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Features/Multi-arts

Cream of the crop 2020

9 December 2020

It feels more important than ever to celebrate the arts in 2020. And so, in spite of the challenges faced by the arts community this year, we are thrilled to bring you Seesaw’s annual ‘Cream of the Crop’ round-up, in which we ask our writers to reflect on the year that was and the year to come.

Rosalind Appleby

Looking back on 2020
Favourite online offering:
West Australian Opera’s The Telephone

Chelsea Burns as Lucy in WA Opera’s ‘The Telephone‘, Rosalind Appleby’s favourite online offering.

Favourite live offering:
Perth Festival Ancient Voices: The Gesualdo Six with William Barton, The Giovanni Consort and Voyces

Reflections
There’s still a sense this year is a dream I will wake up from, any moment now. But I know it’s real when I see the sense of relief on people’s faces as we stagger across the final days of the year – we made it! The silver lining in all this is the way I’ve seen the arts community pull together, particularly the way the major performing companies are taking responsibility for employing local artists and keeping the local arts ecosystem alive. Perhaps we will come through this stronger…

Top picks looking forward
Fringe World 2021 program:
“Abs Butts Vivaldi”. Banging tunes from 18th Century Italy, performed live by WA’s own Baroque Orchestra for your very own interactive pump class.

Perth Festival 2021 program:
“Dreams of Place”, West Australian Symphony Orchestra, WA Youth Orchestra and Noongar singers.

WA companies/artists’ 2021 programs:
WA Opera’s world-first Noongar opera Koorlbardi wer Wardong by Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse.


Leon Levy

Looking back
Favourite online offering:
WASO Ensemble Edition
Amongst the many excellent – and gratefully received – online offerings made available during the pandemic, this imaginative West Australian Symphony Orchestra series, displaying permutations from within the orchestra, was surely one of the best from anywhere.

Favourite live offering:
Over many years of festival-going, those that have included linked-performances based on a theme – be it genre, artist or location – have often made the strongest impression. In 2020 it was the Chamber Music Weekend, mainly located on the UWA campus. Surround-seating was an intelligent solution to the challenge of turning Winthrop Hall into an attractive and effective venue. And the slow movements of every Beethoven piano sonata performed in the Tropical Grove over two days was an inspired innovation.
 
Top picks looking forward
Fringe World 2021 program:
Music from outside my mainstream or quirky distortions from within that straightjacket, are the focus, so Kohesia Quartet, Leighton’s Lamentations by WA artist collective Curate, Australian Baroque’s Cakes & Corelli and musical theatre group Quintet have caught my eye during an as-yet-incomplete scan of the program.

Perth Festival 2021 program:
As a sucker for great musicians in unconventional venues, the One & Many chamber series under the Blue Whale skeleton at WA Museum is self-recommending.

WA companies/artists’ 2021 programs:
This is work-in-progress, but the second half of WASO’s season has some rich pickings.


Young local dancers in Stephanie Lake’s Colossus. Photo: Jess Wyld

Nina Levy

smiling Nina!

Looking back
Favourite online offering:
The Last Great Hunt’s Bite the Hand, by Chris Isaacs

Favourite live offering:
A three-way tie.
Jen Jamieson’s This is not personal filled my heart in January. At Perth Festival I loved the sheer energy and impact of the 50 dancers on stage in Stephanie Lake’s Colossus; the fact that they were local dancers made it even sweeter. Then just a few weeks ago STRUT Dance and Tura New Music’s SITU-8, curated by Serena Chalker and Geordie Crawley, took an annual site-specific season of short dance/music works to new levels in every sense.

Top picks looking forward
Fringe World 2021 program:
I know this is cheating (a little) but my top pick is the State of Play program, a new curated line-up at the State Theatre Centre of WA. It’s really exciting to see our State Theatre taking this opportunity to support local independent performance makers. Kudos to STCWA Manager Alice Jorgensen and her team for taking the plunge.

Perth Festival 2021 program:
Another tie, this time between Brooke Leeder and Dancers’ Structural Dependency and Ian Wilkes’s Galup (although I haven’t been lucky enough to secure a ticket – fingers’ crossed the waitlist comes good!) I’m also gutted to be missing Rachael Dease’s “Hymns for End Times” with West Australian Symphony Orchestra because it is not possible to be in two places at once.

WA companies/artists’ 2021 programs:
I’m stoked that Black Swan State Theatre Company has taken a sideways-dance-step to bring Marrugeku’s Le Dernier Appel/The Last Cry to Perth (and actually the whole 2021 BSSTC program is enticing). Also looking forward to seeing West Australian Ballet’s new contemporary program STATE, at the State Theatre Centre of WA.


Craig McKeough

Looking back
Favourite live offering:
Picking an exhibition such as “Panacea” as a highlight of the year is like saying your favourite album is the Rolling Stones’ Greatest Hits. Just plucking old material from the archives does not compare to presenting a new body of work, created specifically to represent a point in time. But “Panacea”, at Fremantle Arts Centre and drawn from the City of Fremantle collection, seemed like the show for these times. Presented as the State awoke from its COVID slumber, it was a beautifully curated balm of visually pleasing and thought-provoking work that considered deeply the place of art in our lives.

