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A new theatre blogger is about in Canberra!

So I was scrolling through Facethingy for something interesting this morning, and lo and behold, I was successful. That doesn’t happen often!

I came across a link to a new blog about theatre in Canberra. Again, anonymous, and seemingly a little critical of Canberra’s slightly longer-standing anonymous critic, Max, who’s had a six-month head start and has ruffled a few feathers. This blogger, who goes by the title That Guy Who Watches Canberra Theatre is rather more modest and wants to increase conversation about theatre in Canberra, which I appreciate rather more than Max‘s claim that whatever s/he thinks is Gospel. Well, I congratulate That Guy on that, and wish him all the best. I also look forward to offering the odd pingback where we happen to post about the same show.

My one little hesitation is that I’m not fond of the anonymous critic idea generally. It has some merit, since it allows the critic to be completely candid about people s/he might otherwise just pay lip service to, but it also encourages that most useless form of criticism, the attack. Max has been known to tear artists down under the rather bemusing motto of being “objective, honest and accurate” (objectivity is of course impossible in a critic, who by definition must take a position; and an accuracy of opinion is hardly something to distinguish any individual critic from any other (for all anyone knows every critic’s expression of his/her opinion has always been accurate); though I value the honesty). Max is rarely as aggressive as the worst of the critics at the Crimes (a significant achievement!). So while I can understand why a critic might want to remain anonymous, and don’t really object, I just don’t see enough value in anonymity. If opinions are personal, they should be owned by a person and not paraded about as gospel.

I’m aware I’m sitting in a glass house here; I haven’t always focused on what I like, which was my intention for this blog when I started it four years ago. But nonetheless, I stand behind my opinions and own them. My real name is all over this blog and everything that links to it, and anyone can click through or search for my Facebook or Twitter accounts to hurl abuse right back at me. There are photos of my face so that if you don’t know me and you object to something I write you can approach me the next time you see me in a theatre foyer and punch it. Even my phone number is here, freely available for you! Anyone can post a dissenting point of view in response to my posts, and know who they’re having a conversation with. When I review for Australian Stage, I need to be more forthcoming, and I don’t get the privilege of simply not writing about shows I really don’t like. On my blog, though, I can just speak my mind about what I do like and save my vitriol for Andrew Lloyd Webber, who truly deserves it for his criminal aversion to character and plot.

At times, I’ve found myself and people I’ve worked with desperately discouraged by the Crimes’ most viscous and disreputable reviewers, and though their reviews aren’t anonymous, I fear the same level of vitriol could develop as a result of Max and That Guy‘s anonymity. It doesn’t really help, and this kind of critic potentially leads great artists to quit and exit the field based on one irrelevant person’s opinion before they’ve created their greatest work or found what they’re really good at. I prefer the philosophy of pointing out what I value and hoping the artist does more of that. I certainly hope that no artist I’ve been critical of sees my opinion as being more important than anyone else’s.

The two posts currently up on That Guy‘s blog are reasonably balanced and positive, so I guess time will tell whether the anonymity will be a blessing or a curse. I just hope it doesn’t become a haven for discouraging the wonderful artists who make up Canberra’s theatre community. Overall, it’s just great to have another blog about Canberra theatre around, and I’m looking forward to a greater diversity of opinions being expressed (especially because That Guy‘s no great fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber). Have a look at his review of Free Rain’s Cats here.

 
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Posted by on Sunday, 22 July 2012 in blog, Canberra Theatre, news, Theatre

 

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Renaming my blog

The few people who read this blog may have noticed some changes. I recently moved it from Blogger to WordPress (which was a great move, by the way), and I’ve overhauled its categories and tags. That’s all pretty superficial though. The real change has been longer and more gradual, and represents an evolution in what this blog really is.

I started this blog four years ago following a series of conversations with Canberra theatre folk who were particularly disappointed with the quality of theatre criticism in Canberra. My intention was to do what most Canberra critics didn’t do: write nice things about good theatre. Of course there were a few critics at the Crimes and other media outlets who tried to be constructive, but most just berated performers, writers and directors and like many others I found myself on the receiving end of their overwhelming efforts at comprehensive discouragement. I wanted to be an encouraging voice.

So much for my good intentions.

I have tried to be positive in this context, and there have been plenty of times when I just haven’t written about a production because I found it actually lived down to the critics’ expectations[1]. But things change. I started writing for Australian Stage, and unlike a blog post where I can just be myself and say what I liked, in that context I have to be more objective. I also started writing about films, which I love just as much as theatre; and sometimes television can be just as cathartic a dramatic experience, so I started writing the odd post about television. And when my day job started flying me interstate every month or so, I started writing about shows outside Canberra.

And in the course of all these changes I also discovered that writing blog posts about what I liked had a really positive impact on my own writing. I knew more instinctively how to build characters and structure narratives because when I wrote about other people’s shows, I reinforced the positive responses in my mind. The very act of writing a blog has become something like a journal of my post-tertiary education.

And that’s why I don’t care that so few people read it.

But since my blog has become such a cathartic procedure in my development as a playwright, I’m starting to think I should be more deliberate about that. Although I’ve put up a page offering samples of my script, I haven’t written about the process of submitting those scripts to competitions in the hope that someone somewhere with the power to do something about it will do what needs to be done to get the damn thing staged. I should. And from now on, I will.

And that leads me to the request I started writing this post for. If you’ve read this far into my blathering about nothing much really you may have realised that ‘Foyer Talk’ is not a name that sums up what this blog has evolved into. I wasn’t even happy with it when I named it four years ago. I see blogs all over with much cleverer names, and someone called Trevar should definitely have a clever name for his blog.

