2017 in lists (Concerts & shows, theatre, books, movies, TV)

(Obviously, a work in progress…)

Concerts, Shows, Theatre & Words

  • Ladies in Black, Lyric Theatre, January: An Australian homegrown musical with music by Tim Finn of Crowded House, this show got great reviews when it was being developed a year go… though the reviews of this run, for the Sydney Festival, have been decidedly mediocre. There’s just not much originality and punch in the storyline, a young woman trying to find her way in the world. She sings about finding herself and overcoming fear, much like any musical heroine. When I’d first read about rules for writing songs in musicals, the number one rule was to show what was happening, but not say it. So each time I heard characters plainly sing ‘I’m happy’, ‘I’m sad’, ‘I’m sterile’… I cringed. The biggest attraction of the musical seemed to be its references to Australia, now and in the 50s, and the audience lapped it up. And it wasn’t terrible overall, it just could have been much better.
  • Nude: Live, AGNSW, January: Seven members of the Sydney Dance Company, solo and in groups, dancing, nude, in front of extraordinary art, and in an immersive “Sleep No More” fashion where spectators move in and out of rooms, and view the dance at different angles. Fabulous.
  • Jann Tiersen, Sydney Opera House, January: Amazing French musician and composer, best known for the Amelie soundtrack. I thought his music intricate and beautiful. Just as amusing was his complete lack of engagement or interest in the audience, which gave him rapturous appreciation. He’s all about the music!
  • Tomboy Survival Guide, Spiegeltent, Sydney Festival, January: Wow. Ivan Coyote and friends, and a wonderful show of spoken word performance backed up by a cool band (and some music and singing too). Witty, poetic, funny and most of all honest. The universal feeling of not fitting in matched with an introduction to a very different world. Loved it. Amazing.
  • Cabaret, Hayes Theatre, February: It seems to be getting mixed reviews, but I liked it. Incredible performers. Perhaps a little frantic (and Paul Capsis’s interpretation of the emcee is more than terrifying), but an apt production for these present times.
  • A night with David Helfgott, Sir Stamford Hotel, March. Review here. 
  • James Vincent McMorrow, Sydney Opera House, March. I love this guy. Love the voice. Love the music.
  • Andrew Bird, Sydney Opera House, April. Has it really been so long since I first started listening to Andrew Bird (Noble Beast, 2009)? Yup. This concert tour sees him playing with a band of three others. At times, with his flexible, lazy voice, and all the fiddling, it could be bluegrass Americana, but then the violin takes on almost classical tones, and the insistent plucking of violin strings that he uses as his most common percussive background, plus his virtuoso whistling, all takes this music into completely original territory. Plus his playful and complex lyrics, and a few self-deprecating anecdotes, had me as transported as the first time I saw him. Last time we saw, my pal M called him a ‘mad genius’ (it was a solo show, with much more looping). He still seems like a mad genius, really. I think the extra band members lifts the energy, though makes the show feel slightly less personal.

Exhibitions

  • Nude: Art from the Tate collection, AGNSW: Such an amazing variety of images and sculpture, and what a story is told, from the heroes and gods to women bathing and then artists painting themselves or pushing boundaries. A compact and very interesting exhibition and the way they’ve lit and placed Rodin’s The Kiss was awesome.

Books

  • The Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant (short fiction):  I started this last year, and took a long break, and finally finished it in January while travelling. Still trying to get my head around it. 
  • Peter Ho Davies’ The Fortunes (fiction)
  • Berndt Sellheim’s Awake at the Wheel (poetry)
  • Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You (fiction)
  • Viet Than Nguyen’s The Sympathizer (fiction)
  • Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air (autobiography)
  • Richard Siken’s Crush (poetry)

Movies

  • Bridget Jones’s Baby: OK. I’m a fan of Bridget Jones. I didn’t see the last one which sounded terrible, but really, this was just fine for airplane viewing.
  • La La Land: I liked it. It was fun and engaging, and romantic. The two leads are charismatic. I liked that the tone of the fantasy ending was bittersweet. I’d rather have films winning awards that have a stronger message than nostalgia and entertainment but…
  • Moonlight: Review here. Amazing.
  • The Great Wall: Surprisingly, not terrible. Review here.
  • Miss Sloane: Review here.
  • Arrival: I thought this was a really interesting and beautiful film; great ideas; and putting a women linguist as the hero: loved it.
  • Captain Fantastic: An odd film with some terrific performances. Not sure whether I really liked the story or not!
  • Sing!: Man, this god mediocre or bad reviews, but singing, animated animals. I can’t help myself. I liked it.

Television

  • Transparent, Seasons 1, 2 and 3: How did TV become better than movies? Truthful, funny and frantic.
  • The Crown: Amazing TV.
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 9
  • Survivor, Season 34

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