2005 - looking back
It's that time of year again, when it is conventional to drink too much, to
rush around snarling at your fellow harassed shoppers, and to say things
like, where has this year gone? And of course, time for the annual Olympian
view of the year's theatre, as seen from the critical eyrie.
Glancing through my reviews, what strikes me principally is how much good
theatre, of many different kinds, that I've seen this year. And, perhaps
perversely, I finish this year feeling more optimistic about the state of
Melbourne theatre than I began it.
2005 was dominated by two very different events - the radical shift of
artistic direction at the Malthouse Theatre, and this year's extremely
successful Melbourne Festival. Under Michael Kantor's artistic direction,
the Malthouse has done the unimaginable - turned around the stale post-70s
aesthetic of the Playbox Theatre and made a space for a broader perception
of theatrical possibility. Likewise, the Melbourne Festival's 2005 program,
by general agreement the most exciting for years, was a sell-out success.
Artistic director Kristy Edmunds foregrounded innovative work by local and
international artists which galvanised everyone who attended, sparking
engaged (and often vastly differing) responses. Theatre is looking sexy
again: more importantly, the broadening of aesthetic possibility is
beginning to attract a different demographic, younger people who have
heretofore rather spent their dollars on film or books. We can only hope
that this trend continues.
On the other hand, theatre, as always, teeters in a state of permanent
crisis, and there are many reasons to be worried about the future of the
arts here. If even Hannie Rayson's absurd melodrama Two Brothers can prompt
Federal Ministers to talk about abolishing the Australia Council, what
happens if there's some real critique? This year saw the abolition of the
Australia Council's New Media and Community Arts Boards - under a major
restructure, to the wide disquiet of the arts community.
The recent bundle of legislation passed through Federal Parliament includes
amendments to the archaic sedition laws that potentially affect artists as
much as journalists or anyone interested in social critique, and the banning
of compulsory union fees at universities with a consequent disastrous effect
on cultural life in our tertiary institutions. These laws represent the
latest and most damaging salvos in an ongoing war by the right wing against
Australian culture: only this week, the attack dog of the Right, Andrew
Bolt, savaged the alleged "group think" of arts funding bodies (conveniently
ignoring the fact, for instance, that the Australia Council also funds the
right wing magazine Quadrant ) , and it's hard not to wonder how much this
indicates more aggressive government interference - and ultimately,
repression - of work that doesn't toe the official line.
Read more at http://theatrenotes.blogspot.com
Editor, Masthead: http://masthead.net.au
Home page: http://alisoncroggon.com