Ian Dickson

The Deep Blue Sea 

Ian Dickson
Monday, 10 February 2020

The seismic shift which occurred in the British theatre with the success of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger in 1956 left Terrence Rattigan high and dry. Writing for the ideal audience member he dubbed ‘Aunt Edna’ – a very different creature from her flamboyant Australian namesake – he supposedly fashioned plays that were designed to entertain the middle classes without disturbing them unduly. But a close reading of his more serious plays proves him to be every bit as trenchant a critic of British society as the ‘angry young men’ – Osborne, Wesker, and Arden – who took over the theatre in the 1950s and 1960s.

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Farnace 

Ian Dickson
Friday, 06 December 2019

Always read the fine print. At the base of the program for Pinchgut Opera’s production of Antonio Vivaldi’s Farnace (1727) it reads: ‘The edition of Farnace used in these performances is by Renzo Bez and Diego Fasolis, adapted with insertion arias selected by Erin Helyard.’ Translated this means that what the audience is watching is a version of the opera in which many of the arias are replaced by more popular ones from Vivaldi’s large number of other vocal works – Farnace plus Vivaldi’s greatest hits, as it were.

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Krapp's Last Tape 

Ian Dickson
Monday, 02 December 2019

‘Be again. (Pause) All that old misery. (Pause) Once wasn’t enough for you.’ Reminiscing is rarely a happy experience for Samuel Beckett’s characters, least of all for that most autobiographical of his creations, Krapp. In reply to a friend who had sent him a letter mentioning their good old days in pre-war Paris, Beckett brusquely wrote that there were neither good old days nor good new days. There were no good days at all. As his biographer Deirdre Bair puts it: ‘to yearn for anything in life, past or future, was unrealistic and a waste of time’.

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The Beauty Queen of Leenane 

Ian Dickson
Monday, 25 November 2019

In a cramped, dismal cottage on the Galway–Mayo border, the theatre’s most poisonous mother–daughter relationship since Electra battled Clytemnestra is being played out on the stage of the Roslyn Packer Theatre.

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When it comes to serial muses, Alma Maria Schindler Mahler Gropius Werfel was in a class of her own. Lou Andreas-Salomé may have included Friedrich Nietzsche, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Sigmund Freud among her conquests, and Caroline Blackwood scored Lucian Freud, Robert Silvers, and Robert Lowell, but Alma’s conquests were more and varied. Antonia Fraser is supposed to have claimed that she ‘only slept with the first eleven’; although Alma would not have understood the reference, she would have agreed wholeheartedly with the concept. Gustav Klimt, Alexander von Zemlinsky, Gustav Mahler, Oskar Kokoschka, and Walter Gropius were major notches on her belt, and if the reputations of the author Franz Werfel and the political theologian Johannes Hollnsteiner have faded, they were big in their time.

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Packer & Sons 

Ian Dickson
Thursday, 21 November 2019

You would have to be living under a rock the size of Uluru not to be aware of the reassessment of the masculine sense of dominance and entitlement that is sweeping the Western world at the moment. From an American president who has openly boasted of assaulting women to a member of the royal family who, in an interview about his relationship with a notorious paedophile, blithely ignores the damage that this man and his cohorts inflicted on young women, we have seen a stunning lack of empathy towards the less powerful and well connected. In the business world, some consider this to be a requisite for success. It has become something of a truism to claim, as does Jon Ronson in his controversial book The Psychopath Test, that a high percentage of CEOs have psychopathic tendencies.

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2019 Arts Highlights of the Year

Robyn Archer et al.
Thursday, 24 October 2019

To celebrate the year’s memorable plays, films, television, music, operas, dance, and exhibitions, we invited a number of arts professionals and critics to nominate their favourites. 

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Letter from Bucharest

Ian Dickson
Thursday, 12 September 2019

If one were to ask the average classical music lover to guess where, in the space of three weeks, she could hear orchestras of the calibre of the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Symphony, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Dresden Staatskapelle, and the Royal Concertgebouw, and artists of the eminence of Joyce Di Donato ...

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Life of Galileo (Belvoir St Theatre) 

Ian Dickson
Friday, 09 August 2019

You plan to present a new radical production of Hamlet. But it’s a long play and you only have a small cast. It will need a fair bit of pruning and you’ll have to lose some characters or at least reduce their importance. You will leave in the soliloquies of course, but Rosencrantz and Guildenstern can go, as can the players ...

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Lord of the Flies (Sydney Theatre Company) ★★★

Ian Dickson
Monday, 29 July 2019

It must be confessed that the advance publicity for STC’s production of Lord of the Fliesfilled this reviewer with foreboding. A perspective on William Golding’s allegory about the inherent savagery of humanity – a destructiveness that, in his words, ‘produces evil as a bee produces honey’ – which shrinks it to the malady of the moment, toxic masculinity ...

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