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Features, News, Performing arts, Visual arts

Cream of the crop, 2018

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 2019?

As 2018 draws to a close, Seesaw writers reflect on the year that was and the year that will be.

Xan Ashbury
Top shows
Cloud Nine, by Caryl Churchill. Directed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler for West Australian Youth Theatre Company in July.
Gutenberg the Musical, starring Jacob Jones and Andrew Baker. The musical was directed by Erin Hutchinson for Western Sky Theatre in June.
Huff by Cree playwright and solo performer Cliff Cardinal and directed by Karin Randoja, staged at the Subiaco Arts Centre in March by Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company.

cloud nine
Lexie Sleet,‘Ana Ika & Phil Lynch in ‘Cloud Nine’. Photo: Daniel Grant.

Looking forward to…
Our Town at Perth Festival. Black Swan State Theatre Company present Thornton Wilder’s classic play. Clare Watson directs a cast of professional actors and everyday citizens.
Le Nor at Perth Festival. Perth theatre-makers The Last Great Hunt tell interwoven stories of love in a world that’s falling apart, as they perform a faux foreign film live.
Re-member Me at Perth Festival. Lip synching maestro Dickie Beau channels audio recordings of great historical performances of Hamlet. Billed as “humorous and haunting”.


Sandra Bowdler
Top shows
Tristan und Isolde (Wagner), WASO, Perth Concert Hall – a world class performance
Nicola Benedetti (violin), Musica Viva, Perth Concert Hall  – riveting performer
Van Diemen’s Band, Callaway Auditorium, UWA – great Baroque music

WASO’s ‘Tristan and Isolde’ impressed a number of Seesaw’s writers. Pictured is Gun-Brit Barkmin, as Isolde. Photo: Andy Tyndall.

Looking forward to…
WASO evening with Gun-Brit Barkmin Perth Concert Hall – the star of WASO’s Tristan (August)
St Matthew Passion, St George’s Cathedral Consort, Perth Concert Hall (April)


Jan Hallam
Top Shows
Tristan und Isolde, WASO
Joan, Lucy J Skilbeck at Fringe World
Remembrance Day ConcertPerth Symphonic Chorus

Arts highlight
Iain Grandage’s appointment as Perth Festival Director

Looking forward to…
Komische Oper Berlin Mozart’s The Magic Flute


Belinda Hermawan
Top shows
Various artists, “Dark Swan – Contemporary Tales of the Gothic Antipodes”, at PS Arts Space
Amy Perejuan-Capone, “This Is How We Walk on the Moon”, at Customs House

Fran Rhodes, ‘Fraught Territory’, 2018, Oil on board, exhibited in ‘Dark Swan – Contemporary Tales of the Gothic Antipodes’.

Arts highlight
State government-funded writing and mentorship projects for WA emerging writers

Arts lowlight
Another year without the WA Premier’s Literary Awards

Looking forward to…
Fringe World Festival
PICA’s 2019 program


Miranda Johnson
Top Shows
“No Second Thoughts: Artemis Women’s Project” @ LWAG – a stunning inquiry into the continuing history of feminist art in WA.
The Second Woman @ PICA – If I could turn back time I would have made the effort to try to attend the whole 24 hours of this endurance piece! However, the four hours I spent watching Nat Randall and assorted men replay the same scene over and over was life-changing.
Can I say the entire Unhallowed Arts program? It was so amazing to have a festival (a monstrosity!) that encompassed institutions, ARIs (artist run initiatives), performance, experimental and visual art, and cutting-edge science and humanities research.

Second Woman
Life-changing: ‘The Second Woman’

Arts highlight
Nationally, the (slowly…) increasing number of ARIs that are now able to offer artist fees to exhibiting artists. I hope that a Perth ARI is soon able to access funding that will allow them to pay artists on a regular basis too!

Locally, it would be hugely biased of me* to say the opening of a new ARI in Perth’s CBD… but seeing a few more spaces opening up as exhibition venues has been heartening. I’m thinking of venues such as Old Customs House and the Lobby as well as Cool Change Contemporary here!

* Miranda is a co-director of Cool Change Contemporary.

