Tag Archives: David Williamson

The Critic #01 (The Lifted Brow 22)


This text was first published in April-May 2014, in The Lifted Brow 22.


The Critic always saw theatre from the first-person point of view, because there was no other way. Perhaps because, as a woman, she never felt she was able to assume the universal point of view. The idea of it – that she could see the world unmarred by who she was – felt impossible. The Critic saw beautiful, young women on stage, often in various states of undress, and could see that these were erotic stage images, but not for her. She saw hysterical women, men who would sooner commit suicide than admit an error, she saw manly banter and regret, she saw many things the meaning of which she knew, but did not feel. Theatre being theatre, she also saw many extremely rich people treat servants or people of colour badly, while they themselves revelled in relatively trivial problems, and sometimes thought about how those servants or people of colour represented her ancestors more than the protagonists, how the story of her people was only ever told on the margins. The Critic, in other words, always knew that the theatre was not meant for her, that her eyes were not the bull’s eye of the audience target, even when the message arrived. Even when she was greatly moved.

Why did the Critic like theatre, then? Why did she make it her life to see theatre three, four, five, sometimes even ten times a week, if she felt like an intruder? Because the Critic, like many – perhaps most – women, felt like an intruder in most discursive social situations already, and had become accustomed to feeling like she was sitting slightly to the left and down in the audience – a feeling that did not disappear in those prestigious, central seats. Sometimes she was elated, or crushed, sometimes her life changed while sitting in those seats; but it was an expected gift, because she had not been the target audience, because the magic that was done on her was done almost by accident.

It is said that privilege is marked by assuming that your views are representative of everyone’s. Speaking with various male critics after shows, ready to judge always slightly faster, the Critic often asked: “Why are you so sure that your opinion is the right one?” It was a strange question to many. “I know what I like,” they sometimes answered, tautology imperceptible to them.

“But you aren’t everyone”, the Critic might offer, uselessly, because in a certain sense they were everyone: they were the bull’s eye, the eye that mattered, the eye to which the art was offered. Oh, the Critic was able to pontificate with the best, argue her opinions, be sometimes insistently praising, sometimes cruelly harsh, but it was qualified intellectual bravado, always aware of where fact ended and personal opinion began.

It was with great relief that the Critic found Nataša Govedić, European dramaturg and performance critic, writing: “I think that the critic-as-a-simple-observer has never existed. The critic is always biased, has always held values, ideology if you prefer – and there doesn’t exist, not has ever existed, a neutral critic. Therefore, it is only fair to honestly admit which values we uphold, and why we believe in certain processes, and why we participiate in them.”

It is paradoxical, then, that the Critic had studiously avoided having opinions on supposedly ‘minority’ arts, such as Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival of LGBT arts, considering it and her mismatched. They were, of course, but less than feared. The queer audience arrived to the theatres with the same layered thinking, palpably so – everywhere around her the Critic could feel a suspicious, reserved energy of distantiation, of mistrust. ‘Is this work going to hurt me, or will it finally say something I can agree with?’ To the extent to which the audience mood can read, this is what the Midsumma audience seemed to be saying. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ceci n’est pas une critique;

1. Scarlett O'Hara at the Crimson Parrot, new David Williamson play opening next week at the MTC, is absolutely worth walking out of in the interval. It is also more than worth walking out of during the show. It is worth the embarrassment of getting up mid-row, the awkwardness of stepping on senior citizens' feet, of disturbing the performance, of causing grunts and complaints, of stumbling out in the dark, of disdainful looks you'll attract.

2. Scarlett O'Hara plays out like a text written by a computer program: fed Australian newspapers on one given day, regurgitating the content into themes, motifs, characters, motivations, dialogue. The glitches and retakes of the preview performance were the only moments to enjoy – I pity the audience that won't have that relief – because they had soul.

3. The play could instead be called seven characters looking for authorly love. Not to mention mutual respect. As they are, abandoned on stage in a puddle of psychological dead-ends, semi-devised motivations, right turns visible miles ahead, and plotlines with validity set to expire in 2009, they come across as theatrical cripples, interesting more as a self-unaware society reflected in the broken mirror of the unconscious, regurgitating computer program mentioned above, than any attempt at lite forgivemelord comedy.

4. There are shards that one can see something in, of course: the relationship between Scarlett and her mother is such a clearly dysfunctional, de-framed, re-framed, translated and costumed relationship between a mother and a bruised, withdrawn yet raging, homicidal son. One may, you see, think a thought or two within these two hours. But is it worth the time of our senior citizens? Their money?

5. It is not mine to come up with reasons why such an embarrassment is what most ordinary people in this city seem to consider the only relevant theatre. But it breaks my heart, over and over again.

Tagged , ,