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Tag Archives: David Williamson

Balibo

There is a fine line between a documentary and a movie, but occasionally a film comes along that sits very comfortably on that line. Balibo is one of these. The very true story of Roger East, who Jose Ramos-Horta lured to East Timor in those few days between Portugal’s withdrawal and Indonesia’s invasion in 1975, Balibofollows East’s efforts to find out what happened to the five Australian reporters who had vanished amidst the Indonesian advance.

The film has a unique quality that at once depicts East’s story and allows the audience to engage fully with him as a character, while at the same time telling the story of the Balibo Five with a sense of documentary. The process is not unlike Brecht’s verfremdungseffekt, in the way that the film shifts from building dramatic intensity to communicating the facts of the story.
This serves the purposes of the film makers very well. Talking about the making of the film (I went to Dendy’s Q&A session), director Robert Conolly talks about the Indonesian government asking whether the film will include the Indonesian point of view, to which he responded that the last thirty years of hearing the Indonesian point of view hasn’t gotten us any closer to the truth. I am not in a position to comment on the accuracy of this film as a historic record, but as a piece of cinema, it has more human honesty than your average documentary, and more depth than your average movie.
East Timor celebrates ten years of independence later this month, so this is a timely release, in a way. It is, however, an Australian film about six Australians. What remains is to hear the stories of the East Timorese who suffered 24 long years of Indonesian rule. The makers of Balibo are aware of this, and provided training to East Timorese working with them on their film, in the hope that they will one day do so.
 

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Let The Sunshine

Opening night of David Williamson’s Let The Sunshine and The Street Theatre was full. Well, you wouldn’t expect any less for one of Williamson’s plays, would you?

I would like to describe this play as an amusing double-autopsy of capitalism and socialism, but that hardly does the play justice. Williamson’s superb play demonstrates the inability of these two-dimensional political ideologies to deliver what they promise their adherents, through characters who, despite being built on one or the other of these ideologies, are forced to grapple with humanity in three dimensions.

I think some of Williamson’s best qualities as a writer are on display in this piece; the intricate crafting of character and plot is astonishing to reflect on. This, like most of his work, is a plot-driven story, but that plot is clearly driven by the characters, and their individuality, their connectedness and their ideologies dominate the plot. Without the cast of distinguished actors assembled by the Ensemble Theatre, the text could be very dense, but it resonates beautifully as a play for today.
 
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Posted by on Tuesday, 7 July 2009 in Ensemble Theatre, The Street Theatre, Theatre

 

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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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