Wednesday, May 04, 2016
In the Addie: And he has a good reason.
LACHLAN Philpott is an Australian playwright. He lives in Sydney and he writes great plays about Australia.His works often deal with young people, isolated people. His plays often document the joys and the difficulties of living in our country in this century.
His plays have been produced in Australia and the United States. He is a Fulbright Scholar, a teacher and he grapples with complex ideas. His drama is filled with great comic characters. Philpott writes good jokes in his tragedies and this is why people like his plays.
This week he wrote a provocative article and proposed a five-year ban on professional performances of the works of William Shakespeare.
This is a bold suggestion and it deserves some unpacking. Philpott is not talking about censorship. He offers the position that Australians should investigate Australian stories instead of bathing blind in The Bard.“Programming Shakespeare for no particular reason is a crime of imagination — like taking a child to McDonald’s for their birthday meal,” he said. “What a dismal choice and miserable reflection of the conservatism of these times.”
Fighting words in the cultural economy. But Philpott is right to suggest that it doesn’t take too many brain cells to program something that is low cost and high yield.
In 2016 Australia, Shakespeare is programmed by professional companies because Shakespeare is in English and he is out of copyright.This means the works are free.No royalties for the author and no development costs.In addition to the lack of research and development, there is also a guaranteed box office.
Shakespeare is always part of the school curriculum. Always. This means audiences will always come because half of them are obligated by the education industry.
But while this cultural oppression continues in Australia, our own voice, our own accent, our own narrative is being lost in the shadow of a white English male.
It is important to recall what Shakespeare was doing when he was writing. He was an innovator. He was a documenter. He was a contemporary commentator. His works focused on politics and social mores. His works (when they first appeared) often dealt with young people and grappled with complex ideas.His dramas were filled with great comic characters. He wrote good jokes in his tragedies and this is why people liked his plays.
This week Geelong After Dark is taking centre stage in our city. It is a festival of music, performance and art that celebrates living in Geelong. There are events and activities in a variety of venues around the city and the programming is specifically designed to act as an invitation to the local people of Geelong to come into the city and celebrate Geelong after dark. This is a great little festival.
It is the same sort of thinking that lay behind the programming of Shakespeare at The Globe, 400 years ago.
A good night out at the theatre should be like going to the football. We should recognise ourselves on the big stage, we should be hearing our accents and wanting to participate in our stories. This interaction grows a culture. It develops a national library of experience and it helps us to define who we are.
A five-year ban on Shakespeare is a great idea for the development of Australian culture. Not for what it is removes, but for what it provokes.And provocation has always been the central task of the dramatist.
— Ross Mueller is a freelance writer and director.