Tag Archives: Melbourne Theatre Company

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

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Show Ponies for a Young Nation

Show Ponies For A Young Nation

By Jana Perkovic

There’s a thriving, internationally recognised performance scene in Australia — but it’s barely reflected in the programming of major arts companies, writes Jana Perkovic

Beneath the surface of Australian cities bubbles an undercurrent of performance. Artists — both young and old, trained and untrained — are creating small interventions of chaos and beauty, much of which draws on specific local traditions of vernacular theatre: travelling circus, pub music, guerrilla performance, mixed-media cabaret.

It’s easy to dismiss these forms as niche pursuits; and they are, indeed, an ecosystem of small communities. When this year’s Melbourne Writers’ Festival organised a perplexingly dull launch for McSweeney’s, one of the world’s most innovative young literary journals, it was the Suitcase Royale, a local performance collective, who saved the event with an electrifying gig/stand-up/performance.

If our literature has forgotten joie de vivre, and our cinema is proclaimed “recovered” on the basis of seven good films a year, then theatre certainly ought to be recognised as one thing Australia consistently does well.

Overseas, reviewers rave about Acrobat, Back to Back, Panther and Chunky Move: circus, physical theatre, interactive performance companies producing cutting-edge work in their select fields. They don’t pay so much attention to the companies that swallow the lion’s share of our arts funding: our state theatres.

With the honourable exception of Melbourne’s Malthouse, our major performing arts companies have persistently avoided this undercurrent, opting for programming that lacks flair. Even allowing that 2009 was a panicky year for the mainstream — the Global Financial Crisis bit into both ticket sales and corporate sponsorship — the year’s programs were altogether business-as-usual. Fifty years after Merce Cunningham choreographed to chance music and Beckett put nothingness itself on stage, our theatres still offer a bewilderingly old-fashioned mix of European classics, last year’s Broadway and West End successes, and a smattering of local plays with music (the latter to be distinguished from musical theatre by virtue of being unfunny).

Scavenging through Australia’s main stage offerings in 2003, German journalist Anke Schaefer noted that “every expectation of a German audience of 100 years ago would have been well served by these productions.” The problem is not just that our mainstream theatre is overwhelmingly male-dominated and almost completely white. And it’s not that staging a play written in 1960 is still considered adventurous — it is the abyss between what the bulk of “performing artists” in this country are doing and the work showcased on the well-funded stages.

To be fair, there have been some improvements over the past few years. The Lawler Studio is a not-yet-properly-funded baby stage for the Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC) with a small, but promising season, and the Sydney Theatre Company’s maturing Next Stage program brought in Perth wunderkind Matthew Lutton — and will present the abovementioned Suitcase Royale in 2010. But for every innovation that reaches a big audience, there is a scathing critical attack from the likes of Peter Craven that we need better-made plays, not avant-garde tinkering.

Craven typifies the deep conservative current in our theatre commentariat. While aficionados have organised themselves in the blogosphere, forming a reliable network of guerrilla arts reportage, the mainstream patron is limited to the opinions of the mainstream press, which consistently criticises any departure from pleasant digestive after-dinner theatrical fare.

The understanding that permeates theatre criticism, funding policies, festival curatorship, even the design of performing arts venues, is that theatre is an expensive toy to show off to our international visitors. It helps prove that here, at the arse end of the world, we have a functioning high culture. Arguably, we build “world-class” arts centres, fund show-pony opera and invest in international arts festivals because we fear being mistaken for a subcultural backwater. A national ballet ensemble — like a broadcasting network, a flag, an army and a giant ferris wheel — is a sign of a serious nation.

Hence the currency of theatre as an impossibly highbrow endeavour, something that excludes large swathes of the population who claim not to attend for the pricey “elitism” of arts events. Yet, when we leave the realm of the ethereal and the literary, of The Nutcracker and King Lear, it is often hard to distinguish performing arts from fairgrounds and other dubious entertainments.

Our mainstream arts funding reflects this confusion. Theatre is sometimes a flagship investment, and sometimes a failing commercial sector in need of subsidy. If we give it money, it better demonstrates its market relevance. Most of our state festivals were set up as tourism initiatives, providing world-class this and gold star that — but they are also judged on the extent to which they animate the city.

