Opinion: David O’Brien’s 2022 Top Ten

Top 10 2022This year 10 just wasn’t enough; the 2022 Top Ten contains 11. Yes, there could be 50 in this list. In reverse order counting down to 1, read on!


11) After All This – Rumpus/Wickedly Good Productions – Playwright Marcel Dorney scored a 2012 Melbourne Green Room award for After All This. Wickedly Good Productions did a brilliant job with the text. Using Rumpus’s building as base, the audience was enveloped and confronted with a history of beliefs in a journey that wound through the building bending from childhood reminisce to death cult apologist affirmation. Never once was being judgemental involved. A huge achievement. An absorbing experience.


10) Di, Viv and Rose – Rumpus/The Corseted Rabbits – This trio of women seek to champion women’s issues. Their first chosen work couldn’t have been more perfect. Amelia Bullmore’s play offered Director Rachel Burke and cast everything, all the issues. 40 years of history. Pop culture of the 80s era onwards. Gender politics in evolution. They delivered a sensational interpretation, rich in its challenges to the present day, illuminative of the past they spring from.


9) Love on the Left Bank – Adelaide Cabaret Festival/Louise Blackwell – French chanteuse Juliet Greco; who would dare play her life onstage? Louise Blackwell. Francophile of long standing, Blackwell’s chosen creative collaborators delivered with her, a career highlight as champions of French musical culture. Blackwell’s performance was properly beyond mere replication of Greco. It seethed with a truth not to be denied.


8) Whatever Happened to Mary Jane? – Freefall Productions – Anorexia. Can it be tackled onstage? Yes! 25 years ago renowned comedian Wendy Harmer wrote a script extolling the experience of NIDA graduate Sancia Robinson. In 2022, Stefanie Rossi took it on under superlative direction from Tony Knight. It was a performance of painfully deep, illuminating, emotional and intellectually aware intensity.


7) The Boy and The Ball – The PaperBoats – Sheer innocence and simple technical prowess. Abetted by generous vulnerability and simple cardboard plus tennis balls, made this production an exemplar of how to reach a very young audience in such a way they are both engaged and deeply enthralled.


6) Exposed – Restless Dance Theatre – Such beautiful work, helmed by Geoff Cobham’s grand, profoundly considered lighting and set design. Here was exploration and expression of the fear and hope people with disability experience day to day, exquisitely underscored by Hilary Kleinig’s delicate sound composition.


5) A Streetcar Named Desire – The Bakehouse – The final production within the hallowed walls of Adelaide’s most famous, beloved black box theatre. Director Michael Baldwin offered a scintillating production. A richly layered treatment of Tennessee Williams’ text, the very poetry of it sidled along perfectly with an equal savagery burning deep within the language. It was given living expression by a cast more than up to the challenge.


4) Happy Go Wrong – Under The Microscope/Adelaide Festival Centre/Andi Snelling – The oft quoted aphorism ‘the personal is political’ totally applies to this profoundly, wickedly funny, dark, exhilarating, one hander production. Andi Snelling’s rich, gleeful discombobulating exploration of her battle with Lyme disease is a physical theatre clown class, unfailingly pulling an audience in.


3) Something Big – Rumpus/CRAM Collective – Few theatrical debuts by a young company hit heights of shatteringly powerful, sophisticated maturity on all levels of production. Here was a bunch of barely-out-of-drama-school grads tackling an extremely complex text and profoundly dark subject matter worthy of actors a good 10 years into their careers. They pulled it off in a fashion leaving this writer breathless!


2) Girl From The North Country – GWB Entertainment/Sydney Festival/Damian Hewitt & Trafalgar Entertainment Group/Runaway Entertainment/State Theatre Company South Australia – An extraordinarily reimagined take on Bob Dylan’s oeuvre within a theatrical structure challenging how his music can be arranged, and his writing expressed. Possibly the best outside-the-box creative programming/investment decision State Theatre Company South Australia has ever made.


1) Oleanna – Flying Penguin Productions –Words are weapons, poorly deployed. The early 21st Century has become such a linguistic battleground, taking David Mamet’s #metoo text beyond that. Director David Mealor understood and realised this powerfully in play. It was a vicious yet introspective production; a power game in which the ugliness of the game was as fascinating as the deplorable players of it.


Hot New Artist to Watch – Georgia Laity

Georgia Laity’s performance in Di, Viv and Rose convinced me she could totally take on David Mamet’s Oleanna under David Mealor’s direction, pairing her with the formidably gifted Renato Mussolino her former teacher at Flinders Drama Centre.

Why? Something about her playing Viv’s line “she’s annoying,” totally got my attention.

Not played as a throw away phrase, but uttered with heady, implacable declaration of immutable opposition to Di which, nonetheless, offered a sliver of questioning doubt; doubt battling with a sense of as yet, growing superiority – false or real?


Laity took this sophisticated, subtle capability to a whole new level in Oleanna.

The distance between the two productions and characters is vast.

What Laity brought to both was exceptional comprehension of, and capacity to articulate, truths as naive, ugly, painful and disturbing as much as placid. Unravelling the complex with profound assurance.


Georgia Laity is going to really fire stages up in her career.


David O’Brien