The arts editor’s top picks for 2019

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Arts editor HELEN MUSA’s five top arts happenings in visual art, musical theatre, music, theatre and dance for 2019 are uncomfortable and thought-provoking.

ALL the year’s most exciting works were at the uncomfortable end of the spectrum, and all but one took place in September. Whether it was a musical commentary on gun violence, a dance work about money or an exhibition that overturned exoticised views of our biggest northern neighbour, all required attention – and a bit of thinking. 

Uji ‘Hahan’ Handoko Eko Saputro and Adi ‘Uma Gumma’ Kusuma, “Silent Operation” neon sign study based on the formula of contemporary visual art, 2018-19, “Contemporary Worlds: Indonesia”, NGA.

Visual art: “Contemporary Worlds: Indonesia”, NGA, June-October.

Past and present, sound and silence came together in the biggest and most radical exhibition of contemporary Indonesian art ever seen in Australia. It cut through conventional notions of beautiful exotic art to present us with a picture of a nation in transition. 

Jarrad West as John Wilkes Booth and Pippin Carroll as the Baladeer in “Assassins”.

Musical theatre: “Assassins”, Everyman Theatre at Belconnen Theatre, September. 

Co-directors Kelly Roberts and Grant Pegg took the book of the Stephen Sondheim/John Weidman musical, “Assassins”, and gave us a sideshow alley portrayal of the men and women who attempted, successfully and otherwise, to assassinate US presidents, producing brilliant cameo portrayals, spot-on musicianship and a deeply uncomfortable feeling about the here and now. 

Larry Sitsky performing Rachmaninov. Photo Tony Magee.

Music: Larry Sitsky celebration concert, ANU School of Music, September. 

In an inspiring evening of music, eminent musicians and well-wishers packed into the Larry Sitsky Recital Room at the ANU School of Music to celebrate the 85th birthday of Sitsky himself, now recognised around the world for his compositions and honoured later in September with a long weekend of musical festivities by the Moscow Conservatory. The pièce de résistance was Sitsky’s own performance of work by Rachmaninov.

Ruth Pieloor, Stefanie Lekkas, Dylan Van Den Berg and Christopher Samuel Carroll in a scene from “Metamorphosis”. Photo Shelly Higgs.

Theatre: “Metamorphosis” at The Street Theatre, September. 

Director Adam Broinowski and a team of actors gifted in physical theatre brought to life Steven Berkoff’s adaptation of Franz Kafka’s famous novella, “The Metamorphosis”, where an ordinary salesman turns into a “monstrous vermin”. This provocative production took us up close and personal to an evening of superlative acting. 

‘From the Vault.’ Photo Lorna Sim.

Dance: “From the Vault”, the Australian Dance Party, Dairy Flat, September.

Dance artist Alison Plevey’s discovery of a disused building in Fyshwick that had once been a storage bunker for the Mint led to a sizzling evening of site-specific dance which questioned the value placed on money and was praised by critics and audience members alike as the dance event of the year.

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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