Moody Moody ~ theatre notes

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Moody Moody

...while we're on the subject of State theatre companies, actor Colin Moody is in the Age today tearing strips off the STC. Moody's parting from the STC's Actors Company was a bitter one, and it's all come out here, with attacks on the Blanchett/Upton duo ("an Oscar for acting is not a suitable recommendation to run the biggest theatre company in the country") and the STC ethos of "office politics" and "hypocrisy".

There's justice in the criticism that Robyn Nevin has imported second-rung British directors. But I'm still baffled by the "observer" logic that the fact that a bunch of actors have a full-time job means that others are deprived. The pie's more complex than that, people.

The proof, for us audience types, is in the pudding. As I said earlier this week, the STC's 2008 season is looking very impressive. And "industry insiders" (to take a leaf from the Fairfax book), while critical of many aspects of the process there, are generally up-tempo and optimistic about the new STC leadership.

It's hard to see much in Moody's criticisms beyond a great deal of bile. Which is bad, of course, but not germane. TN's twitching journalistic antennae are still telling her that the real story is elsewhere, beyond the STC.

30 comments:

equity member said...

Colin Moody is a very talented actor but a complicated and troubled man, which goes some way towards explaining why he had become unemployable in the industry and was working as a hospital cleaner when the STC took a chance on him. "Industry insiders" also say there was huge sigh of relief from the other Actors Company members when the STC finally had to pull the plug on him after repeated warnings. It's a pity that he has decided on a scorched earth policy, and is trying as best he can to discredit the group with whom he worked and received so much support) over the past two years. Let's all move on, shall we, and let others get on with the business of producing theatre?

Plea for Sanity said...

I can’t keep letting let that slide… impressive? Come on! Emperor has no clothes even if Armani is on board! Let’s look at a few of the details of the 2008 season which do corroborate what Colin Moody is asserting 1. Max Stafford-Clarke (since his stroke all agree he is past his prime) teaming up with Stephen (no-one will touch him with a bargepole in London so thank god for the suck ups in the colonies) Jeffreys doing yet another pass at Gay’s Beggar’s Opera (Why?), and while we’re at it let’s bring some English actors over at huge expense! I don’t suppose there is a company taking the Australian actors back to England in exchange?!!! 2. And let’s talk about the dog of a script sitting in the programme with no director because everyone they have offered it to has turned it down… apparently both Gale Edwards and Kate Gaul have chosen to not work there at all next year rather than struggle to bring John Doyle’s commission into some saleable shape… let’s hope that John Doyle’s name and Max Cullen’s face are enough to sell it to subscribers! 3. Have you read “Rabbit”? Hard to imagine a more shallow script… harder still to imagine why, of all the exciting international new works available that is the one they have decided Australian audiences must see! Quoting the beginning of the Guardian review “Bella is not quite 30 and already misses the safety of childhood. While her demanding father, who always wanted his daughter to push herself, is dying, daddy's special little girl is celebrating her 29th birthday in a bar with friends and ex-lovers who, like Bella, are smart, successful and dissatisfied. As Bella says wistfully: "I'm 29. I'm never going to be 28 again. I am never going to be eight again. And I miss it. I've left so much behind. And it all gets lost." So this is the programming stab at the under 30 audience? I am going to be sick. 4. The Year of Magical Thinking… Everyone knows it is a vehicle play for and I’m sure Georgio will design a stunning set and costumes but again… read the play … critical response to the writing as opposed to Vanessa Redgrave’s performance has been disappointing with most agreeing that it is better read that staged – same mistake Nevin made with Love Lies Bleeding this year! But, hopefully her taxpayer funded first-class research trip to New York to speak with Joan Didion will help solve some of the script difficulties Redgrave didn’t overcome (she will miss that skybed as of next year! And does anyone else think it’s weird that she looks thirty in the programme… botox?!!) 5. But worse than the Year of Magical Thinking is the playwright no-one takes seriously anymore in London (but here’s yet another business class ticket to Sydney) David Hare’s Vertical Hour. The script is dire! International agreement on this one. It had Julianne Moore in it on Broadway it must be worth programming… I feel like we are back in the 80’s in Sydney. 6. I am a fan of Nigel Jamieson but Gallipoli!... really? Again? I hope they are going to work with the Turkish Australian community on this one because otherwise we have seen it all before if the photo of Gaden in his Army outfit is to be believed. 7. Genuinely excited by Kosky and Andrews productions sure and definitely by the prospect of seeing Tim Maddock direct some new Keene in Sydney – there is a director writer relationship worth supporting but Pamela Rabe? Hey Pamela, have you ever thought about directing? Here, on the off chance you may feel like trying, here, have a couple of hundred thousand dollars worth of resources to experiment with…where is George Ogilvie these days, Julian Meyrick is kicking about at a loose end next year, and Kate Gaul has more than earned the chance, but hey Pam, have a go, see if you like it. 8. But Oh! I forgot Rock and Roll… not surprisingly. So 4 English playwrights… is that right? Maybe it is the ongoing absence of a literary manager (that’s right Chris Mead ran screaming from the institution nearly a year ago) that is causing this throwback to colonial programming but it just suggests that they are not reading with enough breadth or depth internationally to really hunt out exciting new work globally… check the West End/ Broadway listings and see if you can pick next year’s season… alright that’s not fair… I actually have more faith than most in the ability of Upton/Blanchett to turn it around and to be in a position where they can raise the money to enable them to take more risks – as people they are more open an approachable than Nevin has ever been so hopefully those alienated by her reign will feel like they can venture back into state waters. Travelling hopefully towards the 2009 season. 9. Finally, good on Colin Moody for having the courage of his convictions and leaving what must have been an attractive salary. It seems to me that when two exceptional actors walk away from what is being touted as the most envied of positions back into the uncertainty of the freelance career all is not creatively well in Wonderland. Colin Moody and Dan Spielman must have had strong artistic reasons for leaving before the end of their contracts – and STC have just been holding their breath hoping no-one would notice they have gone. It is good to hear that Colin at least is brave enough to own his decision publicly – and good on the Herald for publishing another voice in the middle of all of the self congratulatory writing about Nevin’s legacy. Just ask Rodney Fisher about her legacy if you want a real rant, or Joanna Murray Smith, or Aubrey Mellor.

