Archive for Hamish Michael
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.
The last time that I saw Benedict Andrews and Marius von Mayenburg collaborate on a piece of theatre was El Dorado in 2006 at the Malthouse in the Merlyn Theatre. Aside from the slow-burning, epic narrative and the immediately striking aesthetic of the glass enclosure, what had a lasting impact on me, and what seared a still vivid imprint onto my mind, was the opening prologue: Robert Menzies, pressed against the glass, sweating, spitting and delivering a breathy monologue before disappearing into smoke. Few theatre beginnings, outside of a couple of MIAF shows, have commanded my attention in such a way since. Which leads me to ask: what, oh what, were von Mayenburg and Andrews thinking with the opening of Moving Target?