Sunday, October 15, 2006

2 October: Australia Goes to the Theatre

I remember long drive up the Eastern seaboard of the United States when I was a child. My family would pack ourselves into the mini (or the maxi) van, and drive all the way up the coast enroute to a ski-town for a weeks vacation. Mostly my dad would drive, and we would fill eight hours with discussion and music, but mostly music. We would listen to the soundtracks of many a broadway show, some of which would fill hours of our journey. We would listen to the words of these songs and we would analyze, delve beyond the words and find hidden meanings, contextualize the references, and debate over what the sub-text was supposed to illicit. The beauty of these musical operas lay not in their simplicity, or in their surface, the brilliance of the theatre was the interpretation of the experience, the meaning hidden below, which pulls you from complacancy and invites you to create meaning within the story.

Not so of Australian theatre. Perhaps, not so of Australians in general. Sub-text is not a virtue for aspiration. Bluntness is worshipped. Why make people struggle to find meaning when it could be laid bare for them? Why risk that people may never understand what it is you hoped they'd understand by talking around the subject. Pragmatism. Say what's on your mind, plain, simple, no beating around the bush. No looking, no delving, no space for personal interpretation. The Australian theatre going experience is forthright. The plot develops along a simple trajectory. You almost know where its going before it gets there and you're hardly surprised when you arrive where you do. Almost like Australians themselves. Never giving you time to wonder, never giving you much to ponder, to savour, to hold on to, toss over and over, and inject with meaning never intended. The simplicity of life in general might be what drew me to love it here. My own fondness of being blunt in interactions might be what makes me happy here. But still, I don't believe that theatre should lack emotional subtext. If you can't create drama in your own life (which I am fond of doing, no doubt) than certainly a night at the opera should provide something more than straightforward recitation, something greater, more captivating, more invigorating...more drama.


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