January 17, 2017 § Leave a comment
When I was much younger I read the Wikipedia page for the Ingmar Bergman film Persona. I identified with it instantly and knew it was going to be one of my favourite films. I had a moment of inspiration and I wrote an idea down in my journal of ideas. It was a film (or play, if that was even possible!) about a male director remaking Persona with two women, one older and one younger, without them knowing — as a comment on misogyny, obviously. As with many, many ideas that were written in my journal, I promptly forgot about it. Nothing from my journal of ideas was turned into an artistic object beyond the perfect product in my mind. I always assumed that one day I would be a famous playwright. But I never factored in the actual writing, working, rewriting, reworking and solitude of it all. I lost the journal. Time passed. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 8, 2016 § Leave a comment
A response in four parts.
Part one — Jean Genet
Born in 1910 Paris, Jean Genet was said to be a pious and docile child; until, at the age of ten, he was accused of stealing. And being so described, a thief, he was resolved to become a thief. This anecdote, as described by Martin Esslin in his study of theatre of the absurd, comes from Jean-Paul Sartre, an existential philosopher of the time, who wrote on Genet, as well as the nature of freedom and choice.
Esslin tells us that after this incident Genet became “an itinerant delinquent.” He travelled. He spent time in prison. He wrote poetry and plays. He wrote about and engaged in homosexual acts. One of his plays, The Maids, tells the story of two maids (who would have thought?), sisters, who serve the same mistress. They have an intense love and hatred for her, a desire to become and destroy her; they take it in turns dressing up in her clothes and becoming her, one maid becomes the other to complete the game. While mistress is out they perform a ritual that moves from adulation to revolt. Of course, the games always end before the point of no return. On this occasion, however, the two maids come to realise they are to be found out for their part in putting the mistress’ husband in gaol. Their only solution is to commit to the role-play and commit suicide as the mistress; one of them assumes the identity of the mistress, the other becomes her sister, and serves her the poisoned tea they were unable to give to their real mistress earlier. Illusory choice, unfixed identity and queer politics play out in a fabulous, absurd spectacle.
Over a hundred year’s since Genet’s birth, Cate Blanchett, Isabelle Huppert and Elizabeth Debiki took to off-Boradway stages at the Lincoln Centre Festival performing The Maids. The Sydney Theatre Company production was met with mixed reviews, certainly, but no one questioned the talent, force and grandeur of the play. The play’s use of theatre and meta-theatre reflects to the audience a society of contradiction and ever-changing facade. It questions choice itself and asks can we ever be truly free?
Meanwhile, in 2016 Melbourne Australia, Anti-Hamlet has taken to the stage.
May 11, 2016 § Leave a comment
In order to escape the cycle of oppression that often seems inherent to society, feminist theory sometimes opts for post-humanism as a means of exploring its concepts. While there are a number of modern day examples—like insulin packs, IVF, birth control, glasses, smart phones, for example—of people using science to overcome human limitations, the true home of exploring people’s potential has always been science fiction. The allegorical, experimental, and often very entertaining nature of these stories enables audiences to see past the veneer of their lives and discuss topics of any nature. One case in point I’ve always enjoyed is American fans’ ability to talk about abortion in the context of Star Trek, when their own belief-systems stymied that debate in real life. The other is the inimitable Mad Max: Fury Road’s Imperator Furiosa, whose mechanical arm renders her beyond human.
The setback is that science fiction is often not considered “high art”. It’s labeled as somehow pedestrian, fanciful and commercial; or any combination thereof that belittles the content and the creator. Sometimes the last laugh is on the naysayers though, as, particularly in the books and television industry, these texts can do quite well financially — science fiction theatre texts are not as lucky. There’s already considerable stigma attached to genre theatre (and even comedy), as though if it’s not serious and seriously dealing with the serious issues then it’s not worthwhile. Musicals sometimes cop the brunt of that distaste but, again, they can do very well financially. « Read the rest of this entry »
May 8, 2016 § Leave a comment
It’s Shakespeare’s 400th birthday, which seems like a good a time as any to take stock of his ongoing legacy. Spoiler: he’s still relevant. Good for him. Good for us too. It gives theatre companies a back catalogue of rights-free repertoire to remount and schools a seemingly endless number of texts to study — even if they tend to stick to a couple of tried and true favourites. So, to begin with, Happy Birthday Shakespeare, you’ve had a pretty big impact on our culture old mate—particularly in terms of language and narrative—and it doesn’t look like you’re going anywhere.
However, there are those who are suggesting that we take a break from the Bard — although, right or wrong, it must be noted that these two articles are written by playwrights with vested interests (full disclosure, I am similarly invested). The arguments are: let’s support local stories—which arguably have more resonance with contemporary audiences—and that a break would give those who love him the time to miss him. The latter point is somewhat erroneous; arguably, people will ‘miss’ him or not as much as they please, regardless of a hiatus. In regards to a ban, everyone naturally gets uppity when you try and censor art in general; no one wants an irl Cahoot’s Macbeth. And so while an outright ban is (obviously) and overstep, the suggestion opens the debate up to the relevance and prevalence of Shakespeare, which leads to a discussion about cultural imperialism, fitting nicely in with the first argument there, that we should support local stories. Without defending and actively supporting new work, the pall of international influence that Australians take from their colonisers will continue to lead to a problematic internalising of the commodities’ themes and messages — more on that later. « Read the rest of this entry »
April 6, 2016 § Leave a comment
When we first encounter theatre—often Shakespeare—it is as the written word. Of course, there are the theatrics of sports and politics, and we may have been to a play or two (or Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat), but the first time we really settle down to think and talk about theatre it is as a script, on the page, in front of us, written by a man who has been dead for 400 years.
There are two ideas that I want to unpack here; both explore theatre as a living thing, though coming at it from different angles. The first is concerned with our capacity and ability to understand theatre as performance, not simply as text. Because you know what, theatre is fun, and theatre is important. Even in Australia.
There’s nothing wrong with Shakespeare; although—if I may indulge an opinion—I think more people enjoy the idea of liking Shakespeare than they do actually like Shakespeare. Shakespeare is fine. But it is the approach that is most concerning. And this approach leads to a widespread misunderstanding of what theatre is, how to talk about it, how it looks and, most significantly, how it comes to be the way it is — but I’ll get to that later. « Read the rest of this entry »