Cream of the crop

20 December 2017

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What were Seesaw writers’ favourite shows this year? What were the highlights and lowlights for the arts in WA? And which artists will our contributors be looking out for in 2018?

As 2017 draws to a close, Seesaw writers reflect on the year that was and the year that will be.


Xan Ashbury
Seesaw contributor

Top shows
Blink by Phil Porter. Starring Andrea Gibbs and Sean Walsh, the play was directed by Melissa Cantwell and staged as part of the Winter Arts Season in July.

Windmill Baby by David Milroy, directed by Eva Grace Mullaley, staged by the Aboriginal Performance students at WAAPA in November.

Hypatia by Open Lid Ensemble, at the Blue Room in September.

Courtney Turner and Kat Shaw in ‘Hypatia’, a top pick for Xan Ashbury. Photo: Marshall Stay.

Arts highlights
WAAPA branching out to the beautiful south. From 2018 it will run a Diploma of Acting course through ECU’s South West campus in Bunbury.

I am loving the new live music venue The Sewing Room in Wolf Lane.

Looking forward to…
Baba Yaga’s Dream Yurt
Fringe World, Jan 30-Feb 5
Close-up, individual and interactive story creation… in a very intimate venue. Presented by the incredibly talented WA creatives, Flame Collective.

Above the Mealy-Mouthed Sea
Fringe World, Jan 27-Feb 3
Unholy Mess is an award-winning London-based theatre company whose productions combine performance poetry, live singing and physical theatre.

Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour
Perth Festival, Feb 9-Mar 4
“No rehearsals. No preparation. Just a sealed envelope and a new actor reading a script for the first time every performance.”


Varnya Bromilow
Seesaw co-editor

Top show
Co3’s The Zone – just brilliant. I think this is the best work produced yet by our flagship contemporary dance company.

Arts highlight
This is a silly one – I loved the new arts minister’s end of year address in parliament – he sang it. It just made me feel like a like-minded soul was in charge of the WA arts portfolio 🙂 Check it out here

Arts lowlight
I was disappointed I missed the Proximity Festival! #sickkids

Looking forward to…
I am beyond excited about Robert LePage’s work touring for Perth Festival… The Far Side of the Moon. I still talk about the last Festival work I saw of his (Seven Streams of the River Ota) so my expectations are high!

I’m also really excited about James Berlyn’s upcoming work yourseven at PICA – because I’m a sucker for participatory one-on-one performance!


Belinda Hermawan
Seesaw contributor

Top shows
“Downstream Dreams” by Tom Blake, Moana. Works contemplating the psychological frameworks and technological networks that surround us.

“Energies” by David Haines and Joyce Hinterding, PICA. Highly engaging multi-sensory art delving into the science of radio waves, satellites, sun and natural/unnatural forces.

“Montages: The Full Cut 1999–2015” by Tracey Moffatt and collaborator Gary Hillberg, Wanneroo Gallery. A suite of eight short montage films which do much more than showcase highlights from cinematic history.

Parlour Games, Tooth+Nail Theatre Company by Blue Room Theatre (Fringe Festival 2017). Playful and disturbing physical theatre involving acrobatics, shadow-play and an inventive visual style in a story set in 1927 and 1945.

‘Montages: The Full Cut” was a top pick for Belinda Hermawan. Pictured: is a still from Tracey Moffatt and Garry Hillberg’s ‘Other’ 2010, 7 minutes, looped video, sound. Courtesy of artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery and Tyler Rollings Fine Art, New York, copyright: the artist.

Arts highlight
I would particularly like to highlight the Centre for Stories’ diverse program of book clubs, writers’ groups, cultural and social issue discussions, book launches, workshops and poetry events in 2017. The Centre has cemented itself as a great hub of literature in Northbridge, and renovations are underway to make the space even better for community members, writers and readers alike, for 2018.

Arts lowlights
With the Department of Culture and the Arts being subsumed into a diverse portfolio under MLA David Templeman, it remains to be seen what level of funding the State Government will commit to across disciplines. The Organisations Investment Program needs further review and revision before the next round of applications is opened to arts organisations in 2019. Funding cuts affect a whole range of disciplines and groups, big and small.

At Federal level, it certainly isn’t getting any easier for organisations to access Australia Council funding either. It is disappointing to have to continually lobby for recognition and funding, and even more so to be judged in purely economic terms when cultural value is often so hard to quantify in dollars but is otherwise known to be necessary for a society to thrive.

Looking forward to…
Seeing what Perth Writers Week 2018 will look like under the curation of The West Australian’s Will Yeoman, who has taken over the reins from Katherine Dorrington. The 2017 festival arguably didn’t showcase WA writers to the best of its ability.


Leon Levy
Seesaw contributor

Top shows
In a year when I was more away from Perth than at home, highlights are necessarily scarce. But WA Opera’s Merry Widow was definitely one for the excellence of every aspect of the production and the sheer pleasure that it gave; and at the other end of the spectrum was Ali Bodycoat as Marlene Dietrich at The Ellington during the Fringe Festival, while WASO’s “Wagner & Beyond” was an inspired presentation.

