On Reading, Part One

I don’t know if I’ve come across an author whose delight is language and in words is as obvious and tangible as Anthony Burgess’. 
I bought A Clockwork Orange years ago, before I knew anything really about it. I tried to read it for a class I did at uni and didn’t get it at all; I tried again two years later and sped through it, devouring it hungrily like a madman. I loved the way he combined fragments of existing languages, made up his own words, played with the words themselves and their syllables, broke them down and rhapsodised upon a theme of language. There was also the allure of a good bit of Beethoven (or ‘Lovely Ludwig Van’ as Alex likes to call him) and the superawesome cover.


Absolutely Beethoven

Absolutely Beethoven
Sydney Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Robertson
Opera House Concert Hall, February 14

I’ve always said I never really started listening to music until I was fifteen. It’s not as ridiculous a claim as it sounds. Simply, before then I listened to commercial radio stations, whatever was on, and didn’t really develop any kind of taste or personal predilection for any one song over another. Sure, the first CD I bought was The Cat Empire which is cool enough, permissible even, and growing up mum and dad preferred classical music to anything else, but I never really knew what music was, what it could do, what it was capable of. In 2005, I very quickly learnt what music was, when my best friend introduced me to Holst’s The Planets. In a matter of minutes – well, as soon as Marsfamous swirling strings and thundering ostinato hurtled from the speakers – I knew this was something worth listening to, was worth sitting up and taking notice of. Some years later, he leant me a boxed set of Beethoven’s symphonies, and it was like that moment with Mars all over again. I knew, of course, Beethoven’s Fifth, and the ‘Ode of Joy’ from his Ninth, but not much more than that. (It was later that year that I discovered The Beatles, but that’s another story.)
Enter, then, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and their new chief conductor, David Robertson. Renowned for his warmth and rapport with an orchestra, as well as his advocacy for music as a vital part of a healthy upbringing and education as much as for his conducting, Robertson’s Beethoven season could only be nothing short of incredible. I count the Seventh symphony among my favourite pieces of music, and I leapt at the chance to see this, his inaugural concert with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in his new position as Chief Conductor. I was not disappointed. I’ve seen the Seventh symphony performed once or twice before, but never before have I heard – or is that seen? I’ve never been able to work out if you go to hear or see and orchestra; do they play or perform? – never before have I heard it played like this. There was a crispness to it, a freshness and a vibrancy, a fierce and robust richness to it that confirmed why it is such an incredible piece of music.


Brechtaking: Belvoir’s Once In Royal David’s City

A new play is always something to look forward to. Griffin Theatre Company knows this, and has made it their mission to be Australia’s new writing theatre. Back in 1986, Griffin produced Michael Gow’s (third) play Away; a critical and popular success, it quickly became Australia’s most produced play as well as a mainstay of English syllabuses across the country. Now, twenty-eight years later, Eamon Flack is directing Gow’s latest play, Once In Royal David’s City for Belvoir.
Billed as “eloquent, playful, big-thinking, tender and fierce … an astonishing act of theatrical invention,” it sounds like it should be the next Babyteeth (also directed by Flack for Belvoir). But a strange thing happens to Gow’s play, when it is taken off the page and put on its feet, when it is spoken and acted. On the page, it is very dialogue-heavy which all theatre is by default. But on its feet, it is very much the Will Drummond show, almost an uninterrupted one-hundred-minute monologue, in which the other characters (actors?) are merely pawns in his chess game, tools to help him tell his story.


Theatre of war: STC's The Long Way Home

While the physical results of war, of being involved in war, are sometimes easy to notice, the psychological and emotional results are not. Often going undetected, they can make the transition from serving in the military to civilian life hard, for both the returned soldiers and their families. As part of the rehabilitation process, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and Sydney Theatre Company have joined forces to stage The Long Way Home, a kind of theatrical collage of scenes, anecdotes, video snippets and excerpts from life.
Written by Daniel Keene and directed by Stephen Rayne, The Long Way Home is not quite verbatim theatre, nor is it a theatrical documentary, as we have seen previously in Belvoir’s Beautiful One Day or Coranderrk, say. Rather, as Keene writes in the program, “every situation that it presents and every line of dialogue is born out of the experiences of the soldiers who will perform the play. They play themselves reimagined.” It’s a bold move, and rightly so, as all involved are acutely aware that you cannot replicate wars or ‘real life’ on stage. “The theatre is the perfect place for this kind of meeting,” Keene continues, “a place where truth and fiction can co-exist, where reality can be imagined.”



When I started this blog in 2012, the first production I reviewed was Belvoir's production of Rita Kalnejais' Babyteeth. At the time, I was wary of spoiling the production, was unsure how to write a review as such (even though I'd read countless others in the papers), and it was very much a half-baked piece of writing. And it's always struck me as the one piece on this blog that I'd most like to change, would most like to rewrite if I had the chance. So, two years later, here I am.