So, I’m asking you; can you think of a better name for my blog? It needs something that captures the blog it’s evolved into. I’ve thought of “Caterpillar Dreaming”, but that’s über naff and not very clever at all. I also thought of “e-merging playwright” but that’s even naffer than the other, so I’m useless at this. It sometimes takes me months to name a play, so I’m in no hurry with this process, but I would love your help.

And if you happen to come up with the cleverest and not-at-all-naff name, I might just reward you by taking you to the theatre with me[2]. Or punish you by taking you to the theatre with me, if that’s the way you want to look at it. Either way, you’ll get something for nothing.


[1] NB there are other reasons why I might not write about a show, including my rule that I don’t write if I can’t do it within a few days of seeing the show, so don’t assume that if you’ve seen me at your show and I didn’t write about it that I didn’t like it! Or, if you know it was bad, maybe you can assume that!

[2] As long as you live in Canberra. If not, you’ll have to come visit me in Canberra. Unless you happen to live in an interstate capital where I visit occasionally. Or Singapore, where I’m going in October. Terms and conditions apply. I don’t know what they are, but I will figure that out when we come to it. Just suggest a name or two!

 
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Posted by on Friday, 6 July 2012 in blog, news

 

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I’m back!

After a long period without seeing any theatre, I felt like I made something of a comeback tonight! Between holidays, a family crisis and a minor battle with pneumonia, it’s been something of an epic struggle. I’m glad to be back, though. I’ve started rehearsing to play Horatio and Voltemand in Gertrude’s Hamlet which takes to the stage at Tuggeranong Arts Centre in August.

Tonight, I was blown away by The Q’s production of Blood Brothers. My review will appear on Australian Stage soon, and I’ll post a link, but in the meantime, book your tickets!

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 7 July 2011 in news

 

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Review of Arts in the ACT

This afternoon I participated in the democratic process. Sounds very noble and boring, doesn’t it? Actually, I joined a whole bunch of other arty types to talk about arts practice in the ACT and government support for it. It was an interesting discussion, although it will be far more interesting to see what our great and mighty leaders do with our input.

The event was a consultation session run by a private firm contracted by ArtsACT to conduct a review of the arts in the ACT. Amongst a little bit of outright whining, there were some interesting discussions about the way in which governments support the arts, and how arts funding could best be utilised to the benefit of the arts community.

There were a few comments about the level of importation of art product, and the proportion of government funding that flows out of Canberra to artists based interstate or overseas. There was also a particularly interesting point made about the lack of support for arts businesses, which are, presumably, one of the most sustainable forms of arts activities.

But I think the most interesting point made, from the perspective of someone who has only been in Canberra for a little over a decade, was that Canberra had a much healthier and more robust arts community in the 80s and 90s. While I was well aware of most of the organisations, what these ‘older’ Canberrans were reminiscing was an atmosphere of creativity that could rival that of Seattle or Paris. At least one person who had lived through it remarked that she hadn’t thought about it for years. It made me sadly jealous of those who have had a longer association with the city.

Still, I can hold out hope that a new era of cultural vibrancy may yet dawn on our little concrete jungle. The group I found myself in this afternoon certainly has more than its fair share of optimism. One of them was so optimistic that she even thought it possible that our elected officials may one day actually take pride in the achievements of creative Canberrans. I’m optimistic, but not that optimistic. As long as the minister for the arts is a lawyer with a strong cultural cringe against his constituents, I hardly see that happening.

What I hold out hope for is a revival of creative energy. I am in one sense thankful that I don’t have an older picture of what a creative Canberra looks like, because a new era of that kind of culture is sure to look very different from the old one. I was surprised to learn that Happy Feet was largely created in Canberra. That is certainly a different image of creativity from what must have gone on in the 80s and 90s, but that kind of creative energy is something to get excited about (as long as they can find better script writers, because Happy Feet was crap in the dialogue and plot departments).

At any rate, if you would like to contribute your $0.02 worth to the debate, it’s not too late. You can get along to the last consultation session on Wednesday 4 November at Belconnen Arts Centre, or you can complete the survey.

 
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Posted by on Wednesday, 28 October 2009 in ArtsACT, news

 

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Fringe Festival Folds?

Like most of Canberra’s arts community, I was not anticipating the news that the Fringe Festival would not be funded into 2010, and that the National Folk Festival would be given greater funding to include a fringe event in their program. Jorian Gardner was apparently quite surprised about this, but I can’t say it wasn’t predictable.

Jon Stanhope’s time as Minister for the Arts has seen the loss of many opportunities for emerging artists in the ACT, as well as an ever-increasing flow of ACT Government funding to interstate and international artists. And John Hargreaves, who has responsibility for a number of arts events under the spurious ministerial arrangements of the Labor government, has shown himself to have a very limited capacity for abstract thought. So given that the Minister for the Arts shows very little interest in emerging artists, and the Minister for Multicultural Affairs has no capacity to comprehend the kind of events staged at a Fringe Festival, I doubt there was ever any hope for continued funding of the festival.

Nonetheless, Stanhope has apologised to Gardner for excluding him from the process, and The Canberra Cook is encouraging us to lobby for the continued funding of the Fringe. A protest is also planned for this Thursday (27 August) at 1pm in front of the Legislative Assembly. Personally, I’m completely over this notion of lobbying this government for anything. ACT Labor seem to think they’re exempt from democracy, and would probably like to disband the ACT people and elect another.

Fringe events at the National Folk Festival are unlikely to include a range of art forms, and if the Fringe Festival is unable to find willing supporters to keep it going, it will be a sad loss for artists in the ACT. Fortunately, artists in the ACT are used to dealing with loss, and will no doubt carry on in spite of the ACT Government’s disdain for their work.

For an interesting discussion of this news, see this post on RiotACT.

 
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Posted by on Sunday, 23 August 2009 in news

 

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