Arts editor’s five top arts happenings for 2020

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Lake March”… spontaneous dance and music performances unfolded along the shores of Lakes Burley Griffin, Ginninderra and Tuggeranong.

In a grim year for artists everywhere, Canberra’s creators and creative institutions have been remarkably fertile, with only a momentary hiatus in performances and exhibitions. Arts editor HELEN MUSA reveals her top five arts happenings for 2020.

Dance: Lake March, the Australian Dance Party, on Lakes Burley Griffin, Ginninderra and Tuggeranong, August and September.

FOR the second time running, Alison Plevey’s Australian Dance Party came up with the premier dance event of the year in “Lake March”, a spontaneous dance and music performance following the principles of social distancing as it unfolded with twists, turns and surprises along the pathways of Lakes Burley Griffin, Ginninderra and Tuggeranong.

Canberra’s top dance artists and a single violinist moved in a spatially-distanced procession to live musical accompaniment, entertaining audiences of dance goers and members of the wider Canberra community.

Car Crash Ex De Medici

Visual Art: “Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now”, National Gallery of Australia, until July 2021.

ALTHOUGH forced to close down for some time, the National Gallery of Australia went ahead with Part I of its perception-changing show “Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now”, described by its curator as “certainly the most complex and biggest exhibition of art by women ever seen in this country”.

A whole wall of posters refers to Canberra’s art history and there is a visible presence of Canberra artists, with considerable prominence given to works by GW Bot, eX De Medici, Marie Hagerty, Alison Alder, Brenda L Croft and Vivienne Binns.

Models wear the artists’ names we should know, by Art Girl Rising.

In a collaboration with the business Art Girl Rising, t-shirts with the names of Australian artists were made available for purchase.

Magnificently laid-out, with installation and artworks from floor-to-ceiling, revealing the beauty of Colin Madigan’s building, this show will be followed by another on the same theme next year.

Classical guitarist Matt Withers locked himself away from his family in the Pacific Suites Hotel in Northbourne Avenue to perform his “Songs of Yesterday”.

Music: “Songs of Yesterday”, Matt Withers, classical guitar, Melbourne Guitar Festival live stream series 2020, Pacific Suites on Northbourne Canberra, April.

WHILE visual artists and writers may have been able to work behind closed doors, a heroic note was struck by musicians, who took to their computer screens, then later to small venues, with alacrity.

Canberra classical guitarist Matt Withers locked himself away from his family in the Pacific Suites Hotel in Northbourne Avenue to perform his “Songs of Yesterday”, which was beamed out live across the world in April to around 270 households watching online, as part of the online Melbourne Guitar Festival.

“Even without a live audience, Withers did not lack any of his usual musical charisma and quality playing,” our reviewer wrote, adding, “COVID-19 couldn’t stop the music”.

William Tran played Caliban, a thoroughly disturbing character.

Theatre: “Barren Ground” virtual First Seen presentation at The Street Theatre, September.

THE Street Theatre took to the virtual world with apparent ease, challenging locked-down audiences to get online in a series of gambits, including a live-streamed production of Conor McPherson’s “St Nicholas”.

But it was the developmental Zoom showing of “Barren Ground”, Helen Machalias’ new play about Christmas Island, that hit home with full force.

Beginning with the catastrophic SIEV 221 shipwreck at Flying Fish Cove off Christmas Island, the play, drawing a parallel with Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, introduces survivors Prospero, Miranda and Ariel, who are assisted by Christmas Islander local, Caliban, a thoroughly disturbing character.

Dramaturgy via Zoom is part of the brave new world for theatre, and The Street took it on squarely.

Tobias Cole and Katherine Allen in “HMS Pinafore”.

Musical Theatre: “HMS Pinafore”, Hayes Theatre at the Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, February.

FOR people who couldn’t get to Sydney for Mardi Gras, the production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore” at The Q in Queanbeyan, described as being “as camp as a row of tent pegs” might have been the next best thing.

Directed by the inventive Kate Gaul, who was also momentarily director for the new National Opera production of “La Rondine” for a nanosecond until covid-related changes intervened, the show incorporated both the instrumental and vocal talents of the whole cast in gender-bending, hyper-theatrical and kinky headed by Canberra countertenor Toby Cole, this time singing baritone as Captain Corian. It was a shining beacon in a sea of darkness.

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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