Wednesday, May 13, 2009

David Williamson?

Today, DW (as he is affectionately known... maybe... by anyone who might be affectionate of him) has made it clear that he feels ill at ease with the direction that STC and indeed theatre in general is heading. He is uncomfortable with a perceived shift of focus towards the director as auteur and chief artist involved in theatrical production, citing Barrie Kosky as main offender. He instead falls back on facts and figures, insinuating that the 20 million dollars he has made for the STC must count for something. Anyway read the article and decide for yourself.

Earlier this evening, in a fit of rage I described him to a friend as "an irrelevant, upper class, self serving tit mouse." and went on to infer that he was "a backwards, stagnated and audience pandering fool".... but maybe that was a little harsh.

Any thoughts?



Nathan said...

Honestly, I think it is one of the most petty things ever for an artist to blame a lessened popularity on people who he used to work with. I can only hope I am that successful one day.
Seriously though, he talks as if Australian theatre is there to serve him, as if it should adapt to fit his trends and not the other way round. I don't mean he should be forcing himself to write plays for this "capital T theatre" (actually, maybe he should - couldn't hurt, surely), but he has no right to be bitter (and whiney) if a state theatre company wants to move in a direction that doesn't suit him.

Holly said...

Not at all too harsh.
The guy is indeed a tit-mouse.
So irrelevant that the only way he can get in the press is to bad mouth fellow artists. Oh and when he said he was never going to write again, then he did. WHOOPS! Did you miss the money DW?

The Perf said...

My issue is not only that it seems to be a personal attack on Kosky and Cate and Andrew Upton. But also that he is lamenting the lack of stories? Is there not a story to The Women of Troy, or The Tell Tale Heart. Is The War of The Roses not a conglomeration of a many stories, creating a history cycle. What of When the Rain Stops Falling by Andrew Bovell, is that not a text based play programmed at STC in which the focus is on the writer.

It seems to me that DW doesn't get out much. Can't manage the drive to the theatre maybe. Petrol prices are still high, oh and there's this economic crisis too. And did you SEE the budget? I geuss DW just can't afford to go see theatre. 20 mil just goes like (-snap-) that.


Sanja said...

Seriously, that article made me rage so much on the inside. Not only because I dislike his work... I haven't quite forgiven him for Don's Party just yet. If he was still as popular as he used to be, and if the STC wasn't doing a Kosky, or an Andrews occasionally, I would be entirely appalled. If Australian theatre was all about worshipping Williamson, I probably wouldn't want to be part of the industry. I would, quite frankly, be ashamed to be an Australian director.

I simply think that he should try writing better plays!

Jana said...

Apart from the reasonably clear fact that DW is largely irrelevant, both as an artist and as a more humble 'story-teller' (what stories? when?), I've recently been thinking about how theatre really isn't suited to telling stories. Or, not anymore. There are other artforms to whom story-telling comes like drinking water: fiction, serialised television. Then there is poetry, visual arts, and there is theatre. In between, I'd place film, which can be both narrative and pure sensual eye-candy.

To conduct a little survey: when was the last time you got a theatre experience that was most effective as an act of story-telling? I mean, there was War of the Roses, but that was mainly other things. A cyclic nightmare on the futility of war, for example, but not exactly a story of people's lives...

Serps' said...

Sanja, that's quite a valid comment you've made. Slightly biased, but its well spoken and quite a reasonable viewpoint. I can appreciate David Williamson's plays as much as the next person. But when Williamson wants to bad mouth Australian Theatre, that's just fucking stupid! Williamson has had quite a steady number of productions done with a lot of his plays, especially affiliated with STC.

What it appears to me, is old man Williamson is afraid to fade to the background and let the more relevant artists produce their art. Instead he wants 12 Angry Men style theatre; where he is the man convincing everyone to change.

Why must theatre be about stories? Why can not theatre operate independently on other means of expression and meaning, then what he views as "stories". Maybe what we can gather from this, is a man whom has lost touch with his industry. Oh, and well stated Holly. David Williamson, you blew the candle out to your playwright career years ago, why do you persist in rekindling it? It's time to do a "Kenny" and play dead. The party is over Williamson, and everyone has gone home but you.

The Perf said...

Jana -

The last time I felt a connection to theatre as a story telling medium was in Simply Fancy by Pig Island at the Old Fitz two years ago. It was childlike in that completely relied on fantasy and imagination. I got sucked into a world inhabited by people (and manta rays) that I adored and still do when thinking about it now.

