Fighting the American Dream: Belvoir’s Death of a Salesman

                   Will you take that phoney dream and burn it before something happens?
                    – Biff

Alone on a bare stage, stands a white car, headlights carving into the dark like twin knives, the tail lights a fiery glow on the back wall, the dream already on fire. As the houselights darken, a figure is revealed in the car – Willy Loman, the titular travelling salesman. Considered one of the staples of the American dramatic canon, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is about “a man refusing to let go of the false dreams we were all once promised.” It’s not a pretty play, either; rather, it’s grueling and harsh and unforgiving and brutal, ferocious even, in its depiction of this crumbling dream.


Occam's Opposite: ‘Anonymous’ and the authorship of Shakespeare

For a bit of a laugh, I decided to watch Roland Emmerich’s film Anonymous, half-expecting to turn it off in the first ten minutes. But as the film progressed and the end credits rolled, I found myself enjoying it tremendously. From its cleverly staged time-shift to its impressive recreation of Elizabethan London, the viewer cannot help but be drawn into its cesspit of intrigue, danger, romance, politics, and theatre. As you may have gathered by now, I am a Bardolator, a staunch Stratfordian, and I don’t think for a minute that anyone other than the William Shakespeare of Stratford-Upon-Avon wrote those thirty-seven plays, one-hundred-and-fifty-four sonnets and five narrative poems that are often cited as being the first modern works of literature in the Western canon. I’m not going to spend much time or space here on the illogicality and implausibility of Emmerich’s film or the scholarship that informed it, nor do I want to stand on my soap-box and wax lyrical about the genius of Shakespeare, because it is boring and has been done before, and it’s not what this is about. All I want to do here – all I aim to do, as with everything else on this blog – is to write about my thoughts on the film.


Infinite Stories: Sydney Film Festival 2012


Each May, the Sydney Film Festival program comes out and I trawl through it, circling films in pencil, making notes on them, trying to work out which ones I do, don’t and wouldn’t mind seeing, working out the eleven days of the festival around whatever else it is I’m doing then. For the past few years, uni got in the way of fully enjoying it properly (at all, in fact) so last year was my first year, and I thoroughly enjoyed the seven films I saw (especially Joe Wright’s Hanna, along with the symphonic expanse of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life and Tran Anh Hung’s Norwegian Wood). This year, even though there might’ve been a smaller selection of films that I was interested in, it was – on the whole – another enjoyable experience.
My first film this year was the repeat screening of the Opening Night film, Peter Templeman’s very-Sydney Not Suitable For Children – the film, so the joke goes, whose title doubles as its classification. I’m going to say straight off that it is one of the best films I’ve seen this year so far, and definitely one of the best Australian films of recent years (along with Leon Ford’s Griff The Invisible, also starring Ryan Kwanten).


Belvoir's Old Man

I know I will look back on this day as an old, old man.

There’s a kitchen table. Another kitchen table. Four chairs. Two bowls stacked neatly in the middle, spoons. In the darkness, the shuffle of feet, and as the lights rise, we see Daniel (Leon Ford), stretching against a chair, arms outstretched on its back. As he starts speaking, we know something’s not right.
“Something is missing,” we are told in the season book. “The phone is not working, and the kids’ toys are not in their usual spot under the television. In fact, [Daniel’s] wife and children seem to have disappeared.” We’re not told how or when, nor even a why; they just are. Missing, gone, disappeared. As Daniel begins to try to piece it together, tries to make sense of it, we meet his mother (Gillian Jones) and later his wife, Sam (Alison Bell), and kids, Charlotte and Harry. This part, Part One, is strung through with a strong sense of loss and losing, of the vacuum that exists when the carpet is torn from under your feet and you’re left struggling to pick up the pieces. And we are never told what happened, why they are effectively in disparate albeit overlapping places. Part Two begins after a lengthy (somewhat clunky) interlude of blackout, and is immediately – noticeably – different for its presence and abundance of activity and life, of its warm familial feel. Like Part One though, Part Two is also strung through with a sense of loss or a vacuum (albeit, not as strong as the former), the hole that exists from not knowing one’s father (or, more specifically, one of your parents), how you might try and fix that if it is at all possible.


Food with your play: Belvoir's Food

I’ve got a thing for theatre involving kitchens. Not necessarily sinks, just kitchens; little theatres of life, crucibles of thought and action, meeting places; familial communal spaces. I’d heard good things about Food, playing at Belvoir’s Downstairs theatre – very good things, in fact – and so this review comes from the closing weekend of its (already extended) season, something which only adds to the performance, I think: that it could be as fresh and as moving as it did at the end of its run means it’s a strong well-crafted piece of theatre. It’s about sisters Nancy and Elma who run a takeaway ‘restaurant’ on a highway, somewhere in Australia. Amongst the endless cycle of preparing food, the daily rut of serving the same customers the same thing day after day, comes a stranger, Hakan, a young traveler, who slowly – quickly – manages to bring the two sisters together, turning their world(s) upside-down.


Things I’ve learnt at university (an un-definitive list).

If you’d asked me a year ago why I was adding an Honours year to my degree, I would’ve said it was to prolong – delay, even – the having to make a choice about what I wanted to do, delay the having to ‘get a real job’ thing and all the stuff that accompanies not being a student, like bank fees, and ridiculously priced everything.
Initially I didn’t want to do Honours (why would you voluntarily add another one to two years onto your degree?) for the simple reason that it involved writing a thesis of twelve to fifteen thousand words, something which scared me stupid. (It was only once my supervisor told me to cut bits out that I realised I’d written more than I thought I would, more than I had ever written before. Now, I know I can at least write something in the vicinity of sixteen-thousand two-hundred words all told, and I’m still not sure if it’s what I set out to write.) After I’d actually figured out how the hell you actually ‘do’ Honours – how to get the balance of researching, processing your research, writing ideas, and meeting with your supervisor every three to four weeks right – I realised that, as strange as it sounds, I actually liked the researching bit, the finding of as much stuff as you possibly can and digesting it all, seeing what comes out, what connections and ideas you can come up with, the hitherto unnoticed patterns that may become apparent. If there’s one thing I know I am going to miss about university, it’s the library and all the journals and databases you’re given access to.