Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Australian Theatre Forum: Playwrights and Audiences

Ahead of the Australian Theatre Forum in Canberra this week, The Australian newspaper today floated a couple of articles to get people talking.

Firstly, Rosemary Neill followed up her Weekend Australian report on what appears to be a surfeit of adaptations on the Australian stage with an incendiary opinion piece on how in "some areas of the theatre there is an astonishing lack of respect for dramatists". She quotes Andrew Bovell as describing the growing popularity of refurbished foreign classics as "lazy", "easy" and "conservative", and takes swipes at Simon Stone, Andrew Upton and Malthouse Theatre.

There should be a place for such adaptations, and a place for new plays. I don't know how anyone could reasonably argue otherwise. Indeed, such adaptations have always been part of our theatre menu, although perhaps not as obviously as now, and auteurs and authors have always shared the cooking. The question is one of balance. My view is that there has, indeed, been an diminishing respect for playwrights in recent years. Lately, I've heard far too many alarming stories from level-headed playwrights to think differently. Some stories have been shocking. The Australian theatre, as a whole, has always had to fight hard to enjoy a thriving playwriting culture, but it feels to me that the time has come for another round of sensible and mature focus.