State companies are thus in a double bind: they ought to stage excellent interpretations of classics, but they also need to keep their subscriber base with populist programming. The media and the funding bodies do not question populism. Here the Peter Cravens, Andrew Bolts and Paul Keatings of the nation join voices to demand in unison that we fund some quality orchestras before sponsoring avant-garde wank.

So, while Opera Australia can cross-fund its season with My Fair Lady without reprimand, Kristy Edmunds’s edgy curatorship of Melbourne Festival was viciously attacked as — you guessed it — “elitist”: insular, pretentious, niche. But young audiences responded and artists found her choices inspiring.

This year, under Brett Sheehy’s artistic direction, the Melbourne International Arts Festival (MIAF) broke box office records — mainly due to the sell-out performances by the London Philharmonic Orchestra — and gleaned glowing praise for restoring mainstream common sense to the program. Yet the local theatre community has criticised it as too white, too European, too predictable, focusing on big-ticket events at the expense of smaller, braver shows, and — yes — “elitist”. In this equation, elites, like hell, are always other people.

It is a scavenger hunt for audiences. Where the audience preferences lie is not so clear. The MTC may have the largest subscriber base in the country but it is rapidly aging. Programming for the middle-class, middle-suburb punter may rely on unwise mathematics: audiences are not developed through insistence on a 19th-century understanding of highbrow. For all its success at the box office, often I felt off attending MIAF 09 performances surrounded by an audience thrice my age.

Melbourne Fringe featured no Philharmonic and managed to break its box office record in 2009 — despite the GFC — showing how robust specialised audience loyalty can be. TINA and Imperial Panda, independent arts festivals in NSW, have also done well, as has the inaugural Dance Massive, dedicated exclusively to contemporary dance. Perhaps mainstream programming should acknowledge these “passionate communities” and “creative laboratories” that make up the solid core of the arts audience: they, after all, nurture its most vibrant new developments. Even fans of well-made plays, we should recognise, are increasingly becoming a niche.

Rather than trying to stretch nation-making dinosaurs over an increasingly diverse nation, we should focus on nurturing smaller, specialised festivals, and recognise that our cultural excellence may lie not in opera but in grungy circus. Our current funding model is completely unsuitable for this task. Audiences will not develop through programming that blends the safest aspects of all our arts into a soup that, in attempting to please everyone, pleases no one. What we should do, instead, is encourage the continuing exploration of the many vibrant art forms thriving under the radar: they count as culture. And statehood? Aren’t we too old to worry about that?

Originally published on 31 December 2009, on NewMatilda.com

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Melbourne news, news

A flurry of unusual performances has swept Melbourne in the past few weeks, and although I will not have time to pen an essay on every single one of them, I should give each a moment in the blogging sun. (In the place of an introductory paragraph, please reader content yourself with a bracketed explanation, equivalent of a rushed handshake and hug in the corridor or antechamber on my way out or in: if I write thinly on Guerrilla Semiotics, it is because I am writing and talking myself silly in other places. And I love to write, but I also need to sleep, deliver contracts, and watch Dylan Moran DVDs. Thanks.)

Richard III at the MTC, directed by Simon Phillips, opened on 29 May and running until 12 June. I don’t think I’m only speaking for myself when I say how happy I was to find out, after all these years of disappointment, that there is a highly capable director lurking inside Simon Phillips. The opening of Richard III was one of those novelistic theatrical moments, when a great play reveals new talent, and a star is born in front of a cheering town. It is a classical direction in the best of ways, wrapping Shakespeare in a thin film of relevance and contemporarism (it will go down in history as the ‘West Wing Shakespeare’), but it delivers an engaging, finely crafted, detailed and above all not incorrect interpretation of the play. Send your literature students, send your suburbanites, to see one of the seminal plays in the history of plays come to life. The cast, which includes many of Melbourne’s best actors, work together like a true ensemble to keep almost every moment of the historico-political saga nuanced and interesting to watch, but it is Ewen Leslie (who played Henry V in Benedict Andrews’s vast and glorious War of the Roses for STC in 2009) who really shines as Richard III. Leslie imbues every one of his scenes with taut humour and psychological meaningfulness that often gets lost between the windy lines of so many Shakespeare productions. Almost constantly on stage, he visibly lifts the entire production up an inch.