Arts lowlight
The renaming of the Fringe World Pleasure Gardens to include a certain company’s name has been a recent reminder for me of the huge amounts of money that oil and gas companies give to the arts, and how they use the arts to appear “progressive” whilst contributing hugely towards climate change, making no effort to reduce emissions and paying very little tax. Of course it’s not news that this happens and that all our arts institutions rely on this source of funding in lieu of adequate governmental funding, but it’s been increasingly on my mind, and something that I think will require a reckoning amongst us artists and arts professionals – we are all implicated.

Looking forward to…
“Cassils” @ PICA, as part of Perth Festival
“Love, Displaced” @ Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, as part of Perth Festival
The Violent Years @ The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights, as part of Fringe World


Leon Levy
Another year of frequent absences from Perth has meant missing some significant productions and performances. Some of these – had I seen and heard them – would most certainly have jostled for inclusion in a “top 3” which was, in any case, challenging enough to achieve.

Glitter and Be Gay
Emma Matthews in ‘Glitter and be Gay’. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography
.

 

Top shows
Tristan und Isolde – WASO c. Asher Fisch
Glitter and be Gay – Emma Matthews with WAAPA’s Faith Court Orchestra, c. Peter Moore
“Masters of Modern Art from the Hermitage”, Art Gallery of New South Wales

Arts highlight
“Don’t Stop the Music” (ABC TV), for the moving depiction of the transformative impact of the introduction of music teaching at primary school level, and for the possibility that it will prove to be a catalyst for widespread adoption of music in the school curriculum. Such a development would also be an apt tribute and memorial to Richard Gill whose untimely demise was a grievous blow to music-education and to the nation… the “arts lowlight” of the year, if this loss can be thus characterised.

Looking forward to…
Mozart’s Magic Flute, Komische Oper Berlin (Perth Festival)
An evening with Gun-Brit Barkmin, WASO, c.  Asher Fisch
Bach’s St Matthew Passion, WASO, St George’s Cathedral Consort, c. Joseph Nolan

Since I’m only allowed to nominate three events, I’ll have to keep as a secret the fact that I’m also looking forward to Wot? No Fish!!, with Danny Braverman (Perth Festival), and can barely contain my excited anticipation of the glorious Elgar Violin Concerto, to be played by Nikolaj Znaider with WASO under Asher Fisch.


smiling Nina!

Nina Levy
Top shows
Really difficult to choose this year! So many great shows.

Attractor by Gideon Obarzanek, Lucy Guerin, Dancenorth and Senyawa’s , presented as part of Perth Festival. Oh the Dancenorth dancers. Sigh.
Huff by Cliff Cardinal, presented by Yirra Yaakin and Cliff Cardinal. Utterly compelling.
You Do Ewe by Unkempt Dance, performed by Co3 Australia as part of “The WA Dance Makers Project”. Ok, I didn’t actually see this work in the theatre because I was interstate for the season, but the studio show won me over with its highly relatable humour.

‘Attractor’. Photo: Gregory Lorenzutti.

Arts highlight
As I said at the time, the realisation, earlier this year, that we only have one more festival under Wendy Martin sent me into a period of premature mourning. At the risk of sounding unoriginal (because I’ve edited this piece and know how many other people have said the same), the appointment of Iain Graindage as the next Perth Festival director made my heart lift.

And seeing Strut Dance’s Sunset headline the 2019 Perth Festival launch was pretty special – a huge achievement for local independent dance.

Arts lowlight
The passing of the wonderful Richard Gill at age 76, conductor and music educator extraordinaire – such a loss to our community.

At a more personal level, I am also deeply saddened by the recent passing of my friend and mentor Lesley Goodman, a visual arts educator, who worked at the Art Gallery of WA for many years. For a short time I had the privilege of working with Lesley at AGWA, as her education assistant, and learned so much from her about how to talk to young people about visual arts.

Looking forward to…
Dada Masilo’s Giselle at Perth Festival
STRUT Dance’s Sunset at Perth Festival
Thirty Five Square’s A Westerner’s Guide to the Opium Wars, part of The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights at Fringeworld


Photo: Justin Spiers for Pet Photo Booth

Jonathan W. Marshall
Top shows
2018 was an especially good year for dance, beginning with Vessel in the Perth Festival: a piece in which the dancers hunched forward so as to become faceless, moving sculptures.
Marrugeku’s trilogy of solos Burrbgaja Yalirra (Dancing Forwards) was also superb, featuring Eric Avery’s tremendous “burlesque” (or disrespectful re-enacting) of colonial tropes, performed while dressed in an animal hide tail coat, and using a violin and a microphone stand in ways which would feature well in a punk band.
Although there were strong musical showings from both Greywing Ensemble and Decibel (notably the latter’s wonderful Revolution), for sheer digital joy, Robin Fox’s lesson in live avant-techno was hard to go past.

