WA Decides – 2016’s Top Performance Picks

Posted by Thom Smyth, December 15th, 2016

It’s that time of the year when we go out to the industry to find out what got people talking and who they’re watching out for in 2017. This year we added a category – the commission. Given a chance to commission a show about anything, what would you pick? Check out the suggestions below.

There was a range of shows and artists mentioned, but the big winner for 2016 was Barking Gecko Theatre Company for their completely charming instant classic Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories. Congrats to the company and all the artists involved. Bambert is off on tour throughout 2017, but if you missed it, keep an eye out for a return season in Perth in late 2017!

Honourable mentions as well to The Last Great Hunt‘s New Owner, Bangarra‘s touring hit Our Land People Stories; and Blackmarket by pvi collective.

And there was a wide range of hot tips for who to look out for next year. Sally Richardson’s new circus company Maxima, dancer and choreographer Tyrone Robinson, and writer and director Will O’Mahony are safe bets to keep tabs on in 2017.

Thanks to all respondents – let us know on Facebook what your top picks were!

Stephen Bevis | Communications Manager, Perth International Arts Festival

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental – 17 Border Crossings: Thaddeus Philip’s virtuoso solo theatre work took us around the world and deep into the personal intensity of trying to enter another country.

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Barking Gecko Theatre Company – Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories: This beautiful tale of a bookish recluse sending his stories into the world by balloon won a rare Helpmann Award for a WA company.

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: Red Ryder Productions – Grounded: Alison Van Reeken’s exhilarating Blue Room performance of George Brant’s taut, morally complex monologue about a fighter pilot-turned-drone operator was an adrenaline rush akin to that craved by the grounded lead character.

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2017: Will O’Mahony: He never ceases to surprise and assembled a great cast for his Performing Lines/Black Swan co-pro Coma Land.

2017 COMMISSION TOPIC?: Roe 8 – The Musical


Rick Heath | Executive Director, Australian Performing Arts Centres Association

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Barking Gecko’s Bambert – this show rocked on so many levels but above all it was quite simply sublimely crafted – and kudos to Tim Watts – I could watch this guy all day!

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: James Berlyn’s I Know, You’re There – a deeply personal experience that resonated in ways indescribable.

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: The Waifs – Fremantle Arts Centre – for the sheer joy of local artists celebrating and sharing their extraordinary talents with ‘their people’.

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2017?: James Berlyn – the work of a mature artist who continues to evolve and reimagine what’s possible is always worth watching

2017 COMMISSION TOPIC?: ‘People in Glass Houses …’ A dance work on the contradictory political career of Peter Garrett featuring the music of Midnight Oil – © all rights reserved R Heath


Andrea Gibbs | Performer & Co-creator of Barefaced Stories

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Is This Thing On? by Zoe Coombs-Marr @ The Blue Room Theatre – Of course!

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Barefaced Stories – all of them!

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: Bangarra Dance Our Land People Stories at The State Theatre Centre

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2017?: Side Pony Productions

2017 COMMISSION TOPIC?: Barefaced Stories Regional


Aaron Beach | Executive Director, Co3 Contemporary Dance Company

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Our, Land People Stories by Bangarra Dance Theatre. Always a thrill to see these guys in Perth, we were lucky enough to have them in WA twice with Terrain touring as well

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Sugarland by Australian Theatre for Young People (toured by Performing Lines). I’m a little biased but I think this was a really important work to present in Perth.

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: The Object Lesson by Geoff Sobelle at Perth International Arts Festival. Incredible magical theatre.

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2017?: Gavin Webber, Grayson Millwood & The Farm

2017 COMMISSION TOPIC?: Chrissie Parrott, Tyrone Robinson, Antony Hamilton – Let’s look at dance through the eyes of these change-makers!


Sharon Custers | General Manager, Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Falling Through Clouds – The Last Great Hunt

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Oddysea – Sensorium Theatre

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: Kaya – Ochre Contemporary Dance

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2017?: Ochre Contemporary Dance

2017 COMMISSION TOPIC?: The future


Aurelien Scannella | Artistic Director, West Australian Ballet

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: West Australian Ballet/Matt Lehmann/Radio and Juliet

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: West Australian Ballet/Chihiro Nomura/The Nutcracker

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: West Australian Ballet/Andre Santos/Ballet at the Quarry

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2017?: Chihiro Nomira/West Australian Ballet


Matt Edgerton | Artistic Director, Barking Gecko Theatre Company

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: The Blue Room, Porto, Written by Kate Benson, Directed and Produced by Lisa Louttit. This was an exceptional piece of funny and multi-layered new writing, realised with a lot of subtlety and class.

