'The tyranny of text? Different readings at the Melbourne International Arts Festival' by John Rickard

Different readings at the Melbourne International Arts Festival

by John Rickard


In October, Brett Sheehy’s Melbourne International Arts Festival presented, with a certain relish, I suspect, two productions that represent opposite ends of a dramatic spectrum of current concern to those working in theatre. Heiner Goebbels’s Stifters Dinge (Stifter’s Things) is introduced as ‘a composition for five pianos with no pianists, a play with no actors, a performance without performers’. On the other hand, The Beckett Trilogy, from Gare St Lazare Players Ireland, could be described as pure text: with no scenery or props and minimal lighting, one ‘performer’ (as he is described in the program) on stage for over three hours recites edited versions of the three novels which make up Samuel Beckett’s trilogy. Floating somewhere in the middle of the spectrum is Robert Lepage’s The Blue Dragon, which wraps elaborate scenic effects around a slim narrative. When Edward Albee, who happened to be in town during the festival, proclaims the sanctity of the author’s script, it raises the question of what constitutes the text in much contemporary theatre.

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John Rickard

John Rickard

John Rickard is the author of Australia: A Cultural History (2017). In his youth he worked as an actor and singer.

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