Away from home, the Art Gallery of NSW presented “Rembrandt and the Dutch golden age”, an extraordinarily powerful selection of masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum.

Taryn Fiebig & Alexander Lewis with artists of West Australian Opera in Graeme Murphy’s ‘The Merry Widow’, a top pick for Leon Levy. Photo: James Rogers.

Arts lowlight
The steady reduction in performance arts coverage – both previews and reviews – in the traditional print media.

Looking forward to…
WASO Strings and Chorus in Haydn, Mozart & Schubert masses at St Mary’s Cathedral.

Jordi Savall and Hesperian XXI in Perth Festival.

WA Opera presenting Janacek’s Cunning Little Vixen and WASO’s Tristan und Isolde under Asher Fisch.

“The Corsini Collection: Masterpieces from Florence” @ AGWA.


Nina Levy
Seesaw co-editor

Top shows
One Flat Thing, Reproduced by William Forsythe, presented by STRUT Dance – A brave and beautiful rendition of this seminal work.

Bali (The Last Great Hunt) – A follow-up to the popular Fag/Stag, Bali  tackles some tough topics in amongst its sizzling one-liners. I’m hoping writer/performers Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Chris Isaacs will make it a trilogy.

Proximity Festival – in its fifth iteration, this festival of one-on-one works was, as always, pure joy.

Momentum’s Phillippa Clarke and Julie Doyle rehearsing for “Unstoppable”. Photo: Damian Doyle.

Arts highlight
The creation of Momentum Dance, an ensemble of dancers over 45, who impressed with debut program “Unstoppable” in August this year. Traditionally dance is  thought to be a young person’s game, but Momentum Dance is rewriting the rules. Can’t wait to see what they do in 2018.

Arts lowlight
The forced and sudden closure of artist-run gallery Moana Project Space in November, after five years in its CBD home. WA’s independent galleries play a crucial role, both in providing opportunities for emerging and established local artists to exhibit work and in enlivening our city. I hope Moana is able to find a new home soon.

Looking forward to…
What comes next from independent artists Bernadette Lewis (whose work “The Honeymoon Suite” will premiere at Fringe World), Tyrone Robinson and Emma Fishwick. All three presented tantalising works-in-progress at STRUT Dance’s 2017 “Short Cuts” season.

“Bead Friends Forever”, a collaboration between visual artists Alina Tang and Johanna Acs, to be presented at Paper Mountain in January as part of Fringe World. I’m a fan of Tang’s playfully floral aesthetic, which can currently be found gracing bollards on Rokeby Road, Subiaco, and this show looks like it’s going to be a magical riot of colour, iron-on beads and general happiness.

Perth Festival – but I’m going to cheat and say you can read my top picks here. Hehe.


Phoebe Mulcahy
Seesaw contributor

Top shows
“Energies: Haines & Hinterding”, PICA.
 Intriguing collection of interactive, new-media and ‘electromagnetic’ art.
Looking Glass by Gregory Pryor, AGWA
. Stunning and immersive mixed-media landscape, bearing witness to the destructive force of bushfires in WA.

Arts highlight
It’s been encouraging to see greater recognition of the integral role that ARIs (artist run initiatives) play in the local industry, with partnerships between Paper Mountain and Artsource; as well as a growing sense of integration and collaboration between the various ARIs that make up this network in Perth.

Arts lowlight
The closure of Moana’s Hay Street site was disappointing, but I’m excited to see where they find themselves next over the coming year!

Looking forward to…
I’m really excited to see some of the visual art offerings from the coming Perth Festival, including Kimsooja’s “Zone of Nowhere” and Lisa Reihana’s “Emissaries“.

It’s also going to be great to see new exhibition spaces opening in Perth next year, including new sites for both Moana Project Space and Perth Centre for Photography; as well as The Lobby, a small gallery in Swanbourne that will provide a fantastic new forum for local exhibiting artists.


Claire Trolio
Seesaw contibutor

Top shows
Sista Girl, Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company – I cannot stop thinking about this powerful production since its season in August.

“Boorna Waanginy: The Trees Speak” – Perth International Arts Festival – Immersive art at its best.

Coma Land, Black Swan State Theatre Company and Performing Lines WA – Masterful writing and performances that had me laughing, then crying, then laughing again within minutes.

Morgan Owen and Humphrey Bower in ‘Coma Land’, a top pick for Claire Trolio. Photo: Philip Gostelow.

Arts highlight
I’m excited that The Sewing Room has just opened, as a new venue for live music in Perth. (Going to check it out this weekend!)

Looking forward to…
Local songstress Stella Donnelly has had a great year with the release of her EP Thrush Metal, with momentum gaining I can’t wait to see her kick goals in 2018!

Innua Ellams won my heart earlier this year with his show An Evening with an Immigrant as well as appearances at the Perth Writers Festival. I’m looking forward to seeing his new show Barber Shop Chronicles as part of Perth Festival next year.


Pictured top: Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Chris Isaacs in ‘Bali’. Photo: Daniel James Grant.

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