What have I seen? There were an interesting ten paragraphs about Brecht, culminating with and only marred by attribution to Brecht of a quote about “grab[bing] them by the balls” that the internet does not support him saying and if he did, isn’t very inspirational or insightful either. The long passage begins: “Fame, so the proverb goes, is a calamity. To be sure, it's the kind of calamity that looks like a privilege, a disaster that masquerades as respect.”
Another entry quotes Croggon’s own essay from elsewhere:
“One of the great attractions of writing about the performing arts is its impossibility. The greater the impact of a work, the more difficult it is to convey accurately what that experience was. The experience is translated from the immediate present where it lives and exists, into a past tense, which makes it what it never was: a complete and finite object, now preserved in the distorting aspic of memory. Theatre is not a recordable experience: its repetition is, even in its crudest forms, not a reproduction so much as an imitation of its earlier performances. Even filming a performance is unsatisfactory: however artfully done, the most essential aspect of the performance, its elusive present-ness, its quality of being created in the moment before an audience, is irretrievably lost.”
As happens periodically in the art world, now and again a controversy erupts. In Croggon’s blog you only get one side of it, and relevant links have been broken, so it is hard—especially for one with little familiarity with the arts in Australia—to get a sense of the factions. A staging of a Pinter play with a primarily aboriginal cast gets Croggon’s review.
The controversy flowers a fortnight later. Even without understanding the parameters of the issues hashed out and aired in the comment section (there are 41 comments), the back-and-forth discussion maintains a tone of friendly courtesy that our highly-charged partisanship nine years later (at least in the US) seems to have forgotten how to offer to the point of incapacity. One anonymous comment strikes with a poignancy and universal relevance that the rest of the debate—and indeed much of the blog—lacks. (To reiterate, the fault lies with the form, not the iteration.) Anonymous declares:
We have a theatre culture that is timid, white, polite, subservient, less brave than just about every abuse victim (read: every single abo there is in this country). You mention writers up there that by and large are so timid, so safe, so fucking private school it is an offense to say they are important writers.
What important writers do we have in this country? Not one fucking one of them. Not one white person gives a fuck about the black man and if any of us did there would be a fucking riot.
This disease, this pox, this fucking hole on the face of the earth. Rise up my white brothers and slay your white masters.
This theatre you speak of, built on Black Land, populated with White Rich Kunts who have only made their money from theft and death and you know what, the black man on his reserve cannot even BUY HIS OWN FRIKN HOUSE!
You keep him down and you keep on keeping him down and meanwhile we have one of the very highest rates of tuberculosis in Australia than anywhere else on earth, than anywhere else on earth.
And you cool, frikn baseless, rich white snotty nosed pooftas all want to talk about reviewing theatre?
You want to talk about these writers like they matter? Matter? Yes they might write from the heart but really, about what? GIve me the fire they start that begins to flame, but no, we get stuff for white people about silly little things, to be programmed by white people, to be watched by white people, to be talked about by white people.
Just like the same old story.
These writers you mention, and all the rest, not to deride their individual talents, I would also say we probably have some good sheet metal workers in this country, but it's hardly brain surgery is it?
and where is the inventiveness? Well aren't they all striving to do something interesting? Yeah, but maybe if more thought went into writing a good play, a well made drama, then we would be saved, but no, most of the new theatre we see has no drama, has so much inventiveness that it makes me frikn sick with it's clammy handed grip on art.
This dead hand gripping the corpse of Mother England, this stolen land and a story that has itself been stolen and placed now on op shops shelves where the dreamtime is painted by white painters, where the dreamtime is written about by white writers, where Aboriginal secret womens business can be bought in a $2 paper back, like the remaindered plays of all of those writers you mention, plus all the rest.
Dead stories, written from a dead hand, from a dead heart, for a dead land full of dead people.
The theatre is here and we ignore it. We always have.