jaq said...

Dear Plea for Sanity--I hope your prayers are answered soon and you find some. Ask the opinion of Rodney Fisher?? The man who bankrupted Marion Street Theatre, whose last theatrical success was "Masterclass," a production given to him by...who was it again...oh that's right, the frightful Robyn Nevin! Who then went on to give him what should have been the director-proof "Lady in a Van" but he succeeded in making a hash of it. Honestly, if your hatred of successful international playwrights and directors is so great, I suggest you avoid state theatre companies entirely for your own mental well being. You see, I'll say this slowly, state theatre companies actually need to sell tickets. To the public. To plays they want to see. You site Fisher and Mellor as theatrical touchstones...have you bothered to check how they both fared when they made attempts at running companies? have you ever wondered why almost no state companies program the works of Joanna Murray Smith? But above all I am sure Ms Nevin will be thrilled that at 65 you think she looks thirty, despite your somewhat peculiar obsession with her sleeping and travel arrangements.

Alison Croggon said...

Hi plea for sanity - I am similarly dubious about the Stephen Jeffries experience, but hey, at least Max Stafford-Clark is a genuine name. Yes, the Joan Didion is a vehicle play. Etc.

But as you no doubt know, state theatre companies are all about balances between pragmatism - nobody wants them going broke either - and artistic adventure. I think the STC has done quite well: a third Broadway/ West End hits, a third new work by genuinely exciting artists with track records like Kosky. (What's wrong with Gallipoli if someone has an interesting take on it? I'm sure Jamieson's will be interesting.) The real discussion, of course, can happen after the program is seen, but I'm certainly going to try to get up for some of it - and was talking to some Melbourne types last night who were also planning on doing so. So it must have a certain attraction.

Maybe Dan Spielman can speak for himself here, since his name has been taken in vain. I'm certain he has a more nuanced view of things, and a more interesting view of Season 2008 (after all, he is still in it - as an author in Wharf2Loud collaborating with Max Lyandvert on a very interesting text indeed).

