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Ian Dickson

Ian Dickson

Ian Dickson has degrees in drama from Yale and the University of New South Wales, and is the co-author of the musical Better Known As Bee.

'Happy Days': Samuel Beckett's absurdist, existential masterpiece

ABR Arts 15 June 2021
Towards the end of the first act of Happy Days, Samuel Beckett spells out clearly the question that is at the heart of his work and that of the playwrights loosely grouped under the title ‘absurdist’. His protagonist, Winnie, buried up to her waist in earth, is describing the conversation of a couple who, wandering by, have caught sight of her. The man turns to his female companion. ‘What’ ... (read more)

'The Cherry Orchard': A tin-eared production of Chekhov’s classic

ABR Arts 03 June 2021
What did Anton Pavlovich Chekhov ever do to Sydney theatre that Sydney theatre should treat him as it does? Since Tamas Ascher’s superb STC production of Uncle Vanya hit the stage in 2010, Sydney has been subjected to performances of The Seagull, Ivanov, The Present (aka Platonov), and Three Sisters that, in their attempts to be ‘relevant’, have ridden roughshod over the subtle, devastatingl ... (read more)

'Fun Home': A stellar musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel's graphic novel

ABR Arts 04 May 2021
Fun Home is not your average musical. Based on Alison Bechdel’s hugely influential 2006 graphic novel of the same name – which contrasts her coming out as a lesbian with her gay father’s closeted, unhappy, and ultimately self-destructive life – Hello, Dolly! it ain’t. But in the clear-eyed, compassionate, and understanding hands of playwright Lisa Kron and composer Jeanine Tesori, it bec ... (read more)

Ian Dickson reviews 'Mike Nichols: A life' by Mark Harris

May 2021, no. 431 26 April 2021
On 8 November 2015, a year after his death, a celebration was held for Mike Nichols in the IAC building in New York. The audience included the likes of Anna Wintour, Stephen Sondheim, Tom Stoppard, Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Meryl Streep. Seventy-six years earlier, less than a mile away, seven-year-old Igor Mikhail Peschkowsky walked down the SS Bremen’s gangplank into America and a ne ... (read more)

Appropriate: A triumphant production of a challenging play

ABR Arts 25 March 2021
Picasso is supposed to have claimed that ‘good artists borrow, great artists steal’. The young American playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins does something slightly different. He, as it were, appropriates, taking well-known theatrical styles and adapting them to his own use. He gets old theatrical forms – the minstrel show in Neighbors (2010) or nineteenth-century melodrama in An Octoroon (2014 ... (read more)

Jali | Griffin Theatre

ABR Arts 17 March 2021
Jali is a West African term for a storyteller – someone who can use words, music, or dance to make sense of the world for themselves and their audience. The young stand-up comic Oliver Twist, in his first theatrical piece, is proving himself to be very much a chronicler in that tradition. Twist’s story is one that has become distressingly familiar. Born in Rwanda to Tutsi/Hutu parentage at th ... (read more)

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Sydney Theatre Company)

ABR Arts 30 November 2020
The advance publicity for Kip Williams’s production of Oscar Wilde’s novella The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) makes much of Wilde’s aphorism ‘The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.’ In the past, Williams has found the fashionable mix of video and live performance pioneered by the Belgian director Ivo van Hove seductive. He has used it brilliantly in his production of ... (read more)

Ian Dickson reviews 'The Lives of Lucian Freud: Fame, 1968–2011' by William Feaver

December 2020, no. 427 25 November 2020
To start with the broadest of generalisations, artists’ biographies can be divided into three types: those that concentrate on the work; those that take the life as their focus; and the ‘life and times’ volumes that attempt to place the artist in her social and political context. And then there is William Feaver’s massive 1,248-page, two-volume extravaganza on Lucian Freud (1922–2011). ... (read more)

Wonnangatta (Sydney Theatre Company)

ABR Arts 14 October 2020
Theatre emerged from ritual and the present circumstances have introduced new rites of passage for those who take part in the ceremony. Donning your mask, you perform the cleansing of hands, stand at attention as your temperature is taken, and enter an eerily under-populated lobby in which other masked figures attempt to keep a prescribed distance as they head for the inner sanctum. Once inside it ... (read more)

'Epiphany: The education of an operamane' by Ian Dickson

June–July 2020, no. 422 27 May 2020
It is a truth, maybe not universally acknowledged but a truth nonetheless, that epiphanies tend to happen earlier rather than later in one’s life. Soul-shattering, life-changing experiences occur more regularly when the soul is tender enough to be shattered and the life malleable enough to be changed. I am an excited seven-year-old. Today I am going to what I have been informed is London’s gr ... (read more)