Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Conversations on Casting

The racial diversity in Australian theatre issue has flared up again, this time finding a more dialogical home for itself online.

Point your browser to Red Stitch's online forum and check out the discussion.

I don't want to write a big post about it here (I've already done that over at the forum) so it will suffice to say that I believe strongly in the need for Australian theatre companies and directors to make cross-racial casting part of their everyday practice.

I'm not really sure how this intersects with our concerns as writers; whether, for example, we think that diverse casting practices are more important to uphold than the writer's intentions?

For me, though, seeing The Birthday Party at MTC the other night was a good example of how diverse casting can open up new layers of meaning in a text. And, a few small annoyances aside (since I know the text religiously), I thought that it was well handled.

Any thoughts or comments?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Offensively unfunny

Andrew Denton asked Mel Brooks if he believed there was any subject that you couldn’t make fun of. The man who created The Producers – a comedy with musical numbers about the Holocaust – answered (and I paraphrase here because I can’t remember his wording), ‘The only thing in bad taste is not being funny.’ That means everything is up for grabs – genocide, paedophiles, constipation and yes, sick children. But you better make it funny.

And that’s my problem with the Chaser’s ‘Make-a-realistic-wish’ sketch. It wasn’t funny. It was lame. And somehow in all the debate about the sketch – we seemed to have lost sight of that. The debate shouldn’t be about whether you can make fun of terminally ill kids or whether the ABC was wrong to air such a controversial sketch. The debate should be about the laziness with which some comedians approach ‘wrong’ humour.

I love a bit of wrong humour. I love humour that pushes well past the boundaries into black unsettling terrain. The problem with the Chaser’s sketch is that it relied solely on being wrong - ‘ooh, they’re making fun of sick kids – that’s so naughty’. It’s not enough to just be ‘wrong’. Anyone can say something offensive. Just take a ride on the 57 tram if you want to be shocked and appalled. The skill is how you push that wrong humour and make it funny. Being funny is about doing something unexpected, crazy, ridiculous, over-the-top – something. It requires skill and thought.

The only thing that could’ve saved that ‘Make-a-realistic-wish’ sketch is if that sick kid poked Chris Taylor in the eye for being such a patronising douchebag. Then I would’ve giggled.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Roll Up Roll Up for the Smackdown!!

Ladies & Gentlemen!!

Melbourne Dramatists' Smackdown is back (by popular demand)!

It's the one and only event of its kind: bare knuckle, no holds barred, playwright wrestling (in a large vat of baked beans) for YOUR gratification and felicity.

So come one, come all...

And join us for a night of theatrical goodness at Melbourne's own Storeroom Theatre.


David Mence! Melissa Bubnic!

Alison Mann! Robert Reid!

Ross Mueller! Amelia Roper!

Thursday 18 June,

Doors open at 7:00pm for a 7:30pm start

@ The Storeroom,

St Georges Rd, North Fitzroy

First floor Parkview Hotel

Corner of Scotchmer Street

& St Georges Road

North Fitzroy

Melways Ref: 30 B12

Tram 112, Stop 22

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Whose Face?

I was recently sent a link to an article in The Australian about the young Perth director Matthew Lutton. For others (like me) who missed it the first time around I have included it below (The Face: Matthew Lutton, by Victoria Laurie, 21/2/09). You can't help but admire the guy's chutzpah. One small part was worth a reread. For playwrights, in particular,

"...we compare notes on whether we go to the theatre to see a play or rather to savour a strong directorial vision.

"(Lutton) If there's two versions of Women of Troy showing in a city, I go to see Barrie Kosky's version because I want to see what he does," he says. "Otherwise I can go home and read the play: I go to hear his voice.""

Do you go to the theatre to "see a play" or "to savour a strong directorial vision"? I stay home and read plays a fair amount too, but I'd like to think that if they were all playing in my city, I'd go - strong directorial vision or not. There's something about hearing them aloud. It's almost as if they were written that way. After reading the article for the first time I made angry toast. That's the toast you make when you cut each slice into four squares, not because you need to but because it makes you feel better. I ate the toast and read the article again. I believe in story. I almost feel the need to apologise for this but you'll notice that I don't.

I believe in a collaboration between director and playwright (when there is one. And some of the old ones might not be around so much anymore, but they wrote stuff down. That's the thing about playwrights, we write stuff down). I believe in a collaboration for the production of stories that are not owned by the director, or the playwright, or even the performers. I believe in a collaboration for the production of stories to be owned by the audience. The audience own your work. If your audience leaves feeling that it is yours, and not theirs, then you have failed. If your audience leaves believing that they are not smart enough for you, or smart enough for theatre, then you have failed. Yes, you. And when I say you I don't mean Lutton or Kosky or anyone else with a strong directorial vision, I mean you, dear reader & fellow theatre maker, or me. Yes. Usually I mean me. If my audience leaves believing that they are not smart enough for me, or smart enough for theatre, then I have failed.

When a person buys a novel she can take it home and put in on her shelf. She can write her name in it and decide whether it goes on the bottom shelf or the top one with the DVDs, or next to the lamp or under the painting she got from Ikea. That novel might be so great she reads it two or three times before lending it to a friend. Who returns it. She owns that novel. It lives in her house. A play, on the other hand, lives in a theatre. The theatre is someone else's house. She must be invited in. 'Not yet,' says the usher, 'we haven't opened the doors yet.' She only gets to see it once and not at any pace, or rereading the bits that were difficult, but once, and at one pace. In this day of object ownership - DVDs, books, paintings from Ikea - what can the theatre offer? The answer is complimentary key rings. No. Or maybe. Or maybe the answer is an experience that she feels she can own. A story she can take home. Theatre made for the audience. I believe in theatre that audiences feel empowered to own. Accessible is not a dirty word. Accessible is everything. I want them to take it home - the characters, the images, the ideas, the costumes, the memory of an actor - I want them to want to take it all home. That's all. Nothing else. Nothing else matters if you don't have that. I almost feel the need to apologise for it - How obvious! How sentimental! I almost feel the need to apologise for it but you'll notice that I don't.

LINK: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25068275-15089,00.html

- Amelia Roper