Soul food: a fourth letter from a voluntary exile

Hello Greenroomers

Last night I watched Ratatouille, the excellent Pixar film featuring a rat (who is an excellent chef) and his adventures in a Paris restaurant. It also features Anton Ego, a critic of devastating reputation. Although Ego is used by the writers to satirize the role and cult of critics (as if his name wasn’t a clue) he actually has two moments that redeem him and critics generally.

When he sits down to write his review of the restaurant, that could destroy or make a career, he pauses for thought, then pens a review of unmitigated praise, that starts with these words:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends.

This is salve to anyone who has ever felt the brunt of the critics’ scorn (and felt the nagging fear they may be onto something). But for me, an equally magical moment occurs some minutes before this scene, when he is served the titular dish. One mouthful and his mind shoots back to his childhood and memories of his mother cooking him dinner in a beautiful bucolic and fleeting scene. We discover Ego’s drive – he wants food that feeds his soul. He is bitter because he finds it so rarely.

I think all the great critics – of food, of theatre, of art, of literature, hell, even sport – are trying to find their equivalent of that mouthful of food that goes straight to their soul. And I believe audience members too want that, though perhaps they are not so mindful. But when they receive it, they know. I believe that because that is my experience when I go to the theatre, a film, pick up a book, or watch TV. Yes, much of that may be purely entertainment, fluff or time-filler, and excellent as examples of such. But I also need those shots to my soul. They may be irregular, but they must keep coming. Continue reading Soul food: a fourth letter from a voluntary exile

This Week in Queensland Theatre: 17-23 May

Exterior of the Old Museum Building in Brisbane.
Image via Wikipedia

Check Company websites for show times and further details

Continuing:
Stockholm: STC for La Boite Theatre at the Roundhouse
The Timely Death of Victor Blott Dead Puppet Society at !Metro Arts
King Lear: Bell Shakespeare for Queensland Theatre Company at Playhouse, QPAC
Dante’s Inferno: Zen Zen Zo at the Old Museum Building
Songs for a New World: Harvest Rain Theatre Company at JWCoCA

Greenroom Reviews:
Stockholm
(Kate Foy)
The Timely Death of Victor Blott (Kate Foy)

Other:
Resetting the Agenda: professional development workshop for artists presented by BCC at !Metro Arts. (Tuesday – Wednesday)

Review: King Lear – Bell Shakespeare, Queensland Theatre Company & QPAC at QPAC

As I walk into the Playhouse Theatre for King Lear’s Brisbane opening night, I must admit I’m a little cautious.  A successful play that runs over three hours is an enigma.  If any play can do it, however, it’s King Lear, one of my favourite Shakespeare plays.  Perhaps I still had Queensland Theatre Company’s other recent production of Waiting for Godot in my mind, but I’m reminded that King Lear is the closest to existentialism that Shakespeare gets.  It’s a play where ‘nothing’ is a central theme, and where the protagonist deals with his own mortality with a tragic descent into madness.  The play is violent, heart-wrenching and devastating.  At least it’s supposed to be.  I’m afraid to say this latest production with John Bell in the lead doesn’t quite hit the mark. Continue reading Review: King Lear – Bell Shakespeare, Queensland Theatre Company & QPAC at QPAC

This week in Queensland Theatre: 3-9 May 2010

Zen Zen Zo supporting Amanda Palmer
Image by chrisdonia via Flickr

Check Company websites for show times and further details

Opening:
The Timely Death of Victor Blott at !Metro Arts
King Lear: Bell Shakespeare for Queensland Theatre Company at Playhouse, QPAC
Dante’s Inferno: Zen Zen Zo at the Old Museum Building

Continuing:
Let the Sunshine: Queensland Theatre Company at Cremorne, QPAC
Waiting for Godot: Queensland Theatre Company at Bille Brown Studio
Stockholm: STC for La Boite Theatre at the Roundhouse

Greenroom Reviews:

Waiting for Godot (Dave Burton)
Stockholm
(Kate Foy)

Happy Birthday Dear William! Shakespeare here, there, and on your iPhone

The Cobbe Portrait of William Shakespeare
Image by Real Distan via Flickr

It’s the Bard’s birthday today, and if you Google the name ‘William Shakespeare’ you will undoubtedly find that there are heaps of celebratory happenings around the world to commemorate its favourite, and most popular playwright.

We like this image of the Cobbe Portrait of Shakespeare which the grand-daddy of Shakespeare scholars, Stanley Wells, reckons is the real thing.  It only surfaced last year and we think it is a much nicer image of a young and sexy Shakespeare than that Chandos engraving we’re so familiar with – bald and like an ageing uncle – the one in the cartoon above.  You might also note that he is a Mac user too!

In Queensland so far this year we’ve seen professional productions of La Boite’s Hamlet, and JUTE’s Macbeth, with Bell Shakespeare‘s King Lear about to hit town for Queensland Theatre Company at QPAC.  Then Zen Zen Zo took out the Best Independent Production with their The Tempest at this year’s Matilda Awards.  Just for interest’s sake, Shakespeare remains the most produced playwright for the state theatre company.  On first glance Shakespeare and David Williamson may appear unlikely bedfellows, but they remain top of the pops for Queensland Theatre Company during its 40 year history.

Queensland has several indie companies dedicated to presenting either the original texts or variations on their themes.  There’s Shake and Stir who get around the state on schools’ tours (and nationally next year with Playing Australia funding), QSE, a training and production company based in Brisbane, and Soapbox a new company on the Gold Coast who are more than happy to bring their own brand of Shakespeare to any kind of venue, whether it’s a golf course or a night club.

Footnote:  Since Shakespeare’s last birthday, the 300 or so year quest to find the ‘lost plays’ continued apace.  There was great fanfare (well, in Shakespeare circles at least) with the authentication earlier this year by scholars at Arden Publishing, that a heavily-edited play from the 18C called Double Falsehood had, in fact, been written by Shakespeare in collaboration with John Fletcher.  What really got the Shakespeare scholars’ hearts beating faster was the fact that Double Falsehood was a rework of Cardenio, a play by Shakespeare first performed in 1612, only to disappear without a trace.  Now Cardenio, aka Double Falsehood, has been added to the Shakespeare canon; it’s been published – even on the iPhone – and the RSC are planning a production.  Wonder when we’ll get one here?

There’s a screen shot (below) of the scene breakdown of Double Falsehood which was published almost immediately it became available on the very useful iPhone app called Shakespeare Pro ($US2.99)  This is a great app with so many different features.  The one I like is the random quote; shake the iPhone when you’re in the app and you get … a random Shakespeare quote!

But back to Double Falsehood/Cardenio –  already the plot sounds awfully familiar – couple of sparring brothers (one good, one creepy – but who turns out well in the end), cross-dressing, and a double love plot.  I guess what worked the first, second, and all the other times was worth a re-work!  Shakespeare, like most good playwrights still, knew what his audience liked.