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Black Swan State Theatre Company, Tonsils and Tweezers, Written and Directed by Will O’Mahoney. An really inventive new work, directed with pace and precision – full of satisfying revelations and comic delight.

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: The Last Great Hunt, New Owner, Created by Tim Watts and Arielle Gray. A cracking piece of children’s theatre with a lot of heart that never spoke down to its audience. It has a very long life ahead of it!

HONOURABLE MENTION: pvi collective, Blackmarket, Kelli Mccluskey & Steve Bull with Steve Berrick & Chris Williams. Immersive post-apocalyptic mayhem on the mean streets of Subi. So much fun!

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2017?: I’m really looking forward to seeing the work of emerging designer Tyler Hill, designing set and costumes for Endgame, Black Swan State Theatre Company


Tony Currie | Content Development & Publicity Officer, West Australian Ballet

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster, Nicola Gunn & Performing Lines

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Pindorama, Lia Rodrigues at Perth International Arts Festival


ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2017?: Tyrone Robinson

2017 COMMISSION TOPIC?: Relevance


Henry Boston | Executive Director, Chamber of Arts and Culture WA

PERFORMANCE PICK #1:The Wild Duck by Simon Stone, Perth International Arts Festival

PERFORMANCE PICK #2:Decadance by STRUT Dance

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: The Punch Brothers



Ian Sinclair | PONY EXPRESS

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Pindorama by Brazilian choreographer Lia Rodrigues as part of PIAF: A live dance installation that drowned the audience in political, environmental and spiritual extremes.

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Blackmarket by PVI COLLECTIVE also part of PIAF. Surviving Subiaco has never been more fun!

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster by the indomitable Nicola Gunn at PICA: an ethically charged, ‘word vomit’ extravaganza complete with a Duck hyper ballad!.

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2017?: Choreographer Tyrone Robinson; man-about-town Chris Donnelly; Maybe (   ) Together’s Alex Desebrock; all things Mikala Westall x The Lost Boys; visual/performance artist Liam Colgan; Sally Richardson’s new company MAXIMA; Will O’Mahony’s Coma Land presented by Black Swan Theatre Company + Performing Lines WA, new kids on the block Those Who Love You led by Monty Sallur and Your Mouth Collective led by Madeleine Lewis, Lukas Radovich and Phoebe Sullivan.

2017 COMMISSION TOPIC: The online radicalisation of straight white men.


Jenna Mathie | Producer, The Blue Room Theatre

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Grounded – Red Ryder Productions

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories – Barking Gecko Theatre Company

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: Our Land People Stories – Bangarra Dance Theatre

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2017?: Tim Green and Samantha Maclean are recent graduates from WAAPA’s BPA course who just made their first show and it was a ripper. I can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeves. I’m also looking forward to seeing Will O’Mahony and Joe Lui making their directorial debuts with Black Swan State Theatre Company and The Last Great Hunt are working on some exciting projects including The Midnight Run as part of PIAF.

2017 COMMISSION TOPIC: Diverse voices on our stages including culturally and linguistically diverse artists, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and artists with disability.


Jenny Simpson | Artistic Director & CEO, Awesome Festival

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: New Owner –  The Last Great Hunt

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Oddysea – Sensorium Theatre

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: A Mano (By Hand) – El Patio Teatro

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2017?: Sensorium Theatre



Ryan Taaffe | Executive Director, Circuitwest

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories – Barking Gecko Theatre Company. A beautifully crafted and performed piece that brought childhood back to lots of adults.

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: New Owner – The Last Great Hunt. On of the newest offerings from this company and is a touching story that makes use of the digital space and puppetry.

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: I Know You’re There – James Berlyn. A well placed, personal work from a wonderful story teller.

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2017?: SAMANTHA MACLEAN AND TIMOTHY GREEN. Getting great reviews and praise for their first outing Tissue at The Blue Room.

2017 COMMISSION TOPIC: Unity, mob mentality and fear thinking/communication. The discourse of power and hate speech.


Graeme Watson | Editor, Out In Perth

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: On the Face of Things – this Fringe show from WA Youth Theatre Company Ensemble was so much fun, I was captivated.

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Picnic at Hanging Rock – Black Swan State Theatre, I always loathed the story, and this production made me love it, and it was scary!

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: Vaboux – this odd new drag queen on the scene is always mysterious and creative.

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2017?: I never have any expectations

2017 COMMISSION TOPIC: I’d like to see more works addressing HIV/AIDS in 2017, we’ve forgotten to talk about this important issue. Especially the reality of living with HIV.

Images by Jon Green, Jhuny Boy Borja, Gregory Lorenzutti,