Review: Statespeare – Shake & Stir and La Boite Theatre @ The Roundhouse

Images: Al Caeiro


This is not a Shakespeare production. It’s a play about the problem of studying Shakespeare’s plays in high school or, as the programme has it, ‘Studying Shakespeare sucketh.’

Statespeare, written by Nelle Lee with material from a range of Shakespeare’s plays, is all about the relevance of the works for kids who are dragged, often kicking and screaming, to study the plays – or bits of the plays – as the syllabus demands. The premise of Statespeare is that the plays are hard, studying them really doth suck and that people who like Shakespeare are most probably drama nerds or losers. At one of yesterday’s schools’ performances I heard an audible gasp from a few quarters in the audience at a line about Drama not counting for an OP score. There were clearly some Drama geeks (old and young) in the house. PS tell me it isn’t so – about Drama not counting for the OP!

For a good 40 or 50 years now – and probably well before that – Australian school kids have been introduced to the plays in the Shakespeare canon via small, touring companies of actors. I remember the Young Elizabethan Players – the ‘Young Lizzies’ – when I was at high school. They were all serious in black before it became de rigeur in theatre circles, and we duly fell in love with at least one of the young male actors in tights – I think they really did wear tights back then. Then came the famed Grin and Tonic 1.0 (recently 2.0) and now there’s Shake & Stir theatre company. Continue reading “Review: Statespeare – Shake & Stir and La Boite Theatre @ The Roundhouse”

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 their feet: The Boy From Oz at EPC Toowoomba

It takes a lot to get a house full of Toowoomba people on their feet for a standing ovation, but it happened last week at the opening night of The Boy From Oz directed by Lewis Jones. This is the latest big musical production from Empire Theatre Projects Company (EPC) based at the gorgeous hard-top Empire Theatre which just happens to be celebrating its centenary this year. I hear that audiences stood again at subsequent performances.

The EPC’s productions of plays and musicals – a couple a year – are hugely popular and, more often than not, draw full houses. By the way The Boy From Oz concludes today with an additionally-scheduled Sunday performance, and I have no doubt that delighted audiences will rise as one yet again. Why wouldn’t they?  By any standards it’s a terrific production led by Tye Shepherd as Peter Allen and Bernadette Pryde as Judy Garland. Besides, Toowoomba needs a good shot in the arm, and this joyous, sensitive production is just the tonic.

The Boy From Oz is a community production and proudly so, but it defies any kind of pigeon-holing in terms of its definition as either amateur or professional. As far as the scope of its work goes, labels just don’t stick on the EPC – unless it’s the ‘extraordinary’ label. The EPC has been working non-stop for the past few years under the Artistic Direction of Lewis Jones. It runs regular drama workshops for children and young people in Toowoomba and other centres in its regional catchment area; mentors and provides production experience for local artists and small independent groups as well as higher education students and trainees, and provides professional development seminars for teachers. It also provides employment for artists, creatives and technicians. Continue reading “On their feet: The Boy From Oz at EPC Toowoomba”

The rules of engagement

There’s a rather sad and, at times, hysterical (but not of the amusing kind) fall-out on another blog about town which reviews amateur as well as professional productions in Brisbane.

Briztix, which also sells tickets and provides a very useful theatre resource for Brisbane, published a review of Blue Fish Theatrical Productions‘ Jekyll and Hyde. It is fair to say that it was a savage criticism, and the reaction it caused has raised some issues that are worth consideration.  The comments extend for pages and they make for not very illuminating reading. Of course, blog comment panes are fair game for anyone who has an axe to grind – just check out some of the media sites if you want a sample of the kind of vitriol, lunacy and also quite marvellous insights by readers. On a theatre blog it’s also a logical way for supporters and critics to have their say – part of what the glorious democracy of the web is all about. As to the review in question, the commentary includes partisan name-calling which resorts to picking over the reviewer’s grammar and fitness to review plays as well as more level-headed commentary of the ‘back to your corners now people’ kind. It’s hot under the collar and defensive and, frankly, does no one, and especially not the local theatre community much good. It’s also a good case for not reading reviews until after a show closes.

Blue Fish Theatrical Productions is a new company – they did Spamalot last year – and they are aiming high; good for them. Whether or not they ‘bit off more than they could chew’ – a phrase found in some of the commentary – is not for comment here. Greenroom has not seen the show. In any case, this site does not review amateur productions – that’s our choice. It is not a judgement on the often remarkably fine work being done by amateur companies around S-E Queensland.

I guess the question at the heart of all this is whether or not reviewers should apply the same rules when discussing an amateur production as they do when taking on a professional work. What do you think?

And when does an amateur company cross the very flexible line into independent territory? Some time ago on my personal blog I mulled over what was meant by independent and professional when it comes to Queensland’s theatre. What is clear is that labels are a problem, and we don’t like them. Do they actually mean much any more? From the review postings mentioned above it seems they do.

What’s very clear, whether or not we reject labelling, is that when it comes to the recognition and reviewing of the broad range of work produced by the theatre sector in Brisbane, it’s time to agree on some ground rules.

The rules of engagement … what are they? Have your say below.

On Criticism (4 June, 2010)

Empire Burning – Eugene Gilfedder & !Metro Arts Independents

Empire Burning
Written and Directed by Eugene Gilfedder

SEASON: Friday 13 to Saturday 28 May

WHEN: Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm
BACKCHAT: Wednesday 18 May, Artist Q&A after performance

WHERE: Metro Arts, Sue Benner Theatre
TICKETS: Adults $20 Concessions $16

PERFORMERS: Damien Cassidy, Dan Crestani, Michael Futcher, Eugene Gilfedder, Finn Gilfedder-Cooney, Sasha Janowicz, Niki-J Price and Steven Tandy
SOUND DESIGN BY John Rodgers and Ken Eadie

Groups 10+ $12 Cheap Tuesdays $12 door sales only
Preview $12 (Tuesday 10 May)

Further information: