Sunday December 10, 2023
Drama with a small D

Drama with a small D

May 14 2009

Bad, bad Cate. Naughty, naughty Andrew. It had to happen sooner or later: the Golden Child Blanchett and the Excellent Elf Upton would wake up one morning to find a spot of tarnish marring the media love affair with the pair.

And how hilariously predictable that the tarnish should turn out to be a spray of acid spittle from the man himself, the master of the vitriolic one-liner, David Williamson!

And of course, where better than the front page of the SMH on a day when the paper is desperate for something – anything – to break the reader-alienating tedium of Budget material. Twas a gift, particularly as the story could be accompanied by a photo of The Blessed Cate graciously launching the playwright’s biography as recently as March. So what does it all mean?

Does this mean Williamson has been harbouring a grudge against the Blanchett-Uptons all the while and was a publicity-seeking hypocrite at the launch? Probably not.

Does it mean he climbed out of bed on the wrong side and Herald journalist Elissa Blake got him at his famously choleric best/worst? Maybe.

Or is it just that he’s fed up with the gadfly Barrie Kosky who manages to get under his amazingly thin skin with even more amazing ease?

Answers on a postcard perhaps. Meanwhile, it was unfortunate that Williamson’s dismissal of STC programming as “dazzle theatre” and “capital-T theatre” should be published some 24 hours after the Williamsons had attended the Sydney opening of When The Rain Stops Falling. The play, by Andrew Bovell, (see StageNoise review of its world premiere at the Adelaide Festival) is the antithesis of that criticism if ever there was one.

“I’m not doing capital-T theatre,” Williamson said (this in relation to his bete noir Kosky) “I’m just telling little stories.” In the context of the story this sounds plaintive; when considered in conjunction with, for instance, When The Rain Stops Falling, The Crucible, Metamorphosis, Kafka’s Monkey, Wars of the Roses, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Season at Sarsparilla, Travesties, The Women of Troy, Venus & Adonis, Satur’s Return, Rabbit, The Clockwork Forest it’s not so much plaintive as plain silly, if true. All the above, whether large scale or not, tell little stories; sometimes writ large and all with varying styles and degrees of theatricality. Some worked better than others; some enjoy these different productions more than others. But they can’t be dismissed as “dazzle theatre” or “capital-T theatre” – if those terms are used pejoratively.

Actually, I’ve been dazzled by some seriously capital-T theatre at STC lately. “Capital-T” being the kind of experience that lifts you out of your seat, out of yourself out of the everyday and reminds you why it is you go to a theatre and not just to the movies, or the footy or even sit at home on the Sunshine Coast fulminating.

Meanwhile, spare a thought for Ensemble Theatre associate director Mark Kilmurry. He would have learned from the SMH story that he can’t expect to take the reins any time soon: Williamson’s “next three plays” will have their world premieres at the Ensemble with the theatre’s veteran director Sandra Bates in charge. The clatter of zimmer frames rushing the Ensemble box office is going to be deafening.



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