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Jonathan Dunk

Patrick White’s plays are conventionally assigned a marginal place in the landscape of his writing. Historically, they have either been regarded as poetic but unconvincing extensions of the performative dimensions of his prose, or as fundamentally misconceived exercises in contempt. Tim Winton spoke for the latter camp when, writing in the London Review of Books (22 June 1995), he dismissed White’s dramatic work as a ‘long and wasteful engagement with the theatre and its poisonous hangers-on’. Winton’s judgement is informed by a solitary model of authorship that can be applied to the rural metaphysics of White’s Castle Hill novels but that is increasingly inapplicable to the urbane satires his work became following his move to inner-Sydney in 1964.

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Beware of Pity, the touring co-production of Complicité and Schaubühne, offers a dazzling vision of ethical crisis. Director Simon McBurney’s adaptation of Stefan Zweig’s 1939 novel (Ungeduld des Herzens) compellingly explores the social implications and consequences of individual sentiments without ... 

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If Shakespeare’s tragedies, Macbeth seems the most prescient, apposite to a species rapidly running out of world. Upon hearing of the Witches’ prophecy, and resolving her course with chilling alacrity, Lady Macbeth invokes the nether realm of her potentialities:

Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full
Of direst cruelty.
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When culture worships youth, what does an ageing artist make of his myth?

Most viewers of Strictly Ballroom: The Musical will enjoy themselves to a certain extent and for a certain duration. While my own misgivings were frequent, the large audience received the show warmly and rose, albeit half-heartedly, at the curtain call. The show rests on the shapely spray-tanned shoulders of a large and scantily clad ensemble singing and dancing in unison. Whatever the cost to clarity, the effect is impressive and, occasionally, even hypnotic. That said, Strictly Ballroom: The Musical is mostly pretty awful.

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