Black Swan State Theatre Company’s ‘Hir’ was a standout. Pictured is Jack Palit. Photo: Daniel James Grant.

Arts highlight
2018 saw the first program at Black Swan Theatre actually devised by still relatively new artistic director Clare Watson (who had until now overseen much of the work programmed by her predecessor). While Xenides and Skylab were disappointing, it was still a bold selection of works, and the bleak queer/trans drama Hir was a stand-out.

Arts lowlights
Robert Lepage’s approach of taking significant cultural events, conflicts and exchanges and turning them into feel-good theatre about families continues to be massively over-rated (Far Side of the Moon, Perth Festival), while Fringe seem to be digging in their heels in their misguided belief that the more massive and completely uncurated the Fringe festival is, the better — even though this means that artists end up competing with each other for audiences and the program booklet is completely impossible to navigate. At least the Blue Room are curating their Fringe program; always worth looking out for!

Looking forward to…
WA’s gift to new music, the organisation Tura, turns 32 next year, kicking things off with Cat Hope’s bass and extended-vocal-technique opera Speechless (Perth Festival 2019), while our fabulously inventive MoveMe dance festival is almost certain to be back next year.

Meanwhile PICA continues to bring us some of the most exciting interdisciplinary performance, with new works from Aphids (who’s fabulously rag tag Howl featured at PICA in 2018) and Last Great Hunt already programmed.

Also worth looking out for is a new adaptation of Medea from Black Swan Theatre, who are also hosting Nakkiah Lui’s Black Is the New White, which made waves in Sydney in 2017.


Claire Trolio
Top shows
Not only was Dizzee Rascal (for Perth Festival) my gig of the year – his show was one of the best live music experiences of my life so far.
Let Me Finish was a powerful, hilarious and emotive feminist work that showed at The Blue Room. If you missed it, it’s coming back for Fringe next year so get tickets!

Five women laughing and hugging
Powerful, hilarious and emotive: ‘Let Me Finish’. Photo: Susie Blatchford

Arts highlight
The appointment of Iain Grandage as Perth Festival artistic director for 2020-2023. Whilst I’m still sad that Wendy Martin’s time at the helm is coming to an end, I’m excited to see what direction Grandage will take!

Looking forward to…
Hearing the Silk Road Ensemble in the Perth Concert Hall. If you’re not familiar with them, I recommend you watch the documentary The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble (2015, Dir. Morgan Neville).


David Zampatti
Top shows
Folias Antiguas & Criolas: “From the Ancient World to the New World”, Jordi Savall with Hesperion XXI and Tembembe Ensamble Continuo: It is impossible to imagine a more exciting or exquisitely performed concert than this.  It was thrilling to listen to, and wonderful to watch.
The Tale of Tales, Clare Testoni: A small, brilliant gem of storytelling, and a breakout achievement for its deviser and performer, Clare Testoni. Her images have a magical three-dimensionality, and move with an almost cinematic quality. It’s an honest show, and a heartfelt one.
What Doesn’t Kill You (Blah Blah) Stronger by Tyler Jacob Jones and Robert Woods: Tyler Jacob Jones, as a writer of script and lyrics, and as a comic actor and singer, is the most prodigious talent in this town. His long-standing partnership with the composer Robert Woods and the versatile performer and director Erin Hutchinson has honed their skills to starry heights.

Arts highlight
The appointment of Iain Grandage as Perth Festival Director for the next four years. We’ve got much to thank our recent directors for, but Iain brings his virtuosity as composer and musician, and makes history as the first born and raised West Australian to fill the position. Exciting times ahead!

Arts lowlight
Obviously I can be accused of self-pity here, but the retreat of The West Australian from coverage of the arts is both a symptom of a much wider malaise and a cause for particular concern. Still, change is good. Platforms like Seesaw have the capacity to fill the void and energise and grow the audience.

