Felicity Plunkett’s essay on Nick Cave and trauma’s aftermath (ABR, June–July 2019) exhibits qualities worthy of its subject. Many of us were wondering how it was all going – the film allows insight without intrusion. I was shocked and delighted to see that it existed. And what a graceful and exquisite artist the boy from The Birthday Party grew into. I walked out on them in a garage in Alexandria once. They were making a raucous noise, unbearable even by punk’s low bar. Normally, I would have danced to the sound of a dripping tap, but I had to leave. It might have been 1987. Nick Cave feels like a brother to many of us now. Let’s appreciate this reminder that he’s here, doing the work, creating and sharing the gold he spins from straw and shit.
Janelle Trees (online comment)
Much ado about Much Ado
After reading Tim Byrne’s online review of Bell Shakespeare’s new production of Much Ado About Nothing (ABR Arts, July 2019), I am left wondering if I’d seen the same production. While not totally perfect, there was so much more to admire about the play than your reviewer indicated. The whole slant on locker-room ‘bro culture’ contrasted perfectly with Beatrice’s beautifully acted frustration about being a woman – still so pertinent. This contrasted with the relationship of Claudio and Hero, which made way more sense to me than it did in the Kenneth Branagh film version. I, too, was a little nonplussed by the opening scene, but when that scene returned at the end it made total sense, rounding this production nicely. There is such flexibility in the dramaturgy of Shakespeare plays. There is always a new angle to be explored, and Bell Shakespeare has often used this to great advantage.
Robyn St George (online comment)
Having seen this production, I agree with every word of Tim Byrne’s review. I was so appalled by most elements of this production that I went online hunting for reviews. As a teacher of English and Drama, I was glad I hadn’t taken my students to see this as an example of contemporary Shakespeare or as an example of acting and direction. It’s always a relief to read a review that more succinctly articulates what I’m feeling.
Edwina Tribe (online comment)
The scourge of anti-Semitism
What an outstanding review by Ilana Snyder of Deborah Lipstadt’s extraordinary book Antisemitism: Here and now (ABR, August 2019). The reviewer’s deft understanding of the issues covered by Lipstadt is apparent. That there are varied facets of anti-Semitism is not new, but that the facets are increasing in complexity as well as in intensity is new.
Snyder’s review highlights the important issues unpacked in Lipstadt’s book, many of which will resonate with diaspora Jews and with Israelis – and, it is to be hoped, with others. The importance of our own individual, proactive, educative, and responsive actions is also highlighted. As the reviewer comments, ‘[Lipstadt] criticises Jewish organisations that respond to the BDS by seeking to “boycott the boycotters” or to intimidate pro-Palestinian professors and activists by compiling dossiers on them.’ This sort of ‘reverse vilification’ is often counterproductive. By way of example – in 2003 Hanan Ashrawi was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize, which offended some critics. Much of the public criticism from sections of the Australian Jewish community was not fact-based and verged on the hysterical – to what end?
As Lipstadt concludes in her Note to the Reader: ‘[This book] is written with the conviction that action starts with understanding, which will be applied differently by different people in different circumstances. My attempt to explore a perplexing and disturbing set of circumstances is written in the hope that it will provoke action. What precisely the action remains in the hands of the reader.’ One hopes that Lipstadt’s book will lead to a better understanding of the scourge of anti-Semitism in all its guises, and that it will be a catalyst for understanding and change.
George Greenberg (online comment)
Bruce Pascoe’s Open Page
What a man! We could all learn something from Bruce Pascoe.
Paul Menman (online comment)