State of play

This article was first written in March 2013 and revised three months later for publication on an online editorial website. It was never published, so I am posting it here, now, in light of a recent production of Hedda Gabler in Sydney.

In the past two years in Sydney alone, audiences have been given the opportunity to see numerous classic plays in their intended form or in new ‘updated’ versions by various writers and directors (and writer-directors). Following Simon Stone’s reworking of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck, versions of Seneca’s Thyestes, Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude, Bergman’s film Face to Face, and Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof have all been reinterpreted from their original ‘classic’ texts. While these have resulted in many critical and popular successes, I have come to realise that there is a very distinct view or presentation of the world that comes across in a large number of these new versions. Beneath their accomplished surfaces is a more troubling issue – the misrepresentation of women in theatre.


Putuwá: Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Patyegarang

I have written about the story of Patyegarang and William Dawes on this blog before. It’s a beautiful story about language, friendship, trust, heart, and sacrifice; it’s a story about building bridges, whether you realise it or not; how different things might be now had the understanding not been rudely interrupted in 1791. When Bangarra announced their major production for 2014, their twenty-fifth year, was to be based on this story, I added it to my list of must-see productions and eagerly held my breath. And here we are, nine months later; the same amount of time it took those eleven ships to sail from London to Sydney Cove, two-hundred and twenty-seven years ago.
Bangarra’s Patyegarang takes the notebooks William Dawes made of the Sydney language, and turns them into a haunting, elegant and powerfully fluid seventy minutes of dance theatre. If you’re familiar with Kate Grenville’s The Lieutenant, then you’re already thinking along the right track of this piece. Except there is a difference: where Grenville’s book is about the friendship from Dawes’ point of view, Bangarra’s Patyegarang is about the young woman, her culture, her land, her language, and her relationship with the white man to whom she taught her language. It is Patyegarang’s story; it is her show.


Into the woods: Siren Theatre Company & Griffin Independent’s The Violent Outburst That Drew Me To You

One thing that never ceases to intrigue me about the tiny little Griffin stage is how malleable it is. No two productions ever feel quite the same – it seems bigger or smaller, grander or more intimate, a different shape, as though we’re in a different (larger) theatre entirely; it all depends on any one production’s stagecraft, direction and energy, the way the tiny diamond space is used.
In The Violent Outburst That Drew Me To You, presented by Siren Theatre Company with Griffin Independent, the space is filled by Jasmine Christies’ circular curtain set which is drawn and opened as needed, becoming a shadow-screen and a clever framing device, allowing for a playful sense of theatricality and youthful exuberance. Old wooden school chairs, simple items of costume and Hartley T A Kemp’s story-book lighting complete the illusion and the show, an uninterrupted seventy minutes, feels rather like a pop-up book, albeit not quite one for younger children.


The Orchestra and The Big Bang: ACO’s Timeline

Over the past several years, the Australian Chamber Orchestra has played an annual multimedia concert in collaboration with a number of renowned creatives, including photographers Bill Henson (Luminous) and Jon Frank (The Crowd and The Reef). This year, as part of Sydney’s annual Vivid winter festival of lights, music and ideas, the ACO performed Timeline in collaboration with The Presets and, as the concert’s tagline proclaims, life flashed before your very ears. A flick through the concert’s program proves just how mind-bendingly vast and crazy an undertaking it was.