Laurel Nannup, ‘The long road’, 2002, aquatint, 57 x 57xm, no, 1053, shown in ‘Panacea’ at Fremantle Arts Centre, “a beautifully curated balm of visually pleasing and thought-provoking work”.

An end-of-year treat was the John Stringer Prize at John Curtin Gallery (still on until 13 December), where six of Western Australia’s leading contemporary artists have been commissioned to create new work for an annual prize and exhibition. It’s all top notch, but the overall winner Susan Roux’s collection of big, bold works in stitched and sculpted paper, among other materials, and Eva Fernandez’s series of beautifully produced digital photographic prints exploring her Spanish identity are thrilling standouts.

Top picks looking forward
Perth Festival 2021 program:
The offerings at the Perth Festival are always something to savour, and 2021 looks a treat. In particular, new offerings from two of WA’s most interesting contemporary artists, Abdul-Rahman Abdullah (“Everything is True” at John Curtin Gallery, 5 February to 23 April) and Olga Cironis (“Dislocation” at Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, 13 February to 5 June), are something to look forward to.

WA artists/companies:
On the commercial gallery front, local arts champion Sherri Staltari has a new venture in the works. Details are yet to be announced but this will be eagerly anticipated by artists and the wider arts community.


Claire Trolio

Looking back
Favourite online offering:
I loved The Last Great Hunt’s Bad Baby Jean – so fresh and fun!

Favourite live offering:
Ooh this has to be a tie between two Perth Festival shows: the epic that was Cloudstreet and the heart wrenching I’m a Phoenix, Bitch from Bryony Kimmings.

Reflections on 2020
This year has given me unexpected opportunities to access live content from my living room as I discussed in “Breaking Through Isolation”.

Top picks looking forward
Fringe World 2021 program:
Musicians Kitchen Battles: Perth musicians competing in a live cooking show, what’s not to love?

Perth Festival 2021 program:
Discovering the histories of Lake Monger in Galup.

WA companies/artists’ 2021 programs:
York, showing as part of Black Swan State Theatre Company’s 2021 program.


Jaimi Wright

Looking back
Favourite online offering:
The Lester Prize’s online interactive exhibition, Art Gallery of WA
The fact its website had interactive guided tours and the capacity to vote while in the virtual gallery space was marvellous.
 
Favourite live offering:
“Hatched: National Graduate Show 2020”, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts
I always get so excited about the boundaries that are going to be pushed each year.

Top picks looking forward
Fringe World 2021:
“Colour Warp”, Art Space Collective. I love me some site-specific altered realities using colour.

Perth Festival 2021:
A Forest of Hooks and Nails, Fremantle Arts Centre
An exhibition where the installers are the artists? I cannot wait to see how this plays out.

WA companies/artists’ 2021 programs:
Cool Change Contemporary, 2021 Program
I am always so excited to see the unique perspectives that emerge from the exhibitions of such a young gallery.


David Zampatti

Looking back
Favourite online offering:
I disliked all the online performances I saw this year (although I understood why they were attempted); the one that hurt the most, that made me feel most isolated and deprived, was The Last Great Hunt’s Bite the Hand. It was funny and well observed, and was clearly building to a fascinating denouement when I “walked out” on it. Can’t wait to see it live.

Favourite live offering:
I’ve got two. Por Piedad Teatro’s Fringe anomaly, a fully-fledged well-made play (about the day Hitler arrived in Rome to meet Mussolini), inventively staged and beautifully performed by seasoned, skilful actors.
The Golem – or Next Year in Jerusalem, an intense journey through the working of the Jewish consciousness devised and passionately performed by Humphrey Bower and Tim Green with marvellous designs by Rhys Morris (set) and Joe Lui (sound and lighting).

An intense journey: Tim Green in ‘The Golem’. Photo: Daniel Grant

Reflections on 2020
How fragile the arts and entertainment industries are. Fine words butter no parsnips, and neither do they mean that politicians really think performers, artists and their creative colleagues have actual professions or careers. Or businesses. Or families.

Even our relatively enlightened state government’s support for the arts was designed to put more money into the overalls of tradies than the pockets of artists.

Top picks looking forward
Fringe World 2021 program:
Tale of Tales, by Bow and Dagger, and Rest by WA Youth Theatre Company

Perth Festival 2021 program:
“Hymns for End Times” by Rachael Dease

Top pick from WA companies/artists/orgs 2021 programs:
York by Black Swan State Theatre Company


Pictured top are dancers Scott Galbraith and Celina Hage in Mitch Harvey’s ‘PIT’, performed as part of ‘SITU-8’.

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked for over a decade as an arts writer and critic. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. Nina was co-editor of Dance Australia magazine from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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