Also it's lovely to have you here.


I think that you're right, theatre shouldn't have to tell stories. It shouldn't have to have narrative or operate alone the same guidelines as fiction or television. It seems to me as if Williamson is using "story" as a catch all buzz word to mean text based writer's theatre. It seems a little cheap to divorce himself from the responsibilty, (or maybe pretension) of art in this manner.


Jana said...

Hi Mark. Maybe I should complete my thoughts more often: I am as much of a story-fan as the dude down the road, and it's precisely because of this that I don't think theatre should do it. I've recently returned to reading novels, and I've noticed how much better fiction is at story-telling. Theatre doesn't seem to be able to sustain that simple need to know what happens next. It's too large?, too heavy?, to create that hunger to rush through and find out the ending.

My working theory is that theatre is really all about process: the moment-to-moment stage activity, and certainly the transgression of performance. (Like a street protest, perhaps?) That we get immersed in the moment-to-moment apathy of the three sisters, or George and Martha's carnage, but we never really need to know how the story ends.

But it's just a working theory.

Alison Croggon said...

A bit harsh on tit mice (tit mouses?), surely? Given those fabled millions, it seems astounding that he should feel hard done by.

I think stories are brilliant things. And the human drive for narrative is pretty well genetically wired, it's such a deep instinct: it's how we make sense of realities. Of course theatre "tells stories", as the cliche goes; it's just that there are many ways to skin a mouse, and narrative is a complex device, much more complex than people sometimes claim. I find the idea of DW as custodian of stories pretty disturbing, actually, since what he claims a story is a poverty-stricken thing indeed. I'd rather think about Ovid.

Holly said...

- Alison

I agree. I'm a big fan of stories (who isn't) and one of the reasons I find theatre so invigorating is because of it's ability to tell stories in a wide range of ways. I think when DW uses the word stories he is referring to a very close minded idea of what a story is and what it looks like. Story doesn't always mean narrative, or characters or any of those elements we associate with a story book. Unfortunately, in DW's theatre word there seems to be little room for anything else.

The Perf said...

Just to play devil's advocate for a moment. DW never actually makes reference to the $20 million, the writer of the article does, and his jibe at Kosky is in response to regular negative comments from Kosky in the press, so surely he deserves some right of reply.

That being said, I think his comments are misplaced. As Mark has already pointed out, it’s as if he hasn’t even looked at the STC season. It started with one of his own works, closely followed by “Travesties” which as I have already pointed out was a prime example of a writer-driven show, and the rest of the season is hardly a catalogue of spectacle. I think his concept of “Capital T Theatre” is erroneous, and somewhat misses the point of what theatre can offer. I was affected, not dazzled, by Kosky’s “The Woman Of Troy”.

As for stories, I have to be honest, they’re inherently important to a lot of the theatre I love. I think back to the productions that have truly made an impression on me in the past couple of years and some of the first that spring to mind are “Scorched” and “The Pillowman”, two epic tales that came to life on the Belvoir St stage. However, I have been equally inspired/awed/moved by the roller coaster of sensation that was The Border Project’s “Highway Rock’n’Roll Disaster” or the sheer immensity of “The War Of The Roses”.

- Simon

loulou said...

David Williamson should probably not attack the current theatre for it's lack of stories when his are some of the least engaging 'stories' I've ever read/seen. Not only is there an abundance of 'story' in Australian theatre [such as the four mentioned by Mark, and also Adam Cass's 'I Love You, Bro', Tom Holloway's 'Red Sky Morning' among many others] but, thankfully, there is also a much more open-minded definition of 'story' than there was in Tit-Mouse's heyday. Suck it up Dave, you might have to start getting a bit creative.

Dave said...

You're right, Nathan, he does have the right to rebuttal, but it's an extraordinarily petty comment to make, particularly in light of the jab he made at Kosky in his play. Which, I have to say, is a long way from being either witty or funny. Williamson is clearly no Churchill.

As for the story debate, I've always loved theatre for its ability to alternate between narrative and non-narrative approaches. To assert one approach as superior to the other is artistic fascism. Also, DW, STC staged the Removalists for you already this year, what's your beef?

Women of Troy was a very coherent "story" about post-war fallout and suffering; Tell-Tale Heart was a very standard beginning-middle-end narrative, and both did not, I think, overindulge in their theatricality. I think its ludicrous to make these statements in an attempt to save face. Maybe your "conversation" will be a little more thought out.