And sorry, no, I'm not asking Joanna Murray-Smith.

Anonymous said...

As I was involved in the discussions that led to the choice of Pamela Rabe to direct one of my two plays being presented by the STC next year, I feel obliged to comment on Plea For Sanity’s belligerent rant. What exactly is wrong with an actor of Ms Rabe’s vast experience stepping into the role of director? Do you imagine that she is taking this step lightly? You seem to think that the offer to direct came out of the blue; sorry, it didn’t. It is something that has been discussed for a number of years. And how is it that you can assume that she will use the resources of the STC for some self indulgent ‘experiment’? She will be working in tandem with Tim Maddock, a director for whom I have an enormous amount of respect, who has supported and directed my work for more than a decade. I think that it’s an intelligent, intriguing combination. As for Julian Meyrick directing my work, I’m afraid the possibility leaves me cold. And you’ll have to forgive my ignorance, but I have no idea who Kate Gaul is. I completely support the Rabe / Maddock combination. It seems the ideal way for Ms Rabe to take the step she’s wanted to take for some time. I’m excited by the prospect.

Daniel Keene

Alison Croggon said...

PS Forgot something: I'm no great rap for David Hare, but saying no one takes him seriously in London is ridiculous, when Vertical Hour is on at the Royal Court next year and he's also included in the National's 2008 season.

Anonymous said...

Having seen "Vertical Hour" in New York last year, I can assure you that it was anything but a star vehicle for Julianne Moore. I too am no huge David Hare fan, but this was by far the best play of his I have seen, and the American audience sat in stunned, attentive silence as the folly of the war was eloquently and intelligently discussed. It is an important piece of theatre with a contemporary social and political statement that should be heard by everyone in the West. For that previous blogger to dismiss it sight unseen simply because a well-known actress appeared in it is reverse snobbery of the worst kind. Really I thought we'd long gotten over that sort of mean-spirited resentment of high achievement in this country.

Alison Croggon said...

Hi Anon - just a tiny and no doubt anal point, but Plea For Sanity isn't - so far as I know - a blogger, but a commenter. You can tell bloggers because their names will link to their blogger profiles, which in turn link to their blogs.

Anonymous said...

Colin Moody is well known in the industry for being combative and extremely difficult to work with. His acrimonious departure from the Actors Company speaks more about him as a person than it does about the state of affairs in Sydney Theatre.
I find it perplexing that he talks passionately about doing work that is true, yet is quite happy to take on a role in Jan with the very company he is publicly damning. Sorry? What was that about frauds and charlatans?
If Moody has any real conviction, and his rant is not just a self righteous outburst, maybe he should quit Season at Sarsparilla and let someone else have the job. There are a number of very fine actors in NSW and beyond who'd do a brilliant job, without all the histrionics.

Anonymous said...

In an attempt to soothe TN's twitching journalistic antennae I would suggest there is, in fact, no story here.

Ironically, the only reason Mr Moody's artistic woes received any attention is because he dropped the Blanchett/Upton combination into his story.

Trees for the forest people, trees for the forest.

Alison Croggon said...

Anon #3 (it's brilliant btw if anonymous types use pen names, so we know "who" is "who") - read the post again. Am I being too subtle? Of course I totally agree with you, there is no story here. I think it's a total beatup. I don't even think the real story is at the STC.

Anon #2, I will leave that comment up - it seems kind of fair enough, given what Moody said - but can I suggest more generally that we steer clear of personal comment? Moody's comments may well be ill-advised, but I see no profit in (and will remove) anything that gets merely personal. And/or libellous.

simbo said...

There is an issue with the new STC leadership, but it isn't with Cate.

To be blunt, Andrew Upton's theatrical legacy largely rests on two higly successful transatlions (Cyrano and Hedda), and two far less successful plays (Old Masters and Rifelmind). He doesn't remotely have anything like the runs on the board necessary for qualifying for the position.

When Robyn Nevin moved in as director of the STC, she'd already been director of the QTC for a number of years, had a directing career going back to at least the mid 80's, and an acting history going back to the late 60's/early 70's. Whatever else she was, she was most definately qualified to run the company.

