Archive for February, 2009
Friday marked ten years to the day that Sarah Kane committed suicide in the bathroom of her King’s College hospital room. To commemorate the decade since her passing, BBC Radio 1 aired Blasted: The Life and Times of Sarah Kane, a short documentary by the University of London’s Dan Rebellato about her work, its impact and its legacy in contemporary British theatre, which is available for streaming until the 26th of February. One of the points that it raised was that the posthumous mythologising of Kane as a morbid, tortured Queen of Darkness was to sell her short; to miss the implicit humanity and humour in both her character and her short body of works. Her friend Vincent O’Connel, in addressing what he calls the “authorised version” of Kane, stated: “As well as listening to Joy Division, she’d be equally likely to be dancing to George Michael or playing Miles Davis tunes on her trumpet. She liked dark humour, for sure, but she’d also laugh herself silly at Laurel Hardy or Fawlty Towers.” Critics were all too quick, particularly in the UK, to attribute Kane’s use of theatrical violence to the emergence and popularity of the in-yer-face playwrights: Ravenhill, McDonagh, Butterworth and so forth, which is debatable in itself. But as that movement has largely dissipated, it is interesting, and timely, to think how Kane’s influence and impact on theatre writing is now felt; whether a new generation of writers will consider, or reject, her approaches to the craft. Angus Cerini’s Wretch is certainly a case in study, and a uniquely Australian one at that.
The last few years have signalled important, and exciting, changes in the approach to new Australian theatre writing that have, in turn, helped support a new generation of writers now on the cusp of local and international breakthrough. And while the changes have come from many levels; the continued resurgence of independent theatre, restructured and rethought bodies such as PlayWriting Australia and so forth; not all writers are satisfied with the direction that the bigger theatre institutions have taken. The transformation of Playbox into the Malthouse is, really, ancient history – it happened well before I even arrived in Melbourne. And yet frustration, even thinly veiled bitterness, remains fresh in those who so freely spurt about the glory days of Melbourne theatre and exactly what it was that the Playbox represented. I cannot test their claims, but I can see why the Malthouse season opener Woyzeck stands in such stark opposition to their writers’ theatre: this extraterrestrial oddity of a performance is an exercise across genre, discipline and form in which the writing definitely takes the backseat.
I blink and it’s already February. This is uncomfortable. And this poor blog, too, has been uncomfortable, patiently sitting in silence for the last few months while I’ve travelled the world and pondered its purpose. The good news is that I am salivating for theatre once again; furthermore, I’m burning to write about it (and have been writing it). The bad news is that, like the end of 2008 proved, it’s going to be difficult to get to see everything that I want to and cover it adequately. I’ve also got much of my own work happening this year, feasting on my spare moments between study and work, and I’m keen for theatARGH not to become a product of shameless self-promotion. But for now, lets let the blog go back to doing what it was best at – reviews. Thoughts on Malthouse’s Woyzeck by the end of the week.