“The Town Hall Affair” Brings Germaine Greer’s 1970s Feminist Debate Roaring Into The Present

The moment was 1971, Labour Day’s eve. The context: a biting critique of feminism published by journalist-novelist Norman Mailer in Harper’s magazine earlier that year. Mailer’s essay, The Prisoner Of Sex, sold more than any previous Harper’s edition. The event: a sell-out fundraiser billed as A Dialogue On Women’s Liberation promised an explosive line-up. Mailer was set to debate literary critic Diana Trilling, feminist-activist Jacqueline Ceballos, Village Voice author Jill Johnston and Germaine Greer. A raucous audience of New York’s intellectual elite crammed in to witness the fallout. The year is now 2018 and New York experimental theatre company...

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Sydney Festival Review: Beckett’s “All That Fall”

In the program notes to Pan Pan Theatre’s outstanding production of All That Fall at the Sydney Festival, critic Nicholas Johnson underlines Samuel Beckett’s well-known opposition to having All That Fall, a radio play written in 1956, presented on stage. He underlines how we need to get out of the cul de sacs of the stage history of works so as to imagine their present and future. Beckett’s concern with All That Fall related to the fact that he had specifically written it for the medium of radio: he did not feel it would be possible to adequately translate words...

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Vivacious and Unapologetic, “The Rover’s” 17th-century Feminism is Painfully Pertinent

The Rover, now on at Belvoir Theatre in Sydney, starts unexpectedly, with long-dead 17th-century playwright Aphra Behn walking onstage – staring down the audience in a gaudy gold gown, beverage in hand, vivacious and unapologetic. She challenges us to accept a play by a female playwright: Men are but Bunglers, when they wou’d express The sweets of Love, the dying tenderness; But Women, by their own abundance, measure, And when they write, have deeper sense of Pleasure. She then exhorts those in the audience who do not like the prospect of a female playwright to, in her words, “fuck...

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“Black Is The New White” Gives The Comedy Of Manners An Irreverent Makeover

Black is the New White is Nakkiah Lui’s latest play, following last year’s well-received Kill the Messenger. In that play, directed by Anthea Williams for Belvoir, Lui performed as herself on stage, both as a character and as chorus. At the end, she turned to the Belvoir audience and spoke directly to them: “I wrote this. I wrote this for you. […] You wanted this. You paid for this.” After a play in which we had witnessed the deaths of two Aboriginal people at the hands of negligent public servants, this was a challenge pointedly aimed at the mainly...

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Who Was Mary? And How Plausible is Colm Tóibín’s Reconstruction of Her?

Colm Tóibín’s play and the Booker-nominated novella The Testament of Mary aims to “demythologise” the story of Mary (the mother of Jesus). The play has toured globally and is now having its Australian premiere at the Sydney Theatre Company with Alison Whyte in the role of Mary. Toibin’s is a moving portrait of a woman grieving her son’s death, with a distinctly modern feel. He undertakes an interesting literary experiment – though underlying this, his novella is littered with historical and theological claims that draw heavily on Christian literature. Tóibín claims that Mary’s “real” story was repressed by the...

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“Seventeen” at Belvoir – A Brilliant Theatrical Event

Our experience of plays is always profoundly affected by how they end: comedy or tragedy, death or marriage, hope or despair. My response to Matthew Whittet’s Seventeen (directed by Anne-Louise Sarks at Sydney’s Belvoir Theatre), a play that thinks hard about how our endings are related to our beginnings, is no exception. And that means this review contains spoilers. Sorry. The motivating idea behind Seventeen is a brilliant one: actors in their seventies play 17-year-olds on their last day of school, poised on the brink of an adulthood which they can barely comprehend. The canny trick of using older...

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Sydney Theatre Guide

As NITEnews publishes our Spotlight: Sydney, we’ve created a field-guide to the organisations, theatre companies, and venues mentioned throughout the series, with some added resources too. All pulled together to help you make the most of your New International Theatre Experience. If you are a member of, or know of, an organisation that is not listed here, please contact us at, and we will add it to our Sydney Theatre Guide. Belvoir Street Theatre The Belvior Street Theatre was originally the Nimrod Theatre famous for pioneering contemporary theatre in Australia, and was converted when the Sydney arts community came together to save the...

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“Ganesh Versus The Third Reich” And Actors With Disabilities

This week, Back to Back Theatre‘s 2012 production Ganesh Versus The Third Reich will open at Sydney’s Carriageworks. The show has toured the world, winning awards and laudatory reviews in Montreal, Paris, Chicago, New York, London, and Berlin. Much successful work has been done by disability advocacy groups and national organizations to improve basic rights for people with disabilities, such as the right to employment, full access to transport and venues, and increasing government awareness of disability issues. Still, the status of actors with disabilities remains a work-in-progress in the often elite institution of theatre. Disability live on stage Over two decades Back...

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The Experimental “Cadavre Exquis” At Sydney Festival

The rules of Cadavre Exquis are basic. Four directors, each responsible for 15 minutes of material. Each brings one actor. That is the basis of Cadavre Exquis, a performance staged at Sydney’s Carriageworks as part of the Sydney Festival. The director of the first sequence returns to create the final 15 minutes, the cast working with each director in sequence, sworn to secrecy; each director was only allowed to see the final 60 seconds of the previous installment. Out of this emerges a 75-minute performance pitched as “an experiment” in the spirit of the Cadavre Exquis (exquisite corpse), claimed by French...

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“Black Diggers” Memorializes Indigenous WWI Soldiers

In August 2012, I was invited by the Sydney Festival to work with Wesley Enoch, Artistic Director of Queensland Theatre Company, to assist in developing Black Diggers, currently playing as part of the 2014 Sydney Festival. This major theatre project set out to explore Indigenous military service in the first world war, and reflect upon the remarkable absence of those stories from our national history and mythologising of that conflict. Unknown soldiers Black Diggers premiered at the Sydney Festival last weekend – and initial inspiration came from the discovery by festival directomythologizingels, that a young Aboriginal soldier, Private Rufus Rigney...

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Intercultural Exchanges In “Chi Udaka” At Sydney Festival

There is speculation that the taiko drum was first used by soldiers in battle. At its best, Chi Udaka, currently playing at the Seymour Centre as part of the Sydney Festival, recalls the ritualized diffusing of that battlefield energy, transferred, tamed and controlled (even made useful) through art. It’s a process also found in martial arts as performance – from contemporary Brazilian based Capoeira to the practices of China’s Shaolin Monks. In Chi Udaka, the cracking rhythms produced by the Australian ensemble TaikOz, practitioners of the Japanese tradition of taiko drumming, meet the articulate and constrained, strength and delicacy of the...

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Cocteau’s “La Voix Humaine” Telephone Melodrama

An unnamed woman alone in an apartment conducts an increasingly panicked conversation on the telephone with the man she loves, but who has abandoned her for another. Her assumed fortitude gradually crumbles over an hour as inner desperation rises to consume her. Currently playing at Carriageworks as part of the Sydney Festival, Jean Cocteau’s 1930 monodrama, La Voix Humaine, is melodramatic enough – but the play is toughened theatrically by the fact the audience hears only one-half of the conversation. This deprivation of dramatic oxygen means we both sympathise with the psychological asphyxiation of the lead character and assume a critical...

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