Thousand tops

With 2020 being largely taken out of the mix, it has taken me just over 8 years to review 1000 shows as Blue Curtains Brisbane. And my top 10 favourites from within them, appropriately feature shows from 2013 to 2021… a mix of comedy, cabaret, musicals, theatre and festival fare.

1. Delectable Shelter (The Hayloft Project)

The Hayloft Project’s 2013 out-of-the-box black comedy, “Delectable Shelter” literally took place in a box as bunker at Brisbane Powerhouse in its claustrophobic tell of five doomsday survivors planning a utopian society. With ‘80s power ballads and hilarious homages to their ancestors from later descendants, there was so much by which to be entertained in the anarchy of its apocalyptic storytelling, making it my absolute favourite.

2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (National Theatre of Great Britain)

In 2018, the National Theatre of Great Britain provided QPAC audiences with an unparalleled insight into the mind of someone living with an autism spectrum condition with their acclaimed production of Mark Hadden’s much-loved novel. Inventive, imaginative stage design which saw the floor and all three walls of the boxed-in set transformed into mathematical graph paper, provided many visually memorable moments authentic to experience of the show’s London production.

3. All My Love (HIT Productions)

HIT Productions’ sensitive “All My Love” chronicled the fascinating and little-known relationship between the larger-than-life writer and poet Henry Lawson and the radical socialist and literary icon Mary Gilmore, taking its audience along an evocative journey about the people beyond their words, but also their passion in a “Love Letters” type way.

4. Ladies in Black (Queensland Theatre)

The musical so nice, Queensland Theatre programed it twice. With stunning visuals and costumes, a soundtrack featuring over 20 original Tim Finn songs and humour, the Helpman-Award-winning musical took audiences into both the glitz of a high-end 1950s department store shop floor and the personal lives of its employees with infectious wit and charm.

5. The Revolutionists (The Curators)

The Curator’s 2021 drama-filled French-revolutionist play about a playwright writing a play was passionate, powerful, political and full of important messaging about women’s importance in history and the fundamental role of theatre and culture in history and civilisation.

6. The Tragedy of King Richard III (La Boite Theatre Company)

In 2016, Daniel Evans’ gave meaning anew to Shakespeare’s depiction of the Machiavellian King Richard III through bold exploration of its story’s silences, gaps and biases and dynamic discovery of new character depths and unexpected provocations.

7. Hamnet (Dead Centre)

As part of the 2018 Brisbane Festival, Ireland’s Dead Centre used audio visual technology in combination with live performance to give us the perfectly-pitched and movingly thought-provoking story of Shakespeare’s one son (just 11 when he died), knowing that he is just one letter away from greatness.

8. Boy Swallows Universe (Queensland Theatre)

My favourite ever Queensland Theatre show…. More than just recreating Trent Dalton’s story, the company’s landmark 2021 production of “Boy Swallows Universe”, honoured the original text and transformed it as a work of its own, dynamic in its realisation and anchored around its theme of resilience.

9. California Crooners Club (Parker + Mr French)

The 2016 Spiegeltent saw audiences treated to the first Brisfest appearance of the cool-cat cabaret crooners of the “California Crooners Club”. The energetic and charming show from genuine, generous performers (led by concept creator Hugh Sheridan), was a marvellous mixed bag of old, new and original numbers curated together and harmonised like familiar favourites.

10. Forthcoming (shake & stir theatre company)

Shake & stir theatre company’s contemporary adults-only choose-your-own-adventure romantic comedy “Fourthcoming” not only placed the course of the narrative in the audience’s hands, but provided an avalanche of non-stop laugh-until-you-cry moments.


Special mention to La Boite Theatre Company’s “Still Standing”, which in 2002 and 2003 presented a music-filled immersion into the Brisbane rock scene of the 1980s as counter-culture to the repressive Bjelke-Petersen regime that although I saw before starting reviewing, still stands as my favourite ever Brisbane theatre experience.

Claustraphobic comedy

Delectable Shelter (The Hayloft Project & Critical Stages)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre

August 6 – 10


The Hayloft Project and Critical Stages’ “Delectable Shelter” is an ‘out of the box’ comedy, which is ironic given that the action literally takes place in a box (a ‘bunker’ represented by a kind of open-sided shipping container, sparingly decorated with little more than hideous floral wallpaper). This unique stage design is a clever way of contextualising the claustrophobia so central to the story’s black comedy, as it tells the tale of five doomsday survivors planning a utopian society.

The first two acts of the story track the fortunes of a dysfunctional, privileged family, after a global catastrophe (immediately and then a few years hence) as they focus on repopulating and reshaping the future world. From there, the play romps around in gleeful “Red Dwarf” style and demonstration of just how ridiculous humans can be. Indeed, these later scenes are a real delight as the descendants of the original survivors pay (inadvertent) homage to their ancestors, with a layering of references to earlier conversations. It is here where the result of three centuries of Chinese whispers is revealed in a lexiconically kleptomaniac feast of fun of The Simpson’s ‘purple monkey dishwasher’ type.

“Delectable Shelter”, is an unorthodox, yet engaging story, in part due to way in which silence and song play equal leading roles. Initial Act One scenes are characterised by restraint and quiet, while Act Two sees a mute character dominate with comic hilarity. As punctuation to this, each act is divided by a capella ‘fusion song’ versions of ‘80s power ballads, performed by a salmon-pink robed choir. The musical interludes are not as random as first perceived and it is eventually revealed that the group is trying to disarm a potential enemy upon their return to the surface of earth, 350 years after Act One. Such is the anarchic approach and thus the appeal of this apocalyptic account.