Theatre

One of many dangers lying in wait for the writer (and reader) of theatre-insider books is that he or she may slip into an endless series of tired anecdotes linked by preening paragraphs of luvvie-speak – though most readers may find luvvie-speak rather more interesting, and amusing, than the piles of polly-waffle foisted on us by our elected ex-representatives. In his preface to this collection of conversations (they are described as ‘interviews’, but this is no rag-bag of formulaic questions), by turns urbane and provocative, humorous and perceptive, and always engaging, director Richard Eyre (whose production of Mary Poppins is currently filling Her Majesty’s in Melbourne) acknowledges his editor and publisher’s help in ‘[discriminating] between what is interesting to me and what is interesting to the general reader’. Over 331 pages and forty-two interviews, Eyre manages this balancing act with the skill of a practised performer combined with the (always) essential awareness of the audience.

... (read more)

In the myths that inspired Wagner to write Der Ring des Nibelungen, the World Ash-Tree (Die WeltEsche) is the symbol of Wotan’s power and enlightenment and eventual downfall. As a young god, he cut a branch off the tree to fashion into his spear. In The Ring, it is not until the Prologue to Götterdämmerung, as the three Norns are weaving their rope of fate, that we are told the World Ash-Tree is withering and dying, as the gods themselves will do by the end of this long evening. As with most of the objects in The Ring, symbolism is never too far away. The tree: the spear: the twilight of the gods. On Wotan’s orders, the branches of the tree (as the Norns tell us, and as Waltraute is soon to tell her sister Brünnhilde) are split and piled around Valhalla, where the gods sit, waiting for their fiery end.

... (read more)

When Prince Hamlet cried ‘The play’s the thing’, he was about to use a performance of The Mousetrap to demonstrate a point central to his purpose: he intended to ‘catch the conscience of the king’. Nearly 400 years later, British playwright David Hare endorsed and expanded Hamlet’s utilitarian approach, writing: ‘Indeed, if you want to understand the social history of Britain since the war, then your time will be better spent studying the plays of the period … than by looking at any comparable documentary source.’

... (read more)

Theatregoers with long memories may well hug to themselves the ‘golden years’ of the Melbourne Theatre Company’s tenancy of the Russell Street Theatre in the 1960s, a time in which plays as varied as Hochhuth’s The Representative, Peter Shaffer’s The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Feydeau’s A Flea in Her Ear, Ruth and Augustus Goetz’s infallible matinee version of Henry James’s The Heiress, and many others jostled for attention. It was the time when an actor called Clive Winmill stepped on stage in the swinging London comedy The Knack and, instead of saying his lines, treated the audience to a passionate anti-Vietnam involvement speech. It was a time when the provocative new and the venerated classic made equal claims on a theatrical ensemble which achieved real importance in Melbourne’s cultural life.

... (read more)

Playwright and professional poéte maudit, Barry Dickins launched this collection as part of La Mama’s thirtieth anniversary festivities. Dickins, it is reported, was not in a festive mood. In an unusually begrudging and self-absorbed frame of mind, he allegedly failed to extol the selected plays and went so far as to hint that one of his own tautly sprung specimens should have been included.

... (read more)

Collected Plays, Volume II by Patrick White & Collected Plays, Volume II by David Williamson

by
October 1994, no. 165

In a recent interview on ABC radio, the playwright, Stephen Sewell, deplored the lack of revivals of notable Australian plays. Now and then, one of the pioneer playwrights from the first half of the century is honoured briefly in this way, but it is much rarer to find one of the professional companies revisiting the major works of the last twenty-five years. As Sewell implied, this reflects the lack of a strong sense of a tradition of ‘modem classics’ in our theatre.

... (read more)

The subtitle of this book, ‘The Revolution in the Australian Theatre since the 1960s’, is the clue to its subject and its thesis. If it is plain that Australian theatre and, in particular, Australian drama, is now an established fact, a splendid feature of the cultural landscape, this is only a recent growth.

The author has been peculiarly placed to watch this growth, to assist it and even to inspire it. Since 1974, as theatre critic for the Melbourne Age, he has seen and reviewed more than 2000 productions, more than 1000 of them plays by Australian writers.

... (read more)

The twelve-month period which began in February 1982 saw an unprecedented growth of interest in Aboriginal drama in English, both within Australia and overseas. In that month, Jack Davis’s second play, The Dreamers, made its début in the annual Festival of Perth and was generally well received by the critics. Five months later, Robert Merritt’s 1975 play The Cake Man was revived briefly in Sydney, in preparation for its two-week season as an Australian representative at the World Theatre Festival in Denver, Colorado. So popular was it that tickets for the entire season were sold out in advance of the first performance, thereby breaking all box-office records for the festival.

... (read more)

It seems that going to the theatre has always been a popular activity with Australians. Popular theatre during the period covered by this book (1834–1914) staged a remarkable variety of Australian plays: operettas, melodramas, burlesques, sensation plays, and extravaganzas. On Our Selection, the first play to be called ‘Australian through and through’, opened to an audience of more than a thousand and achieved tremendous popularity.

... (read more)
Page 5 of 5