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.

Ian Dickson reviews 'Close to the Flame: The life of Stuart Challender' by Richard Davis

March 2018, no. 399 22 February 2018
Ian Dickson reviews 'Close to the Flame: The life of Stuart Challender' by Richard Davis
Richard Davis is admirably determined that major Australian musical artists whose careers were attenuated by illness should not fade into oblivion. In Wotan’s Daughter (2012), he chronicled the career of Marjorie Lawrence, afflicted by polio just as she had become one of the world’s leading dramatic sopranos. Now, in Close to the Flame, he has given us a biography of Stuart Challender (1947– ... (read more)

Top Girls (Sydney Theatre Company)

ABR Arts 19 February 2018
Top Girls (Sydney Theatre Company)
As Van Badham points out in her program essay for the new Sydney Theatre Company production of Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls, when the play was first performed in 1982, Maggie Thatcher had been the British prime minister for three years. The first wave of British feminism in the 1970s had identified the patriarchal structure of society and was debating the ways in which it could be deconstructed. ... (read more)

Three Sisters (Sydney Theatre Company)

ABR Arts 13 November 2017
Three Sisters (Sydney Theatre Company)
After decades of English-language Chekhov productions following in the footsteps of Stanislavsky and Komisarjevsky in which historically accurately costumed actors wandered around a stage awash with gloom and torpor declaiming Constance Garnett’s constipated translations, directors finally discovered that the plays were strong enough to be removed from their original place and period. Janet Suzm ... (read more)

Norma (Metropolitan Opera)

ABR Arts 16 October 2017
Norma (Metropolitan Opera)
Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma elicits the ultimate rose-tinted nostalgia in ageing opera aficionados. Operagoers of my generation wax lyrical about Joan Sutherland and Montserrat Caballé in their prime, while making disparaging remarks about present singers. We in turn were bored by ancients who admitted that La Callas wasn’t too bad but advised us that we should have heard Rosa Ponselle or Lilli ... (read more)

Ghosts (Belvoir St Theatre)

ABR Arts 21 September 2017
Ghosts (Belvoir St Theatre)
‘But I almost believe we’re all ghosts. Every one of us. Everything we do has already happened, everything that has happened is already in us. It all returns. Not just what we inherited from our parents. Everything. Dead ideas. Dead beliefs. Dead customs. Lodged in us. We cannot be free of them.’ When this production of Henrik Ibsen’s most controversial play was programmed, no one could h ... (read more)

Ian Dickson reviews 'Robert Lowell: Setting the river on fire: A study of genius, mania and character' by Kay Redfield Jamison

September 2017, no. 394 30 August 2017
Ian Dickson reviews 'Robert Lowell: Setting the river on fire: A study of genius, mania and character' by Kay Redfield Jamison
‘Great wits to madness sure are near allied,And thin partitions do their bounds divide.’ For no one were Dryden’s partitions thinner than for Robert Lowell, as Kay Redfield Jamison’s exploration of the links between his work and the manic depressive illness which dogged him for most of his life makes clear. Previous biographers have, with varying degrees of compassion and opprobrium, chro ... (read more)

The Rape of Lucretia (Sydney Chamber Opera and Victorian Opera)

ABR Arts 21 August 2017
The Rape of Lucretia (Sydney Chamber Opera and Victorian Opera)
The Rape of Lucretia is the most problematic of Benjamin Britten’s operas. Recent productions of Gloriana, the opera Britten wrote to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, have proved that its notoriously unsuccessful première in 1953 had more to do with an uncomprehending audience than with the piece itself. But the problems with Lucretia (first performed on 12 July 1946, at Glyndebourne) ... (read more)

Kindertransport (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

ABR Arts 04 August 2017
Kindertransport (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)
‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ William Faulkner’s much-quoted line from Requiem for a Nun (1951) could be the subtitle for Diane Samuels’s play Kindertransport, first performed in London by the Soho Theatre Company in 1993, which has just opened at the Eternity Playhouse, in Sydney. It is shocking to have to concede that with the many unaccompanied children who have been e ... (read more)

This Much Is True (Red Line Productions)

ABR Arts 17 July 2017
This Much Is True (Red Line Productions)
Louis Nowra’s latest play, his first in ten years because apparently and appallingly no major company in Australia has asked him for one, is the third in his semi-autobiographical Lewis trilogy. In Summer of the Aliens (1992), the young Lewis, growing up in housing-commission Melbourne, has to find a way to come to terms with the unpredictable adults who surround him and to deal with his feeling ... (read more)

Cloud Nine (Sydney Theatre Company)

ABR Arts 07 July 2017
Cloud Nine (Sydney Theatre Company)
Clive, a splendid chappie, has taken up the white man’s burden in darkest Africa and is attempting to bring some British order to the lesser breeds without the law, even though the ungrateful blighters are getting a bit restless. He’s accompanied by that jolly good stick of a wife of his, Betty, their little nippers, Edward and Victoria, his mother-in-law, Maud, a bit of a dragon if you ask me ... (read more)