The Matilda Awards: the next day and an idea …

Update the day after the next day: Here’s an example of the kind of generosity that this community engenders. A few hours after the post was published yesterday, Greenroom received this from the talented guys at Markwell Presents.I passed on the news this morning to Rosemary Walker, the Matilda Awards’ publicist. She was delighted to hear it! Thanks Markwell!

@ some very nice ideas, we'd be happy to put something together #matildas11
@markwelltweets
markwell presents

Last night was my first-ever attendance at Brisbane’s annual Matilda Awards, and what a splendid night it was in a full-house at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts in the Valley. ‘Full as a lovebird’s egg’ with warmth, respect, and love for the work and for the people in the local industry who make it. The evening was all rather classy and fun, and delightfully done.

So, sterling silver kudos to the Matilda committee for their work on behalf of Brisbane’s theatre industry. 25 years and going strong!

I’ve had a thought since about something that the Matilda’s team of superb volunteers might consider for next year – yes, we are all critics, but this is constructive stuff. Whilst a guest speaker is a nice idea (and, last night, the lovely John Batchelor did a splendid job of it), I’d love to see a presentation-review of the year past – perhaps introduced by a special guest – one that showed highlights and which keyed some things worth remembering. More than one person I spoke to last night confirmed how wonderful the annual gathering afforded by the Matildas is to all of us, and how valuable. It really is the only time in the year we come together in celebration of our work.

Now the night rightly focusses on particular people and productions, but no less important things like new artistic appointments or world-beating innovations are worth mentioning, recalling, and celebrating. Brisbane had these in 2011. Do you know what I’m referring to? There would also be the opportunity to remember the work and the legacy of those we have lost during the year.

There’s a ton of visual material to call on, and the talent to script and media-produce. That big screen is just dying for it – 10 minutes absolute tops. What do you think? Let the committee know via their page if you have ideas. I got the distinct impression talking to several of the committee last night that they would be wide open to suggestions. I have no doubt they would also welcome some help.

And, of course, congratulations once again to all the nominees and the winners. Oh, and it was good to see the Matildas doing such a good job live-tweeting the ceremony (complete with hashtags) last night!

Plagiarism 101

Illustration for Cheating
Image via Wikipedia

There’s a little bit of buzz on a local Facebook theatre network right now about plagiarism – always a dirty word whether in academic or any other circles, really.

What constitutes general or ‘public domain’ knowledge or usage in a writer’s work is sometimes tricky to determine, especially when a genuinely-original phrase starts appearing all over the place as part of the vernacular. Remember the one, ‘inland tsunami’ with reference to the recent Toowoomba disaster? I do, and I recall clearly the first time I heard it – in a media interview with Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson on the day. But did he originate it?  Like anthropologists, linguists love the game of tracking back to origins. As to claiming ownership of language, well this can be taken to stupid lengths when big corporations try to copyright a phrase or a word. However …

There are other times when it is blindingly clear that not just a random collection of words but a specific idea expressed in a phrase has been lifted and used by another as their own – as happened a week or so ago when an extract from one of Greenroom’s posts was taken and used on another site without attribution.  No names, no pack-drill at this stage, but we will be keeping an eye out for any repeats. By the way, we were not the only ones who noticed this bit of pilfering. I know I was robbed because the phrase in question really was created by me to make a particular point in the article. I remember thinking at the time that it was rather clever; obviously the other reviewer did too!  Now, as far as that other reviewer was concerned it would have been so easy to attribute the quote with a hotlink back to our site (a bit of link love) or in some other way, but it didn’t happen. So, what do I concur from that reviewer and that site: bad manners, questionable ethics and plagiarism aka intellectual dishonesty.

Come on fellow theatre writers, play fair! And, if you run a website, appoint an editor and ask your reviewers to sign off on their work as original before publishing. We’re all in this together.

And disclaimers, if required, are a sign of professional practice. That is all.

On criticism …

I’ve been reading a lot lately about professional theatre criticism.  The articles have been by critics themselves, artists who are the subject of said critics’ writings, and audience members. I’ve been greatly moved by a couple of pieces, one from an obituary on the respected and, from what you read, greatly liked API drama critic Michael Kuchwara who died recently, aged 63 after a professional lifetime of play reviewing.  The other was from Mark Mordue, this year’s winner of Australia’s Pascall Prize for critical writing.

It’s an understatement to say that critics aren’t particularly well regarded by those they criticise; they never have been since their inception 200 or so years ago.  Nowadays, however, it’s often for a reason you might not at first appreciate.