When Will You Be Home? at the Dog Theatre in Footscray, opened on 22 April and closed yesterday, is a night of two short plays, one-woman show each, by Forty Forty Home, an all-female company. While I find the difficulty of monodramas generally underestimated in the world of theatre – the difficulty to develop a reasonable plot, to maintain attention, to actually resolve what was complicated in the first place – and I rarely see a monodrama that genuinely becomes something more than a monologue, an expressive device for an actor, I was quite taken by the second of the two, Camberwell House by Amelia Roper. Shirley Cattunar’s performance aides the text enormously: there is an expressive spectrum only experienced actors have. It is a simple, short play about two old women living in the same Camberwell house, which meanders into stories of children, furniture, and one trying to poison another. It is a bit poignant, a bit funny, very well written, and keeps together very well. It reminded me of Anna Barnes’s writing: it was very tidy and very crafty, with excellent structure, but with hints of something mischievous (which usually means real, bleeding talent) that never quite got enough room to move. Amelia Roper, I may add, has just won a scholarship to study drama at Yale, and I will be very interested to see where she goes on from here. She is definitely a name to watch.

Waterproof, at Melbourne City Baths, running until tonight (sorry), is interesting for completely the opposite reason. Is there a renaissance of female theatre-making in Melbourne? After years of smart young men, are women finally collaborating too? Put together by Marita Fox, Waterproof is something very unusual: piling up Beckett, Plath, psychology and Japanese rituals among the inspirations, and with a voice-over clearly marking a connection to the world of drama, it is still, and mostly, a postdramatic event. (I was going to write theatre plus swimming, but that seemed glib and rude.) And one very unusual such event: a deadpan not-quite-horror, not trying to create illusions, and not stuck into some theoreticall alley either. I thought of Kafka, strangely enough. And I thought of Godard, particularly Alphaville: the way Fox played with the theatrical form, to create something that was partically ironic, partially deeply felt and partially just fun, reminded me a lot of Godard’s approach to cinema. I even thought of Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being, the swimming pool nightmares of visibility and responsibility. There were plenty of shortcomings to Waterproof, most pertinently that the motivation or sense of meaning got lost very early on, but that seems less important to me than the fact that it had an aesthetic (in this case, since it was anti-representational, a way of us all being in the same space) that was absolutely original and unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Melbourne. In particular, if I may add, since Melburnian theatre women sometimes seem wedded to the most traditional ideas of theatre this side of Broadway, it was exhilarating to see something so boldly new coming out of a woman’s brain. I will be very interested to see where Fox goes next.

CAGELING at fortyfivedownstairs from 29 April until 8 May, is The Rabble’s take on Lorca’s House of Bernarda Alba, with the delightful Daniel Schlusser in the role of Bernarda. Sydney-based Nick Pickard has been praising The Rabble to high heavens, and this is the first fully finished work by the group that Melbourne has seen at least since I’ve been going to the theatre. I am not sure that I have had the time to consider what I think about it fully, so I will refrain from writing a half-baked paragraph, but it ends in a week and it deserves to be seen high and wide.

As of the rest, Next Wave is starting very soon, and I am only hoping I will have time to wrap up all my other work before I plunge into RISK, its theme for 2010. For those of us on the hybrid performance front, it is looking like a very busy year. Ah, and going to the theatre used to be fun…

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This week / Standing on hands

Some of us have had a busy week. I have discovered I have magic geomorphological powers and weevils in my pantry. I have been writing to the point of becoming reverse-dyslexic, unable to string simple sentences together, particularly if on paper, but that seems to be a bit of a theme these days. Over on Spark, now moved to a swish new domain, looking all wonderful and pretty, we have been publishing some interesting new writing. From London, Giulia Merlo has started a monthly in-depth update on the latest going-ons, while we are currently working hard to publish the up-and-coming theatre critics reviewing the Ten Days on the Island festival as a part of Critical Acclaim, a workshop in phlegm run by, among others, our very own Alison Croggon, and Sydney’s very own (but still much loved over at GS) James Waites. All up on Spark, yeah?

