow unravelling into nervous breakdown. A magical performance in a terrific production.
So convincing as George W. Bush in Stuff Happens that I was infuriated by the "aw shucks" charm that led to the disaster that was the Iraq War.
Pitman had an excellent year with notable highlights being her light touch as Cecily Cardew in The Importance of Being Earnest; a very funny take on Romeo & Juliet that saw her adjudged co-winner of the annual Shakespeare Awards; and a fiery turn as Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Excelled as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire bringing a physicality and brutishness that belies his age. One to watch as he moves from student into the professional realm. Immensely talented yet down to earth and humble.