London-based choreographer Hofesh Shechter has broken the mould of contemporary dance with Grand Finale, which combines the energy and audacity of a live music gig with the emotion of a dance show and the intellectual rigour of theatre. Almost universally welcomed by four and five-star reviews, Grand Finale is a high-intensity meditation for our times that deals obliquely with concepts like groupthink and the increasing irrelevance of truth.
Hofesh was undoubtedly influenced by the seismic political shifts happening around him while creating the piece, but says those influences express themselves in sometimes unfathomable ways. “In a way, it is completely abstract, and in other ways it makes us think about very specific things,” he says.
The Second Woman
Co-creators Nat Randall and Anna Breckon have given Australia what must surely become one of the country’s classics in durational theatre work The Second Woman. The script and conceit of the show are deceptively simple – over 24 hours, Nat performs the same scene 100 times opposite 100 different men, all of whom are from the local community and none of which have rehearsed alongside Nat. What’s complex is what emerges as the scene is played over and over again – more telling than the differences that emerge between each pairing is the similarities, which over time reveal genuinely unnerving realities about our social construction of gender and what we deem acceptable in the way men and women relate.
This bone-crackingly brutal and hilarious satire may ostensibly be about three people creating a play featuring a violent Protestant character in Northern Island, but the reality of Ulster American deviates significantly from its plot synopsis. This unflinching, unapologetically entertaining, searing, and harsh representation of the toxic culture that has created the #metoo era foregoes political posturing. Instead, it favours a transparent look at the power of ego, entitlement, and the propensity toward violence – both physical and emotional – that lies within us all.
Thirteen Ways to Look at Birds
In recent years, Paul Kelly has seamlessly transformed from a man known for singing about doing dumb things and prison gravy to someone better recognised for working with contemporary classical musicians and composing ethereal accompaniments to classic poetry. This special commission pairs Paul with Adelaide darlings the Seraphim Trio (featuring the wonderful Anna Goldsworthy), and composer James Ledger to create a suite of songs incorporating poetry about birds. What could, in many other hands, err on the sweet and superficial side will – with Paul’s signature gravelly vocal – reach entirely greater heights.
The Violet Ballet
Sally Smart has been one of Australia’s visual art heroes for decades, travelling the world and immersing audiences in her large-scale, colourful installations. Her work, which so often grows from research on seemingly odd blips in history, overwhelms with its barrage for the senses and The Violet Ballet is no different. This mix of performance and creation uses narratives from the history of the Ballet Russes to unearth some of the shared legacies of colonialism and orientalism.