Looking forward to…
It’s hard to look past the festivals right now:
Gatz: After the overwhelming experience of The Gabriels, who wouldn’t be looking forwad to another 8+ hour (with breaks for libations) American marathon.
Icarus: Christopher Samuel Carroll’s Paradise Lost was one of the marvels of the ’17 Fringe. This time he’s taking to ancient skies.
Our Town: I’m not sure that “looking forward” is exactly what I’m doing to Clare Watson’s take on Thornton Wilder’s classic American novel performed by a cast of professionals and “everyday Perth Citizens”. Including me…

Pictured top are Andrew Searle and Zoe Wozniak in “You do Ewe” by Unkempt Dance, performed by Co3 Australia. Photo: Stefan Gosatti.

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Gutenberg! the Musical
Musical theatre, News, Performing arts, Reviews

A sheer delight

Review: Western Sky Theatre, Gutenberg! the Musical ·
Subiaco Theatre Centre, 27 June ·
Review by Xan Ashbury ·

As a certified word nerd, I am fascinated by the printing press; and before seeing this show, pondered how such a complex piece of machinery would be represented on stage. Would its placement have involved a crane?

Nope. Just a humble cardboard box, as it turns out, with an A4 sign that says “printing press”. The phrase “less is more” sounds like such a cliché. But after experiencing the sheer delight of Gutenberg! The Musical, a celebration of minimalism and imagination, I am convinced this maxim applies to musical theatre.

Gutenberg is about two dreamers, Bud (Tyler Jacob Jones) and Doug (Andrew Baker), who have written an alternative history musical about the inventor of the printing press, Johann Gutenberg. Bud is a barrista at Starbucks; Doug works in a nursing home and lives above a noisy pet store. “We used to do lip synch concerts for people in wheelchairs,” we’re told. They had earlier written a musical about Stephen King.

The hapless but adorable pair pitch their concept before a room full of producers, hoping it will lead to a dream run on Broadway. This clever premise explains the minimalist set, tiny cast and lack of costumes.

The versatility displayed by Jacob Jones and Baker as they slip between these characters is staggering.

At the back of the stage are two tables, each holding about 20 baseball caps labelled with characters’ names. The pair don the hats to indicate which role they’re playing. And what a bizarre cast of characters they create … among them the beef fat trimmer, the monk with a cat called Satan, the long-suffering young monk, Gutenberg himself and his love-interest Helvetica.

The versatility displayed by Jacob Jones and Baker as they slip between these characters is staggering. At times, they wear about 10 hats, ditching one then another as they take on new roles. It is a hilarious spectacle.

And thanks to some simple yet ingenious use of string and pegs, the whole cast forms a chorus line at the show’s climax.

Written by Anthony King and Scott Brown, Gutenberg parodies musical theatre conventions. There’s a “charm song” about biscuits, intended for a cameo by Kevin Spacey, and an end of act rock number that Doug explains “would include electric guitars and lasers”.

Directed by Erin Hutchinson, Gutenberg is a feel-good, off-beat comedy that provides a perfect vehicle for the performers’ considerable talents. Musical director Joshua Haines is incredible as Charles the pianist.

Gutenberg! The Musical follows Western Sky Theatre’s brilliant season of Once We Lived Here, staged at the Blue Room last year. Baker founded Western Sky to give performers from WA, or those trained at WAAPA, a reason to return to Perth and perform in a well-produced, small-scale musical.

At the end of Gutenberg, Bud and Doug sing “it’s not the success that counts, it’s the dream.” That may be true but this production proves that with enough vision and talent, the dream and success can come together. I can’t wait to see what Western Sky do next.

Gutenberg! The Musical plays Subiaco Theatre Centre until June 30.

Read Seesaw’s interview with Andrew Baker here.

Pictured top are Tyler Jacob Jones as Bud and Andrew Baker as Doug.

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Andrew Baker and Tyler Jacob Jones
Features, Musical theatre, News, Performing arts

West side stories

Although the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts is home to one of Australia’s most prestigious musical theatre courses, the job opportunities for its graduates have, traditionally, been on the other side of the country. One WAAPA musical theatre graduate is doing his bit to help change that, however. Producer and performer Andrew Baker is staging musicals in Perth under the name Western Sky Theatre. Seesaw’s Nina Levy spoke to Baker to find out more about Western Sky and its next production, Gutenberg! The Musical.

