On Joanna Murray-Smith ~ theatre notes

Friday, February 08, 2008

On Joanna Murray-Smith

The Australian asked me to write a feature on playwright Joanna Murray-Smith for today's paper. So I did.

12 comments:

Matthew said...

I thought it was really nicely done, too. I read it at work (where the newspapers are all I have access to online) and was trying to remember your e-mail address off the top of my head, so that I might write and tell you how much I liked it.

Alison Croggon said...

Thanks Matt! Much appreciated.

ben hjorth said...

boom shakalakah

equity member said...

A good piece Alison, but how many more times must we listen to her paranoid rantings about how the world (and especially Sydney) is against her? The reviews of the London revival of "Honour" was appalling, and emphasised the fact that, without Diana Rigg's star power, the thinness of the writing was exposed. No doubt she'll blame that on the STC as well...

equity member said...

"were" appalling...

Alison Croggon said...

I don't get the career sabotage stuff, but I've said my piece on that elsewhere...To be fair, I read a couple of reviews of the British production of Honour that were quite respectful. I must have missed those other ones. Not that I think reviews are necessarily an accurate measure of a playwright's achievement, for good or ill. Still, it has to be acknowledged that as far as international recognition goes, she's achieved much more than David Williamson ever did.

Anonymous said...

I have to put my two cents in here and come to the aid of a writer who is often unfairly maligned.

She's a big girl and can no doubt do her own heavy lifting and I have to admit that her species of social commentary as sampled in The Aged can set the toes in a very pretty curl. And yet I think an effort to seperate the public utterances of a playwright from their theatre writing is worth the effort.

My favorite Murray Smith play is Redemption. A play that is dripping with a sense of middle class entitlement to such a degree that we even get an introduction to the joys of lalique crystal.

And yet in the hungry aspiration of the female protagonist contrasted with the male protagonist's self mortifying rejection of his own privilige a territory is opened in which the accoutrements of class and education are no protection against the existential shock of their own lonliness or the furtiveness of the strategies adopted to assuage that shock.

When she is on song I see her toiling in the same field as Raimondo Cortese and Daniel Keene. As playwrights they are all expert in revealing the blckhole that their characters continually attempt to keep covered. Each of them at their best do it with a surgical precision and delicacy that you gasp for the patient and then realise that you're actually looking at your own viscera...okay I may be getting a little fruity but then it aint my blog...

cheers

theatre queen

Alison Croggon said...

Hi TQ - how nice to see you back here. Where have you been? And speaking about blogs... can we persuade you to make another entry on yours?

A fair defence, I think: after all, one of my favourite novels of all time is Lampedusa's The Leopard, which is all about the decaying aristocracy of Italy, and yet it also one of the great meditations on mortality. I see your point; personally, my problems with the plays are not addressed in that article, which is featuresy fluff rather than any kind of serious criticism. They are primarily to do with writerly questions of style. A writer's ethics, says Peter Handke somewhere, are in his style - I think that's true, but it's actually a complex argument requiring serious reading and not biddable to a few generalised paragraphs.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind thoughts Alison. A more cynical soul may think I am simply rationalising my own laziness but I think we are very well served by blogs already and perhaps what is now required are readers.

The comment you make about Handke immediately fired my curiosity and I was wondering if you could provide a few pointers where I may follow the thread of that argument in more detail.

cheers again

TQ

Alison Croggon said...

Blogs will get readers if they say interesting things, and the more interesting blogs the better, I reckon. But I'll confess to being partial about this.

I'll try and track down that quote, TQ, but I'm not sure that I'll be successful; it's in one of his books - I'm not even sure if it's in a novel or an essay - and one of those ideas that stuck like burrs outside its context. Which means I should probably revisit it and see what he said.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. This article (or more correctly, the Australian one...) has turned up in a rant by Peter Craven in Crikey!

Being a squatter, I can't read the whole article, but titled "Profile of the playwright as vapid hack" it opens with: "In filling a profile of leading playwright Joanna Murray Smith with all manner of poison, critic Alison Croggon crossed an unfortunate line, writes Peter Craven."

Anyone got the whole article? Looks like you've got a few noses out of joint Alison...

Alison Croggon said...

See today's post. Yes, I've got the whole piece: golly gosh, Mr Craven has the knives out in a big way. I'm a big girl, but still, he sure reads badly for someone who's supposed to be a leading literary critic...