Melbourne has many theatres and galleries that are supported by the state government, plus support from federal government funded arts bodies.
The Arts Centre is state government funded and with its showcase theatres it’s at the forefront of the arts in the southern side of the Yarra river, it’s the starting point of the arts precinct. There are two main building, the first one houses Hamer Hall (2,000 people) with many restaurants facing the river. In between the two building is a lawn area, which often is used for free concerts, Sunday craft market, or just a space to chill. If the first building is the strong brother the second building is the feminine younger sister with its ballet tutu dress hanging over the entire building topped off with a spire. This building houses the State Theatre, Playhouse and Fairfax theatre, plus gallery and restaurants and bars.
It’s the second building that I headed to last Friday for one of the performances of the inaugural Asia TOPA, yes it’s another arts festival for Melbourne. It’s the Asia-Pacific Triennial of performing arts, features more than a dozen new work commissions and about the same again of works of works in their premiere season. Artist from diverse cultures inevitably work in diverse local economies and frequently have limited if any access to the kind of cultural we take for granted here in Australia. This festival recognises our role in supporting the current and next generation of artist in our region, how wonderful, thank you again Melbourne.
The show I went along to see was – Dancing With Death by Pichet Klunchun Dance Company from Thailand. The performance and audience was staged on the stage, yep you read it right…so you walked through the amazing State Theatre [1,500 people] beautifully lit, not one person in the seats, then you headed up a stair cast onto the stage, where there was temporary seating and an oval shaped catwalk greeted you. The music was joyest and there were already performers dancing around the audience as you entered, the performers were dressed in “witch doctor” like, fluoro headdresses and costumes.
Once everyone was seated, the tone changed- music and performers, it became very slow moving contemporary dance. I found it spellbinding, but near the end a few people left…as I have said before – art is in the eye of the beholder!