Andrew Baker

Nina Levy: Tell us about the path that led you to forming Western Sky Theatre…
Andrew Baker: My background is in musical theatre performance. I trained at WAAPA in the BA course there and then followed the well-worn path over East. I had a great time over there working ever-so-occasionally in professional theatre, but got a bit disillusioned and went back to my old career as a lawyer. Since returning home to WA, I’ve found my way back into working in the arts sector in various roles. My passion for musical theatre has returned and it’s clear to a few of us that there is an audience for quality, smaller scale professional musical theatre in WA. So there’s a bit of a gap in the market between, say, the always great work that WAAPA does in presenting a range of new and classic shows, and the big touring productions. There actually aren’t many opportunities for WA raised or trained musical theatre performers to work on their craft in Perth. So that’s how Western Sky came about. But it’s early days.

NL: When did you found Western Sky Theatre? And what is its raison d’être?
AB: Western Sky is pretty new. Our first musical was the gorgeous Australian piece Once We Lived Here, which we did at the Blue Room Theatre last year. It won two Blue Room Theatre awards and I think broke the Blue Room box office record.

The idea at the heart of Western Sky is to give people who are from WA or who may have trained at WAAPA (and so have a WA connection) a reason to come home to Perth and perform in a well-produced small-scale musical (and hopefully get paid). In Once We Lived Here, for instance, three of the five cast members came home from the East to do the show, and all five had done undergrad. musical theatre degrees (four at WAAPA, one from Lasalle, Singapore). It’s about people getting a chance to do what they were trained to do, in front of their home audience.

NL: Gutenberg! The Musical made its Perth debut back in 2016 and is returning this month. For those who missed it the first time around, tell us a bit about the show…
AB: Gutenberg is a rollercoaster ride of laughs. It’s about two dreamers, Bud and Doug, who have written a musical about the inventor of the printing press, Johann Gutenberg. They are presenting it as a backers’ audition, where they show it to a room full of Broadway producers in the hope someone in the room will take it to Broadway. They’ve written what they think is a big, splashy, epic musical that is serious. You’ll have to come and see if they get it to Broadway or not.

NL: The Perth indie theatre sector is (usually) very much about presenting locally written work… what made you choose to buck the trend and present Gutenberg! The Musical?
AB: The presentation of locally written work is vital and there are some excellent writers in Perth creating original musicals (my co-star in Gutenberg, Tyler Jacob Jones, is one such artist who is doing awesome work). In fact there is a big conversation going on at the moment about original Australian musicals. It’s a hot topic over East. But I feel that the original works space is pretty well looked after in Perth so our focus is producing shows that artists and audiences already know and love, and to bring them to new audiences in a new way. However, we’re open to all excellent musical theatre (especially when a lot of new work is written with small spaces and budgets in mind!).

NL: And what made you decide to give this production another outing?
AB: It was just so much fun the first time around but we performed it in a less than ideal space. We want to do the show in a real theatre space now! It’s also a big honour to be asked to be a part of the Subiaco Theatre Festival with the best of Perth’s independent producers and theatre artists.

NL: You act in this show, as well as producing it… what are the pros and cons of being both producer and performer?
AB: There are certainly times when I need to step away from marketing and other producing duties to make sure I’m giving my performance the time it needs. This is a really challenging show and it takes a lot of focus. So it’s about finding a good team, time management and prioritising well.

NL: After Gutenberg, what’s next for Western Sky Theatre?
AB: One of the important things we want to be mindful of is to take our time – to grow a culture around the company and to find a tribe of like-minded people over the first few years. We’re focusing on achievable, small shows and doing them really well! We have the next show in mind. And we’re chatting to people. It’s exciting!

Catch Gutenberg! The Musical at Subiaco Arts Centre, as part of Subiaco Theatre Festival, 27-30 June.

Pictured top: Andrew Baker and Tyler Jacob Jones in ‘Gutenberg! The Musical’.

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Gutenberg! The Musical
Calendar, Featured, June 18

Musical theatre: Gutenberg! The Musical

27 – 30 June @ Subiaco Arts Centre ·
Presented by Subiaco Arts Centre and Western Sky Theatre (in association with Holland St Productions) ·

30 characters. 2 men. One crazy dream.

In this musical rollercoaster ride, two aspiring playwrights perform a backers’ audition for their new project: a big, splashy musical about printing press inventor Johann Gutenberg. With an unending supply of misguided enthusiasm, Bud and Doug sing all the songs and play all the parts in their historical epic, with the hope that one of the producers in attendance will give them a Broadway contract. In the process, we learn a lot about them, and a little bit about Gutenberg … maybe.