Upton isn't. The reason why he's there is blatantly apparent, and he plain shouldn't be there.

I don't particularly have a problem with non-directors becoming artistic director (Nick Marchand at Griffin, for instance, isn't a director - he's a writer).

But where someone is clearly coming in without a lot of prior experience or skills, it's perfectly fair to question them.

Of course, most of the bashing centres on Cate. Why? Well, cause she's famous. But at least she's famous for her skills. Upton is famous, if at all, for who he's married to. Bluntly, that's his qualification.

At the same time, the relentless bashing of the Actors Company seems a bit ludicrous. Theatre companies don't exist to employ actors (or directors, or set designers, or anybody else). They exist to entertian an audience, plain and simple. And the minute that gets forgotten, something very elemental goes missing.

Can the same company used for a number of different productions entertain an audience? Yeah. Can a number of different companies entertain 'em? Yep. But if, by keeping the company, an audience gets to see different dimensions to existing actors - to see them actually ACT, not merely get typecast again and again ... well, how can that fail to be fascinating?

Ben Ellis said...

Let's not forget Andrew Upton's superb translation/adaptation of Maxim Gorky's Philistines for the National.

In the meantime, the Melbourne Theatre Company looks irrelevant as a state institution compared to the Sydney one, which at least takes its state responsibilities seriously. The proof is in the programming, surely.

st genesius said...

All I can say is, if Colin Moody gets his wish, and R Nevin and C Blanchett play the witches in the Scottish play (with P Rabe as the third, just to complete his trifecta of abuse?) I for one will be first in line for a ticket.

Chris Boyd said...

I'm picturing R Nevin in Frankenstein platform boots -- a bit like the ones Max Gillies used to wear when playing Malcolm Fraser -- just to equalise the heights of these (very) weird sisters.

But, hell, we've already had Chloe Armstrong as a bitch-witch in school uniform... who could ask for anything more?

st genesius said...

I disagree Chris, I think the joy would be seeing arguably the three greatest stage actresses in this country today playing the roles, each at their different height but all of similar stature.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it possible to be "complicated and troubled", "combative and extremely difficult to work with", even "unemployable", and yet also right?

gaz said...

To continue in this vein - I just wanna pay to see Colin Moody cleaning blood off the walls (again). I bet he loves it...

Alison Croggon said...

Thanks everyone for all the comments...still in post-fest haze here.

Anon #4, yes, being "combative" and "difficult" doesn't mean that Moody might not have a point. I know plenty of combative and difficult people. Some have even accused me of being such a person (perish the thort).

But it would be nice to have some sober and informed media discussion, rather than the schadenfreude that seems to have characterised much of the "Cate Blanchett is a show pony" argument, and especially the Fairfax story, which personally I take to be a rather exploitative and insubstantial journalistic beat-up that in the end will only hurt Colin Moody. I'm with Ben Ellis: it's the programming, and then the work, that demonstrates whether the institution is working or not.

Chris Boyd said...

Right back atcha, St Genesius! Any list of "greatest stage actresses in this country today" that isn't headed by Melita Jurisic is fatally flawed! (Much as I love all three that you mention...)

st genesius said...

Chris you are certainly correct. because Ms Jurisic has been in Europe for so long I didn't think of her as a native any longer, but she is at the very top of anyone's list. Women of Troy with her and Nevin will be something to see--my prediction is that freed from the admin bureaucracy of her day job, Nevin's best work is ahead of her.

Anonymous said...

And so the conversation becomes about "best" actresses. Taste, opportunity, role, director, text, audience...all of these surely contribute to such a notion, limited as it is. Not that any of those women are limited, but for God's sake, think of those who are missing from the list - or let's just NOT think about "best" at all. Our performance culture is blessed with an abundance of breathtaking talent. The main challenge would seem to be to give more people an opportunity to suck in some of the rarefied air of funded projects, so that work can be practised with dignity by our many great talents.

Alison Croggon said...

(I've given up counting Anons.) I agree that "best" is a problematic judgement... best what? Is Celan "better" than Mandelstam, is Blake "better" than Milton... There's a point where such things become ludicrous, because Milton is "best" at being Milton, Blake "best" at being Blake, and it's ridiculous to put them together as if they're galloping for the same post.