Meanwhile, some bits and crumbs: Hayloft Project (remember Spring Awakening? Remember Platonov?) are opening their 2009 season with a double bill: the Sydney version of Spring Awakening (the one that confused the shit out of Melbourne when reported in the Sydney papers) plus 3xSisters, announced as Chekhov playfully deconstructed by three directors (Hayloft’s Simon Stone, Benedict Hardie and Black Lung’s Mark Winter). It opens on April 24, at the Meat Market, and runs until May 10. All details here.

Same Simon Stone is returning to Red Stitch to direct the Australian premiere of Philip Ridley’s Leaves of Glass. Ridley was the writer of the critically acclaimed Mercury Fur, the sleeper hit of spring 2006 at Theatreworks, while Stone’s production of Mark Ravenhill’s pool (no wate) for Red Stitch got nominated for a bunch of Green Rooms last year and I missed it because I left for Europe two days earlier. Well. Red Stitch, every self-respected theatre realist’s substitute for MTC, and our finest bourgeois theatre, has unearthed yet another play that looks like smart, interesting, contemporary. All details here.

Speaking of which, MTC has apparently slashed its youth ticket prices permanently to $30. No more 9am queueing if you really want to revisit a classic, and no more sneaking from your radically lateral seats into the breezy A Reserve between the acts. Why is this important? Well, because August: Osage County, on which Giulia writes in her Postcard from London, is opening soon, with Robyn Nevin and Robert Menzies no less. And before that, our intrepid Ming-Zhu is just about to open Realism. Looks like a bit of orientalist silliness to me, but what would I know? I’m biased in all matters Slavic.

In keeping with the middlebrow theme, La Mama is launching a duet of Becketts to commemorate some anniversary or other. Opening on 14 and 15 April, Andre Bastian is directing a handful of shorts, and Laurence Strangio a …waiting for GODOT. We’ll see how the Trust sits with that irreverent title, hon… Bastian was the man behind last year’s Red Stitch production of The Work of Wonder, one of the most extravagant postdramatic things I’ve seen in Melbourne. Who knows what the Becketts are going to be like?! And how exciting!

I must have forgotten another hundred things, but my brain is fried. I pledge not to ever care about a review again. Indeed, I may just avoid difficult theatre altogether. BUT!, one thing that I haven’t forgotten because it’s unforgettable: La Mama has joined the Comedy Festival with the best piece of, what-did-we-say?, Alternative and Hybrid Performance, in the world. So You Think You Can Cow? closes next Saturday, and you don’t want to miss it. It’s everything that’s brilliant about theatre, comedy, disco, and life in general. And then more. Just go.

Ha!, I reckon I could cure reverse-dyslexia just by writing more theatre news, but I need to sleep, shower, and find a way to connect Cow to Woven Hand, in reverse order. Well, Cow has music. Woven Hand make music. There we go. And this video, from Ultima Vez+Wim Vandekeybus’s beautiful dance film Blush, is not only the most erotic moment in YouTube history, but needs to be here so that, the next time I start ranting about Splintergroup, I can direct all the confused passers-by here:

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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.

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Don Juan in Soho;

10.i.2008. Melbourne Theatre Company: Don Juan in Soho. Written By Patrick Marber. Cast includes Craig Annis, Angus Cerini, Daniel Frederiksen, Katie-Jean Harding, Bob Hornery, Kate Jenkinson, Bert Labonte, Christen O’Leary, James Saunders, Dan Wyllie. Directed By Peter Evans. Set & costume designer: Fiona Crombie. LX designer: Matt Scott. Composer: David Franzke. Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne, until 16 Feb 2008.

The best thing about Don Juan in Soho is that, at 90 or so minutes, it's mercifully short. (Now that wasn't a good start. But what else to say? Since I've decided to dedicate some time to proper theatre reviews, not a whole lot of decent theatre passed my door.)

