It’s been a busy busy week for this groundling. And it’s mostly been spent travelling to and from Brisbane for performances, showcases, launches, and other industry-related matters. It’s typical of the frantic pace that accompanies the last couple of months of each year, as we gather to mull over what’s been, plan what’s to come, and draw breath before it starts all over again. It’s also time to watch the intake of canapés; there are only so many a groundling can take.
What’s either front and centre or in the back of everyone’s minds right now is the parlous state of the world’s economy … dangerous times as PM Kevin Rudd would have it. What does this mean for local business and to the personal budget … to job security even? On the business side, there are anxieties in the wider arts industry about the discretionary dollar in an audience member’s pocket. Where will that be spent? It begs the question, “What kind of works do we turn to in dark times?”
We’re all familiar with the all-singing, all-dancing glad-times Hollywood movies during the depression of the 1930s. Audiences flocked to Busby Berkley‘s broadway movies about being ‘in the money’ with understudies making it to stardom, or straight dramas about the ‘little guy’ winning out over the most severe adversity … think Grapes of Wrath … and we get some notion of the stories that appeal. They don’t have to be thigh-slappers or facile puffery, but a good laugh does help.
On Wednesday night this week, there were palpable waves of audience delight in the Playhouse on Brisbane’s South Bank. Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is being directed by Michael Gow for Queensland Theatre Company. He gives this production a fresh look without ever compromising its particular 19th century Wildean playfulness or the character’s eccentricities. Of course, Earnest is one of the best-loved plays in the English language; it’s a known commodity, but it’s also a life-affimer. I reckon it will be the scripts, the plays, the movies that can affirm community and solidarity that will win out in what our PM calls the ‘dangerous times’ ahead.
It’s good to come together to think out loud in front of ourselves … as Martin Esslin famously wrote about the purpose of theatre.