The best of Melbourne theatre in 2012

Looking through a list of 2012 reviews, it’s hard to pick my favourites this year. There are a handful of forgotten shows and a few that were memorable for reasons other than wonderfulness, but it’s mostly been a fireworks and wow year.

Wild Surmise. Photo by PiaJohnson
Wild Surmise. Photo by PiaJohnson

It’s not the commercial and high-priced shows that I remember. There were some I really enjoyed, like Annie and South Pacific, but most prove that cost doesn’t reflect quality and none captured the hearts of their audiences. And let’s not talk about the ones that were forced to close early because they weren’t ready to be produced and insulted their audiences by asking for money for half-baked work. (I didn’t write about Moonshadow because the only positive thing I could say about it was that it left me in tears of laughter; only it wasn’t meant to be funny.)

The experiences I remember most vividly were the ones only seen by handfuls of people. There’s been an increase in intimate theatre this year, with works like And the birds fell from the sky, The House of Dreaming, Séance, Hold and Impasse. The audiences are tiny, but there’s something incredible about having an artist perform just for you.

And Melbourne’s independent scene continues to remind us that art and entertainment can exist in the same space and that money and funding don’t guarantee either.

Independent company MKA have continued to shoot adrenalin into the heart of Melbourne’s theatre community by presenting the best new writing and letting their creators develop work without any fear of censorship. The result is work like no other company is producing, sold out seasons and reviews where the writers try to out wordgasm each other.

sex. violence.blood.gore. Photo by Sarah Walker
sex. violence.blood.gore. Photo by Sarah Walker

La Mama in Carlton never stops presenting new Australian work, Red Stitch in St Kilda continue to find works from all around the world that highlight Melbourne’s actors, while newer spaces like The Owl and the Pussycat in Richmond are welcoming and supporting independent companies and artists, and Theatre Works in St Kilda has become a hub of amazing art and creativity and increased it’ audience by an astonishing 71% in 2012. 71%!

Theatre criticism in Melbourne took a blow in November when Alison Croggon announced the end of her blog Theatre Notes in November. Theatre Notes inspired many reviewers (myself included) and set the standard for reviews in Melbourne, and the rest of Australia, with its honest intelligent commentary and deep understanding of theatre. It was also the place everyone went to share their options. I quickly forgot Queen Lear, but I still go to the Queen Lear discussion on Theatre Notes when I want a good laugh or to be reminded of the passion readers have for theatre.

Alison’s writing and opinion will be sorely missed, but I’m taking something she said about reviewing into 2013. She talked about critics as being advocates for the arts. We’re not here to tell you what’s bad about a work, but to explain and discuss what’s great and to give readers reasons to see a show or artist. By no means should we lie or ignore issues or dullness, but we’re here to celebrate and encourage.

Candy B
Candy B

Finally, a huge thank you to all the Melbourne writing team – Josephine Giles, Karla Dondio, Jason Whyte, Emily Paddon Brown and Claire Pickering – for your opinions, your time, (I know how long it takes to write reviews), your writing and your ongoing love of theatre. Your words are always appreciated by the artists and companies you’ve written about, by the readers who you convinced to see a show and by everyone else at AussieTheatre who reads you.



Louris Van De GeerTuesday, MKA
Robert Reid, On the production of monsters, MTC
Zoey Dawson, The unspoken word is “Joe”, MKA and La Mama


Eugyeene Teh, everything he’s done for MKA this year
Anna Tregloan and Paul Jackson, Wild Surmise
Malthouse Theatre


Dana MiltinsOrlando
The Rabble, Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Festival

Special mention

Brigid GallacherThe Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of  Romeo and Juliet
Nilaja Sun, No Child, Theatre Works, Brisbane Festival, Melbourne Festival


Suzanne Chaundy, Beyond the Neck: A Quartet on Loss and Violence, Red Stitch
Stephen Nicolazzo, sex.violence.blood.gore, MKA

Everything they do rocks

Daniel Clarke, Creative Producer, and everyone at Theatre Works
Declan Greene, Summertime in the Garden of Eden
Sisters Grimm. The unspoken word is “Joe”, MKA and La Mama. Pompei L.A., Malthouse Theatre



Candy B, Australian Booty: The Fatty-Boom-Boom Remix

Commercial show

Summer of the Seventeenth DollMTC presents the Belvoir production


Margaret Fulton: Queen of the Dessert, Present Tense & Theatre Works

Special mention

, Arts Centre Melbourne


ZombatlandArts House & The Suitcase Royale

Special mention

The Goodbye GuyJustin Hamilton


Field Recordings, Bang on a Can All-Stars & Melbourne Recital Centre


Weather, Lucy Guerin Inc, Melbourne Festival


From the ground up, Circus Oz


The Wild Duck
Malthouse presents a Belvoir production

Summertime in the Garden of Eden
Sisters Grimm

Arts Centre Melbourne, Ex Machnia & Théâtre Sans Frontières

Choir Girl
Sarah Collins

My favourite show of 2012

100% Melbourne
Rimini Protokoll & The City of Melbourne

To see what Melbourne artists loved in 2012, there’s a series at SometimesMelbourne.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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