It has been said that Dan Wyllie is miscast, that his DJ (as our protagonist is here known) lacks playful suaveness, that there is too much applied effort, too much struggle; this, however, implies that there is a qualitative difference between his and the remaining performances, whereas this audience member felt that the entire cast was mishandled, pushed into an effortful sort of acting. While Katie-Jean Harding as the humanitarian unbeddable wife is solely responsible for the little pathos that squeezes through, it is Daniel Frederiksen as DJ's servant Stan, the holder of the BlackBerry, who resists the collective acting catastrophe most consistently. Sganarelle is certainly the character in the Don Juan universe with greatest interest to an actor, and Frederiksen creates one that never slips into easy parody, subtly balancing out the over- and the under-stated. His almost constant presence on stage almost, but never quite, saves the production from being unwatchable. Everything around Frederiksen is a sort of half-arsed train crash. The actors run through their lines in that theatrical rush of mangled emotions, faux surprises and revelations, running from one end of the stage to another as if it has meant anything since Brecht (the acting verisimilitude of opera – but the main purpose of opera, at least, is singing). The stage design doesn't know what it is doing, and music is used to create bursts of franticness in between the already jumbled scenes. Every line is shouted, every fellatio overwinked at, every transgression transfigured into grotesque.


The resulting play is not comical, and certainly not seducing. It is a Don Juan that handles sex with no sensuality, transgression with no flair, and hedonism with no gusto. Ultimately, we get the old MTC effect: it feels like nobody wants to be here, doing this. Not the actors, not the director, not the light technician, not even Patrick Marber himself, and least of all the audience. Nobody is enjoying themselves. (I can imagine an entire new generation of subscribers coming out of the Arts Centre with a sigh; yes, well, it's all fine, this theatre thing, but let's not do it next year.) The entire purpose of this exercise seems to be filling a gap in the relatively well-funded MTC season with yet another play that made money in London or New York. And if the play did it originally due to the qualities of the casting, direction, well, let's disregard that, because the play, we all know, is the text and can be mishandled in whichever way will make it more palatable to the imagined conservative, senior-citizen and MTC subscriber.

The result? Since text itself has little meaning without the tone of voice and the gesture (only about 5% of our communication is strictly verbal), Marber's play may have been the sexiest, most alluring ode to joie de vivre out there (although I somehow doubt it), we wouldn't know. MTC stages a moralistic story of sin and punishment, akin to those biblical tales of bad boys punished and good boys rewarded that Mark Twain wrote delicious little parodies of good 150 years ago. There is that in the DJ canon, alright, but there is more. In a storyline that everyone contributed to, absolute fidelity to a text, any text, is unnecessary. Or a political choice.

Which brings us back to Marber. Can I claim that he wanted DJ to be a spitting, shouting, deranged MTC-creature that seems to sleep with women out of drug-fuelled compulsion and/or manic depression? Perhaps. There is an element of truth in there, the play is well-documented, I know plenty of people who live such lives: in London, Rome, Zagreb, all over the US, mercifully few in Melbourne (Australia doesn't have quite the level of open debauchery, for all sorts of reasons). That the prostitutes are Russian, even, is racist but fair. But because of the way it comes across – a moralistic tale where sin is ugly and punishment just, delivered to the fancily dressed, restrained MTC auditorium where nobody ever puts a foot on a chair – it strikes me as the right-wing play par excellence.

There would be a way out. Criminology, for all its flaws, gave some psychological insight into its deviant, drug-crazy and sex-obsessed characters, as a way to connect their haphazard lives to the bigger human drama out there. As a way to say, well, alright, but it's all a part of the same game. In contrast, not an ounce of glory is left to dust sex, hedonism or transgression with after Marber and MTC have finished with it. Not an ounce.

It is useful here to import wholesale Giulia's comment on the Turner Prize, because she identifies the same cultural tendency, within the same civilisation:

And I knew that the Turner Prize reached its aim: it did for contemporary art what the Booker Prize did for the novel, turning it into the perfect mixture of good feelings and morbid curiosities, apparent rebellion towards the society but only within the safe boundaries of political correctness… giving the Guardian-readers from all over the world the possibility of feeling like they have appreciated something intellectual without the need for any actual engagement with what is in front of them: we'll tell you what's good, and we'll carefully select something that will only shock and disturb you and stimulate you in the measure in which you are already anticipating to be shocked and disturbed and stimulated.

Yet, with all due disapproval, let's give credit to those who pull it off, who trick us all, not just bore to death. The London premiere of Don Juan in Soho may have been entertaining, slick, funny, well-cast and -directed. Faced with the MTC debacle, however, had I had a choice, I would have much rather spent 90 minutes in between the two halves of Damien Hirst's cow.

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