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2021: THE YEAR IN REVIEW(S)

Look, 2021 was a difficult year for the performing arts but that didn’t stop our army of avid Citizen Reviewers from taking in all the live theatre and music they could lay their eyes on.

They laughed, they cried and they sang out loud but most importantly, they reviewed the shows and shared their honest opinions. With the end of the year approaching, here’s a look back at the shows our Citizen Reviewers raved about and rubbished, the ones that inspired them and the ones that left them scratching their heads.

A singalong sensation

Review season started on a high note with Your Song, a production by The Little Red Company celebrating the music of Elton John and the memorable moments it evokes.

Catherine Lawrence called Your Song “the perfect post-lockdown show… to entice friends and family back to live performance”.

The shows that made us laugh

A Slightly Isolated Dog theatre company reworked Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic tale of Jekyll & Hyde into a chaotic, side-splitting comedy that dragged in audiences with interactive storytelling.

“This is no traditional Jekyll & Hyde, but instead, a fast-paced, laugh-a-minute, interactive storytelling that serves up comedy and frivolity on a platter,” reviewer Jodie Charles lauded.

Opera first-timer Louise Simonetta was initially concerned 200-year-old The Marriage of Figaro would be hard to follow and relate to but was happily mistaken.

“The twists and turns, the drama, comedy, suspense and scandal were enthralling and could rival any modern-day soap opera!” Louise wrote in her review.

The shows that touched our hearts

Undertow, a poignant two-hander from Shock Therapy Productions, pulled in our reviewers and swept them up in a whorl of dramatic physical theatre.

Exploring themes of mental health, identity and empathy, Undertow struck an emotional chord for reviewer Rhonda Fenton, describing it as: “a timely reminder that you don’t know what people are dealing with so treat everyone with kindness and understanding”.

Undertow

While our reviewers generally raved about the Van Gogh Alive multi-sensory experience, there were some reservations about how Van Gogh, commercially unsuccessful in his lifetime, would respond to the commercialisation of his work.

Teela Jurgensen was “surprised at the size of this mobile exhibition space and just how enthralling the visual presentation is”, while Tracey Mathers described it as “mesmerising, enchanting, peaceful, calming and emotional”.

Meanwhile, Jo Michelmore found herself “swinging greatly between loving it and being unsure about it, trying to imagine what Vincent Van Gogh himself would think and wondering if having one’s works being shown in such a commercial way…would feel like a success or failure”.

The best of Brisbane Festival

Every year Brisbane Festival serves up a smorgasbord of live performance spanning theatre, comedy, music, dance, art, fashion, circus and more. Our Citizen Reviewers got among it to give their honest opinions about the Festival’s 2021 offerings with razor-sharp zeal.

Here’s a shortlist of what had them buzzing this year:

First Nations Fashion: Walking in Two Worlds was a one-off fashion event Jodie Charles called: “A magical showcase highlighting the genius of local Indigenous fashion, music, arts and was a joyous celebration of culture.”

Brisbane’s Art Boat

Giant inflatable artworks cruising the river aboard Brisbane’s Art Boat, what’s not to love? Our reviewers thought so too.

“The beautiful floating vessel was surrounded with artworks everywhere you looked, accompanied by whimsical sounds and changing lights to match the tone,” Isabella Charles wrote.

Brisbane Festival is a perfect opportunity to branch out your tastes and discover something new like Martin Palmer did at Auntie’s Fiafia Night.

Having never seen traditional Pacific Island dance live before, Martin Palmer “was captivated throughout most of the night,” adding that “the musicians were fantastic with solid drumbeats transporting oneself to the beaches of Hawaii and the mountains of Samoa”.

Mixed mentions

Not all the shows hit the mark for our discerning Citizen Reviewers, but a few did leave them with a distinct impression. Mental Illness Is Not a Crime was a one-night, adults-only immersive, interactive live art performance of ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) experiences.

“It’s not for everyone,” Rachel Morgan commented, “but I loved it as something out of the norm of traditional theatre-making.”

Meanwhile, White Pearl, Anchuli Felicia King’s new play about casual racism and corporate culture elicited mixed reactions from our reviewers.

White Pearl

Dan Etiel praised the ensemble performance and rapid-fire banter of the characters but described the overall production as “a rough-cut dramedy diamond that needs some polish”.

Take a bow, ladies and gentlemen

And so, the curtain falls on another year of IMHO and it’s time our Citizen Reviewers take the stage for a round of applause to say “thank you” for all their hard reviewing in 2021. Bravo!

Click HERE to join our ranks as a Citizen Reviewer in 2022.