“★★★★ … I wouldn’t miss it for quids” The West Australian
“(A) smooth, fast paced and clever show” Theatre People

GUTENBERG! THE MUSICAL! was the first Off-Broadway transfer for the acclaimed New York comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. It has gone on to delight audiences around the world and is an expertly crafted piece of comedy that appeals to almost anyone with a heartbeat and a (slightly twisted) sense of humour.

More info: www.ptt.wa.gov.au
Email: Cameron.lansdowngoodman@gmail.com

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Musical theatre, News, Reviews

Local musical is world-class

Review: Once We Lived Here, Western Sky Theatre ◆
The Blue Room Theatre, 19 October ◆
Review by Xan Ashbury ◆

When I was five, my mum directed a production of the classic Western musical Calamity Jane. Almost four decades later, no road trip is complete without a sing-a-long. (“Whip crack away, whip crack away, whip crack AWAAAYY!”) It’s been a guilty pleasure, indulged within the confines of a moving vehicle, away from judgmental ears.

Minutes after leaving the Blue Room on a high the other night, I found myself belting out “leave this patch of dirt behind”. I think I just repeated that line most of the way home. That’s the power of a musical, really: Music plus poetry equals pleasure squared.

The line sums up Once We Lived Here’s central dilemma. Should we continue to romanticise the past or face uncomfortable truths and embrace change?

Once We Lived Here is a Western – but in so many good ways.

First, it was written by WAAPA musical theatre graduates Matthew Frank and Dean Bryant, whose celebrated musical Prodigal premiered at the Blue Room in 1998 and became the first Australian musical to be performed in New York City. Second, the production is staged by Western Sky Theatre – a company formed to showcase WA-born and/or trained musical theatre creatives. Third, it’s set in a dusty landscape – although thankfully not on a Wild West ranch but an Australian farm run by a young woman.

At first the story’s premise seemed overly familiar. Sibling rivalry flares, and secrets and lies spill out when a family is brought back together by the impending death of a parent. The McPhersons’ story – decades of it – feels unique and authentic, though, as the plot thickens and we peer behind the characters’ masks.

Inventiveness and versatility underpin the production at every level. The set – seemingly crafted from pallet boards and corrugated iron – captures the “Aussie ingenuity” aesthetic. And despite a small stage, action takes place between the childhood swing, mum’s thirsty garden, the homestead, the shearing shed and the shed roof. Likewise, the performers slip seamlessly from child to teen to adult and back, as the story is told in a series of flashbacks.

Amy (Taryn Ryan) is a determined but struggling farmer, who runs the property as a living monument to the father she mourns. Her younger sister Lecy (Megan Kozak) is an ambitious reality TV producer with no time for the bush. “You’re a pack of beggars with quad bikes,” she tells her sister. Their little brother Shaun (Joshua Firman) is troubled wannabe musician, drifting through life. Sharon Kiely (Frank and Bryant’s classmate) plays the family’s dying mother, Claire. Ryan Dawson, whose voice is hauntingly beautiful, plays Burke, a former farm employee who returns to see Claire and rekindle a romance with Amy.

Rural life’s harsh realities – from drought to financial strife, social isolation, bushfires, depression and grief – are tackled with honesty and sensitivity but also liberal doses of humour. And you don’t have to be from the bush to appreciate the line: “We’re related but we can’t relate.”

While poignant, the show is never mawkish and often hilarious. The scene in which the three young siblings stage an act in a community fundraiser (all jazz hands and primary school choreography) was a crowd favourite.

Director Andrew Baker says Australian stories, voices and accents deserve musical expression on stage. “It’s so ordinary and local and ‘day-to-day’ that we might think it’s not worthy of the grand epic traditions of ‘sing about it’,” he writes in his program notes. “But that fails to do justice to our stories, traditions and culture.” I am grateful he has taken this view and used his expertise to shape this outstanding production.

Similarly, the show’s music successfully drives the action and stirs our emotions, under the direction of musical director Josh Haines (Haines on piano, Harry Love on guitar and Luis Santos on double bass).

Once We Lived Here left me immensely proud to be Western Australian. Like many in the audience and on stage, I’ve left plenty of times for bigger, brighter cities. But something keeps pulling me back West. Being able to see world-class musical theatre at the Blue Room on a weeknight… well, it reminds me why I (still) choose to live here.

Once We Lived Here plays the Blue Room Theatre until November 4.

Photos: Marshall Stay

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