Still, qualitative judgements are part of looking at art. And looking at art without discrimination is even more problematic. My ideal is that there are a whole bunch of "bests", and a wide variety of responses to them. It all comes out in the wash eventually. I do think, btw, that for all its problems, our funding system is comparitively speaking very fair. The main problem is a paucity of cash. Though what this has to do with the STC is a little long-bowish. I agree the major institutions have responsibilities towards the culture as a whole, and things are rightly expected of them; but on the other hand, one can't expect them to be all things to all people.

st genesius said...

You are quite right Alison that "best" lists are pointless. My mention of those three actresses Rabe, Blanchett and Nevin was simply to lampoon Colin Moody's absurd comment that they were only suited to playing the witches, and that Pamela Rabe had no right to direct. Beyond that, scorecards for artists make no sense. The annual fracas over the Helpmann awards being a case in point.

penelope plummer said...

I'm interested Anonymous 9.20, who are the artists missing from the list? Who is 'out in the cold' at STC? (or MTC or anywhere else for that matter?). Occasionally I wonder why we in Sydney don't see more of Belinda McClory (sp?) for example...but is this as a result of little in-crowds, fashionability, taste etc? Or is it inadvertent?

endymion said...

Alison I see your old sparring partner Simmonds has decided to run with the Moody story, and sink as many boots into the STC as she can. I guess after finally finding someone who agrees with her hatred of the STC and Actors Company, she's going to flog it for all it's worth.

Alison Croggon said...

Sigh. I guess the real task for is sorting out the valid complaints from the bile.

Simmonds comment here - "Moody will be painted as a malcontent in public and as a hero in corners where he will be surreptitiously patted on the back. Meanwhile, his former colleagues who are enjoying the rare experience of a steady job and decent salary will toe the line and work their arses off as they have been for the past couple of years." - is, I know, complete rubbish. The reaction to Moody's comments, even from those "insiders" critical of the STC, has been dismay. Why? Because it makes it so much harder to address the real issues.

Fwiw, I think the questions of artistic leadership, the critique of the importation of second-rung directors, the issue of the "treadmill" and the central issue of artistic vision are things that invite discussion. The 2008 program - esp the Actors Company part of it - looks like there's some vision happening. And I'm kind of wondering, looking at those hyping Gale Edwards and Rodney Fisher - let's face it, not the most exciting directors on earth - might well be part of the real problem. It seems to me that there are some outspoken voices who want their theatre nice, and want to get rid of adventurers like Kosky, and any excuse will do.

Frankly, I think if they succeed, it will be a tragedy. Do you really want a straight diet of Noel Coward, dead plays and musicals up there? Not that there's anything wrong with Coward, or musicals, in a balanced menu; but I rather think that's the subtext.

Chris Boyd said...

Which of Gale's shows have you seen in the last half dozen years, Alison? Maybe Hitchcock Blonde (an uncharacteristically fuzzy and lacklustre show from GE) and one of the shockin' touring David Williamson productions? Maybe that directed-by-numbers musical about the Eureka Stockade?

You would be one of her fan club, I reckon, if you had seen her production of The Way of the World for the STC, or Buried Child for Company B, or Sweeney Todd for Opera Australia... it was rockin' by the time it got to Melbourne. (Both Opera House seasons were disappointing in comparison.) Her production of Williamson's Soulmates (also for the STC) was pretty damn good too.

I was one of the people who rated her (and Jeremy Sims) as among the very hottest directors working locally.

Can't really comment of Rodney Fisher. Only seen Masterclass , I think, of late.

Alison Croggon said...

Good guess, Chris. A lot of Williamson (a little goes a long way). I certainly haven't seen everything, and certainly not Sweeney Todd, which I do love as a work. Still, in general it's a certain kind of work, no? I don't really have an animus towards straight work - in fact, I'm all for good plays well directed, a rare pleasure - but I like to live in a various ecology.

Anonymous said...

Try reading the New York reviews of Edwards's production of "White Devil" to give you a un-jingoistic appraisal. Not trying to be unkind, just realistic. As anyone who sat through the original "Boy from Oz" would know, subtlety is not her long suit...