theatARGH

thoughts and frustrations on Melbourne theatre through bright young eyes

Archive for Susie Dee

Review of God of Carnage, MTC and A Black Joy, fortyfivedownstairs

It’s a very old question, and certainly one that theatre makers, producers and practitioners in Australia and abroad have been asking, and feeling nervous about, for decades: what is it that audiences want from theatre? Perhaps more accurately, what is it that audiences will pay for? Is it a story, a narrative which they can follow, laugh with, become immersed in and relate back to their own lives? Is it an experience, intellectual, emotional, visceral or otherwise? The big-name actors, the auteur directors? Is it a cultural and social event? Of course, in Australia, without same level of government support and general mainstream interest in theatre, it’s a more pertinent question than, say, in the United Kingdom; there’s only so much that can be catered for, for so many people, at the one time. But with less money, fewer venues, and smaller audiences, you could be forgiven for thinking that the richness and diversity of theatre in Melbourne was far less than it actually is. There’s reason to be optimistic: Melbourne Fringe Festival is upon us, the main-stage seasons of Malthouse and MTC are in full swing, and the International Arts Festival is around the corner. It is the theatre season and spectators, regardless of their theatrical dispositions, are being treated across the spectrum. No better is this illustrated, perhaps, than in the concurrent productions of Melbourne Theatre Company’s drawing-room dramedy God of Carnage and Declan Greene and Susie Dee’s seething satire A Black Joy.

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Review of Wretch, La Mama Theatre

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.

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