The heat is on ~ theatre notes

Friday, March 14, 2008

The heat is on

It seems unfair that, after a week of writerly virtue - dogsbody stuff, filling in forms and painstakingly dotting tees and crossing eyes - the weather should reward me with the prospect of days and days of unremitting, exhausting heat. What happened to Melbourne's gentle autumns? Did I dream those gloriously mild, high-heavened days when the sunshine spilt golden over the green lawn and coppery leaves gently detached themselves from the branches and tinkled down onto the carefully raked gravel footpaths? I did dream them? Damn.

It must have been like that other dream, in which David Mamet was once a woolly-minded liberal. Now, according to the playwright himself, the scales have fallen from his eyes and he has seen the light. He is a tough-talking free-marketeer. He believes in Milton Friedman. He believes in the market. He believes in America. He believes that people are not nice. The only surprising aspect of this is that Mamet ever thought he thought otherwise. I mean, he wrote Glengarry Glen Ross and Oleanna, right?

Still, this doesn't prevent Michael Billington from lamenting the demise of a great playwright, which is apparently directly linked to his embrace of right wing politics. "The precedents for a shift to the right on the part of creative artists," says Billington, "are not exactly encouraging". I don't know why people from an alarmingly various spectrum of politics keep equating Art with Lefty Liberalism, when the briefest trawl of Western cultural history shows this is by no means a direct fit. There is any number of exceptions to the altruistic, progressive artist working for the Good of Humankind.

It seems to me that Mamet might have been more interesting as a playwright when he was less aware of what he thought, and that it is this self-recognition, rather than any essential shift in perception, that might be the problem with his recent work. There's a reason why poets are supposed to be blind. In any case, a work of art that strikes beyond the superficial simply isn't biddable to such simplistic divisions, however much commentators - flapping in from the right or the left - attempt to rip off its limbs in order to stuff it into whichever ideological box takes their fancy. But that's another discussion.

Meanwhile, back at my desk, last night I saw Moving Target at the Malthouse, the keenly anticipated new play by Marius von Mayenburg. It's a fascinating evening that left me feeling intriguingly ambivalent. It's a complex work, at once deeply exciting and deeply flawed, and I need to see it again - and, in particular, to think a bit more about the performance language that it creates - before I can write about it. So don't expect that review tomorrow or even the next day; it's a show that invites some serious interrogation. In the meantime, take my word for it that Moving Target is a must-see for anyone who's interested in theatre.


richardwatts said...

Damn this heat. Damn it to hell, I say. But you didn't dream those autumn days, Alison; they just don't occur until after Easter, which I always use to mark the true end of summer. Then shall come the crisp nights and bright, clear mornings; the fallen leaves scrunching deliciously underfoot; the brief bursts of rain that send pedestrians scattering like paper before the wind...

Anonymous said...

Mamet's attacks on Steven Spielberg for "Schindler's List" showed an orthodoxy and conservatism that isn't a million miles from simply becoming a total political conservative.

TimT said...

Autumn will come soon enough (possibly this afternoon). I remember when I first arrived in Melbourne, some three years ago, just before St Paddy's day; the heat was omnipresent; it seemed to soak through walls and into the pores of your skin.

Then, about one or two weeks after this happened, a cold gust of wind swept in from Port Philip Bay, down from St Kilda, and right up through the city and into the northern suburbs. All of a sudden, the short-sleeves of summer gave way to scarves and long socks and jackets and jeans, and the showers and clouds followed soon after. It was wonderful.

Nicholas Pickard said...

I just read the Mamet piece in yesterday's The Australian. My god, could you get anymore self centred?

You are totally right Alison - 'The only surprising aspect of this is that Mamet ever thought he thought otherwise.'

All this badly written essay really highlights is his 'i'm alright thanks Jack' mentality which is nothing but tiresome. Thank goodness he lives in the US - they can have him.

The only redeeming feature of the article, was that the editors decided to print a great article underneath by British Alan Milburn re progressive politics and how parties must move towards a 'proactive assault on the roots of disadvantage'. A great little read to Mamet's spoilt child tripe.