Despite all my intentions to retire early, the dance season procrastinated, and it's only today that I am closing my year. It was an eventful one, and I am vaguely looking forward to a month of being a gentleman farmer: cooking, reading, watching films, and undertaking urban expeditions. Or something like that.
2008 was mostly a miserable year here, so beyond bearable that I refused to announce it, preferring to live in a never-ending 2007, until the clouds started dispersing – by which time the 2009 diaries were already on sale. This is one of the reasons why my theatre year is not entirely representative of Melbourne, Australia. Combined with a three-month return to Europe, I only got back to regularly attending local theatre events properly in September. Inevitably, I missed many unusually good-sounding productions, among which, in no particular order: Back to Back's Food Court, Schlusser's Life is a Dream, BalletLab's Axeman Lullaby, MTC(!)'s Blackbird and Simon Stone's direction of pool (no water) for Red Stitch. In Sydney, there were: Stoning Mary at Griffin Stablemates, Wharf2LOUD's Frankenstein, Hayloft Project's remount of their 2007 Melbourne show Spring Awakening at Belvoir Downstairs, The Rabble's Salome in Cogito Volume III and The Fondue Set's No Success Like Failure (which also had a short run in Melbourne).
Another reason is that the highlights of my year were uniformly European theatre products, and many of them on film. Purists will say aaaah!, but I have discovered that dance on film is the most beautiful thing in the world. Among my discoveries were the gorgeous films of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker. I urge you to have a look at Rosas danst Rosas and Achterland, at least. The shows I loved were covered, laconically, for Real Time, and included: in Zagreb, The Wooster Group's Poor Theatre, Nature Theater of Oklahoma's NO DICE, and some mind-blowing student work. In Vienna, Mathilde Monnier and La Ribot's gustavia, Dalija Aćin's Handle with great care, and Hans Van den Broeck's Settlement. In London, Anthony Neilson's Relocated. In Venice, Random Dance/Wayne McGregor's Entity. While some of this was mainstage glitz, the amount of experimentation, passion, and sheer intelligence I found back home was a good reminder that, most of the time, unchallenged we just don't try hard enough.
Nonetheless, there was some exquisite local theatre, mostly clustered in the last few weeks (despite my dire need for rest). My personal, local Best Of would include: UHT's Attempts on Her Life; OpticNerve's YES; Elbow Room's There; Liminal's Oedipus – A Poetic Requiem; Black Lung's diptych of Avast I & II, and Phillip Adams's two shorts for VCA's Transmutations season. In Sydney, I saw the extraordinary Triptych, by De Quincey Co, and Hans Van den Broeck's Nomads, both at Performance Space. I also remember reacting very strongly to STC's The Season at Sarsaparilla and Hayloft's Chekhov Re-Cut: Platonov, but I wouldn't vouch for those reactions anymore. Things were unusual, back then. It was a strange year for MIAF too, in which the best productions were a poetry recital, a film and a piece of formally near-hermetic dance.
Of the things to look forward to in the next year, there will be a full season of Hayloft, the Malthouse program looks unusually strong, I may finally catch a Schlusser production, and I'll be keeping an eye on Black Lung and Phillip Adams, solo or with BalletLab.
Altogether, I have seen staggering 145 shows, a huge leap from 65 last year. Even discounting the occasional gallery visit from this number, I have spent almost half (three-sevenths, more precisely) of my nights this year in theatre. I have written on 31 of them, although some of my notes are still around, scattered in notebooks, diaries, on the margins of program notes, and should be revisited and pulled together.
The unintended benefit of all the above-mentioned misery is that I have become something rather unusual: a person that doesn't worry anymore. I've started working full-time in research, at Melbourne University, won a scholarship to fund the rest of my interrupted studies, next year, and have been writing at a pace unseen since I was a glorious multi-tasking teenager. I have discovered to possess, among other strange loves, a passion for dance in all forms, visual dramaturgy, and deconstructive theatre. I have remembered wanderlust. I have given myself time until the end of 2008 to decide about the rest of my life, and I'm now extending that period. It's a transitional time. Now that the dust has settled, all is peaceful and quiet for the first time… ever. I can't remember the last year I had where I didn't have any worrying to look forward to. Not the past five, at least, and I don't remember those immediately preceding as rosy either. It's good. Needed.