Recently I was in conversation with several professional theatre colleagues who were more upset by the lack of  ‘good reviewers’ than by the ignorance, dismissal, or the brickbats that come their way.  As one said to me, ‘As much as I don’t like a bad notice, if it’s from a reviewer I respect, it’s not half as bad as when it’s one from someone who doesn’t have a clue about the theatre, or who uses his or her position to show off.’  Respecting the enemy is perfectly possible, of course, and if we must think of critics in this way, then let them be the best enemies around.

One of Kuchwara’s colleagues said this about him

He was candid about stunners and stinkers he saw, but never gushy or mean. And his affection for the theater and for audiences infused every review.

He could also write well, and he knew his theatre. I like very much the phrase about being candid but never gushy or mean. Coming hot on the heels of that absolute must – knowing how theatre works – these other qualities make up a ‘good reviewer,’ are what garner respect from arts colleagues, and are finally, what constitute the ‘good enemy.’ Continue reading On criticism …

Poll Results: overall, how do you rate the quality of play-reviewing in your locale?

Not a day goes by without someone, somewhere grinding their axe on a theatre production.  This can be in print or more recently, in online criticism. Equally, theatre workers diss the critics, especially when their production has been less than favourably treated.

The issue of the quality of play reviewing is of sufficient interest we would have thought, to garner some commentary.  However, this poll on the quality of theatre criticism wasn’t well responded to in terms of numbers, and we wonder whether or not there is a general malaise or simple disinterest (by this small – but niche – readership at least) about the issue.  It also opens up another poll which we’ll release soon; this one on what makes for a good piece of theatre criticism.  But to the results of this poll …

Clearly the quality of play reviewing varies here in Australia and elsewhere, and the results show this; perhaps this wasn’t a good option to put – seems far too obvious.  No respondent thought the overall standard to be ‘Excellent,’ but a quarter of all respondents thought the quality of play reviewing in their locale to be  ‘Awful.’

One comment: Pandering, uncritical and written as if the “critic” is looking for friends

Here are the results

Reviews: ‘The Kursk’

National tour of ‘The Kursk’ by Sasha Janowicz Dir: Michael Futcher. Matrix Theatre and Critical Stages at La Boite Theatre Brisbane,  September 1-12, 2009.

Australian Stage Online “… another triumph for Matrix Theatre.”

The Australian “Speed blurs emotional effect …”

Courier-Mail “Chilling … powerful … electrifying …”

OurBrisbane.com Performing Arts Blog “The play is moving, horrifying and lyrical … a stunning production”

Groundling “The Kursk: a flagship for Queensland’s independent theatre”

Absolute Theatre

612 ABC Brisbane: Nigel Munro-Wallis “…a strong, riveting story – the type of drama that will have you thinking long after you have left the theatre. Director Michael Futcher has again proved himself to be a talent of national significance in his re-designing of the piece. It loses none of its suffocating impact in the larger venue – probably due to the physical closeness of the audience on three sides of the action. If you missed it last time then make sure you catch it during its current season at the Roundhouse. You’ll be glad you did. Five Stars.”

Time Off:   “The Kursk is as much the story of loved ones watching and waiting with the rest of the world. Adding to the mounting tension, thanks to brilliant sound and lighting design, there are some truly heart stopping moments.”

Curtain Up: Brisbane Theatre Reviews: ” … an excellent script which translates to a compelling theatre piece in the docudrama style.”

Stage Whispers: Ken Cotterill “Simply put, this is theatre at its very best.”

Other Reviews and Interviews (Queensland)

Arts Hub: Kirsten Leroux (JUTE Theatre, Cairns) NB Requires sign-in to read.

612 ABC Brisbane – Sasha Janowicz: Interview with Madonna King (Aug 13)

Other Reviews and Interviews (interstate and international)

Sydney Morning Herald:  ” A shipshape staging, but this drama about the doomed Russian submarine takes water.”

Time Out Sydney:  ” … strong stagecraft in a production very much worth catching at Darlinghurst Theatre before its short run is up.”

Canberra Times:  ” intensely moving and riveting production … a powerful theatrical experience that reminds us that we all share a common humanity and a duty to act.  Janowicz’s poetic homage to the dead and prophetic plea to the living closes with Chekhov’s ‘We should bury the dead and mend the living.’  This outstanding production of Janowicz’s finely acted work reminds us that there is much to mend before yet another lesson in history remains unlearnt.”

Sydney Morning Herald: Multimedia presentation narrated by Sasha Janowicz and the cast.

RT Moscow: Submarine Tragedy Remembered Across the World

The Moscow News:  Australian playwright Sasha Janowicz told the wire service that it took him seven years and two trips to Russia to carefully study the tragic events and write the play.

Making History With History: the Kursk interview (Alison Mooney for Scene)