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The arts editor’s top picks for 2021

Arts editor Helen Musa.

Arts editor HELEN MUSA offers up her five best arts moments of 2021.

THIS past year in the arts was partly a rerun of 2020, with events announced with gusto, postponed or cancelled with regret, then offered later with relief rather than enthusiasm. But our artists, who thrive on adversity, still came up with some beauties. 

Luminescence Chamber Singers. Photo: Peter Hislop


Luminescence Chamber Singers, ANU Drill Hall Gallery, March.

DIRECTED by AJ America with advice from Roland Peelman, this small ensemble of singers shone brightly as they offered delicate pearls of music to prove the primacy of the human voice as a musical instrument. Exquisitely refined and perfectly human, this concert ranged over an original song commissioned for a wedding anniversary, through a work by Australian composer Alice Chance, an Icelandic hymn and Gershwin’s “Summertime.” 

Christopher Samuel Carroll in “The Stranger”.


“The Stranger”, Ralph Wilson Theatre, December. 

CHRISTOPHER Samuel Carroll’s delayed one-man stage adaptation of Albert Camus’ disquieting novella “The Stranger” (The Outsider) was simplicity itself. A concentrated engagement between the audience and a formidable actor under a stage recreation of the Algerian sun, this was pure theatre, simple yet controlled. 


“Fangirls”, The Playhouse, March.

YOU didn’t have to be 14 to enjoy this new musical by Sydney’s Yve Blake, which brought joy and frivolity to Canberra theatregoers after a long drought. The wacky multimedia production, staged with all the razzle-dazzle of showbiz and a lot of silliness, had a Canberra judge blushing at the law-defying ending. A look at teen culture in the age of the mobile phone, this production had the audience on fire.

Stephen Harrison’s “You Want It Darker”.


“You Want It Darker”, Belconnen Arts Centre, February. 

ARTIST Stephen Harrison conjured up evocative and lonely scenes of dreamscapes, a vanishing thylacine, decaying plane wrecks and ancient lighthouses to match the covid mood perfectly. His exhibition of sculptures and drawings, one of them 17 metres long, crafted images to provoke dark and disturbing dreams while also creating beauty.

Dancers in “The Point”. Photo: Andrew Sikorski


“The Point”, Belconnen Arts Centre Theatre, April.

CHOREOGRAPHER Liz Lea used her recent discovery that Marion and Walter Burley Griffin spent their last years in India to create an intersection of light and architecture with the human body in a multilayered work, “The Point”. Five contemporary dancers blench seamlessly with Indian classical dance artists to create a perfect cultural interface. This was wordless, abstract and breathtaking.


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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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