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Monthly Archives: June 2009

Agamemnon

Anyone who’s ever spoken to me about authors knows that the author I loathe most is Tolkein. I hate Tolkein’s work because I can’t understand how someone who fails entirely to grasp the idea of interworking exposition with climax can sell a single book! These people may also realise that I have a double standard insofar as my hatred of Tolkein for this reason has not caused me to dismiss the playwrights of Ancient Greece. The fact is, the Ancients wrote for a different purpose and a different audience, but Tolkein was just a babbling fool. Aeschylus, of course, was a master playwright, who had a justifiable reason to write an enormous quantity of vaguely interesting, but largely confusing, expository matter and interspersing it between some good dialogue and interesting plot. What I like most about Rachel Hogan’s adaptation of Agamemnon is that she has managed to distil the essence of Aeschylus’ tale into a performance that is widely accessible.

In doing this, the focus is drawn carefully onto Agamemnon’s wife Clytemnestra, particularly her interpretation of Agamemnon’s actions, and her primal response to his slaughter of their child. These characters are portrayed exquisitely by the performers in this production, who balance the intensity of their emotions well with the need to edify the audience, as was the tradition of the Ancients.

The interplay between what we can control and what we can’t control is one of the things we humans find most difficult to get a grip on. For the most part, we get the things we can control confused with the things we can’t; and even when we do know which one is which, we still instinctively try to control the things we can’t, ignoring the things we can. In some ways, Agamemnon’s story is that of a king who spent ten years doing something about what was out of his control, while unwittingly losing his grip on what he could have had. But then again, Agamemnon was never really about Agamemnon.

Although I may have retitled it Clytemnestra, I love what Rachel Hogan has done with Aeschylus’ play, perhaps enough to hail her as the anti-Tolkein. Of course, she may take offence at that (I don’t know how she feels about Tolkein) but it is intended to be the compliment of compliments!

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 20 June 2009 in adaptation, Canberra Theatre, Theatre, wethree

 

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Samson and Delilah

Samson and Delilahis a unique film that most filmgoers will probably find unappealing. It breaks many of the conventions of film, which makes for very unusual viewing, and it makes you uncomfortable in many ways, but it is a great story, and it is told with a great sense of simplicity and honesty.

Set in outback Northern Territory, this is the story of a young couple caught in a clash of cultures, and it explores the impact of broader cultural and political circumstances as they apply in this environment.
What I think is this film’s greatest achievement is the way it touches on broad political issues without being in any way didactic or even judgemental. It tells a story about two young people, and the context in which they find their way through life and love. I think stories like this can play a big part in furthering the process of reconciliation, and more to the point, I think it’s a great story.
 
 

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Lotte’s Gift

Another uncomfortable trip to the theatre tonight. I am not entirely sure why I didn’t enjoy this play, because on one level, it has all the things I love; a good story, great performances, and a novel approach to storytelling. And yet, it just didn’t engage me.

The play is a one-hander, and it is the true story of the performer’s grandmother, told through a conversation between them where the granddaughter learns her grandmother’s deepest secret. And yes, a single performer with dialogue does mean that old naff idea of the person jumping from one character to another; but no, that’s not why I didn’t like it, because that performer, Karin Schaupp, manages to change character effortlessly, and David Williamson’s ‘dialogue’ moves slowly, allowing the audience to move with her, and engage with the story. At least I think that’s the intention. Having failed to engage, I’m not sure.
This is where Lotte’s Gift left me in two minds. A good story, well told, and expertly written by one of the country’s best playwrights. But it was just too slow.
 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 10 June 2009 in Canberra Theatre, The Street Theatre, Theatre

 

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