Stars etc ~ theatre notes

Friday, November 10, 2006

Stars etc

American bloggers are getting very excited about the appointment of Cate Blanchett and her husband Andrew Upton as the joint artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company. Forgive me if I am not so excited: I don't wish to prejudge, but it is far from clear to me that this is an unambiguous Good Thing.

It seems to me that if one is to talk about Hollywood stars giving their lustre to the theatre, it is much more exciting that Geoffrey Rush is starring in Ionesco's Exit The King at the Malthouse and Belvoir St next year, directed by Neil Armfield and with a cast that includes Julie Forsythe. But I remember how brilliant Rush was in Gogol's Diary of a Madman and The Government Inspector under Armfield's direction many moons ago. He is one of our great comic stage actors, and his return to work that highlights his true genius is a real Event.

There is no doubt that the STC appointment will generate publicity and ticket sales out of its sheer star power, as did Kevin Spacey's appointment to the Old Vic. But although Spacey's appointment has certainly worked in the box office, it has been artistically controversial. There is no doubt that our Cate can act, and that Andrew Upton is a fair writer (I thought his adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac impeccable, but entertain serious doubts about his meeting with Chekhov), and no doubting also their commitment to theatre.

All the same, steering a major theatre company is a rather different task to writing and acting, and I can't but reflect that celebrity is not the same as vision. I think it's a question of "wait and see".

UPDATE: Chris Boyd has more on Robin Nevin's directorship at the STC at The Morning After.

7 comments:

Mark said...

I didn't say I was "excited" anywhere in my post, only that it was interesting that a major theater would appoint an actor and a playwright to that position. Could be just a case of capitalizing on a celebrity relationship, but it's still an interesting choice structurally. Steering a major theater company is a different task to directing too, but theaters are given over to those artists all the time.

As an outsider, I don't know what this portends for new work, etc, and I'll look forward to what you and Ben have to say. But I will say that this is different than the Spacey appointment. Blanchett has a long history with the theater that goes back to well before she was famous.

nick said...

Hi Alison,

I always see it as disappointing when theatre embraces Celebrity Culture in actions such as this. With its supposed mission to its locality and community, theatre should be presenting an alternative to the dominant culture in which we are all swimming. There is a difference between an audience and fandom.

Yours truly,
American Blogger

Alison Croggon said...

Ok (blush) I confess I was a leetle unfair. On the other hand, I don't often see new appointments in Australian theatre discussed on US blogs...

Mark said...

Granted, but we also don't see new appointments in Australian theater making headlines here. And, since I direct and produce new Australian work, I have more interest than most.

Alison Croggon said...

I'm sorry, Mark, if I offended you. I was poking a bit of fun, and I guess it comes over less lightly than I intended.

Mark said...

NO! No offense was taken. I guess my jovial meaning didn't take either. Damn internet and its neutral tone!

Alison Croggon said...

Ah, the perils of text without gesture...no wonder we need theatre...