Currency Press

It’s perhaps a dubious thought, but the life of an actor invariably triggers something prurient in the audience, some desperate need to peer past the mask, to see beyond the curtain. Books by and about actors indulge this prurience, whether or not they are intended to. Works like Konstantin Stanislavski’s An Actor Prepares (1936) or Stella Adler’s The Art of Acting (2000) deal academically with the interiority and motivations of acting, but they still offer a glimpse into the process and the perceived trickery of creation. The most fun are the intentionally salacious ones, like David Niven’s The Moon’s a Balloon (1971) or Scotty Bowers’s Full Service (2017), which detailed the sexual proclivities of Hollywood’s closeted élite. Anything to get us closer, to get us into the inner sanctum.

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People who were university students at a particular time often like to regard those years as exceptional, a perspective which, embellished by nostalgia, memoirs, and media hype, can take on mythic proportions. A case in point is the concurrence of people and talent that led to a high point in student theatre ...

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When Alison Croggon’s theatre review blog Theatre Notes closed in late 2012 after eight years in existence, its demise was met with a response akin to grief. The first blog of its kind in Australia, and one of the most enduring anywhere, TN became essential reading for anyone interested in Australian performance ...

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Jedda by Jane Mills

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October 2012, no. 345

Can a work of art be a classic without being ‘great’ – or even, by some standards, particularly good? Jane Mills has no doubt about the canonical position of Jedda (Charles Chauvel, 1955) in Australian cinema, yet admits that her own response falls short of love. This ambivalence stems not only from Jedda’s technical flaws, but also from its message: though the film may not be a white supremacist tract like D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915), it is plain that Chauvel and his wife, Elsa, nearing the end of their long collaborative career, took for granted that biological ‘race’ was destiny.

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Wolf Creek, released in 2005, was always smarter than your average slasher. Anchored by a brilliant performance by John Jarratt, the film was harrowing enough to strike the unobservant as another Saw or Hostel, but far more lurked there for those who bothered to look. In acclaimed novelist Sonya Hartnett’s brief but vivid critical study, the film has found the analysis it deserves. In the book’s arresting autobiographical opening, Hartnett, describing the fear and deprivation of childhood, coins the term ‘two-bit antipodean horror’, which she claims to prefer to the more familiar ‘Australian Gothic’. It evokes a ‘sullen blandness’ at the heart of the country, and it’s this pinched meanness, this horror, that she describes so well in her study.

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Suburban crime narratives featured in many Australian films in the 1990s, partly due to the influence of director Rowan Woods’s film The Boys, which drew inspiration from the ‘kitchen sink’ cinema of 1960s Britain. Twelve years after its theatrical release, this seminal film – based on the play by Gordon Graham and written for the screen by Stephen Sewell – remains the best example of an Australian genre that illustrates Marcus Clarke’s conception of ‘weird melancholy’ in the criminal element of our cities’ troubled underclass.

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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.

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

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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.

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