It’s been a bit of a hiatus here on No Plain Jane. I ended the year in what can only be described as theatre overload. I estimate I overdosed by four productions, and perhaps would have been better off bidding the year farewell in November. Nonetheless, three of these productions have reviews in various states of half finish on my trusty computer, so we’ll see if any end up here. Also in progress are the “best of” and “looking forward” posts – stay tuned.
Primarily I’ve been hibernating away the summer, but there are a few places my work has been showing up since last time I wrote here. You can find me writing for ABC Arts Online’s Out & About series, in the current edition of un Magazine, and still with the Adelaide Review. This Fringe, I’m again putting on my producer hat with Melbourne dancer Gareth Hart’s Symphony of Strange.
I’m writing this with my copy of un Magazine by my side, a gorgeous publication with STILL FREE written down the spine. While I think the internet and blogs are incredible platforms for sharing and storing writing, there is still something special about the hard copy: about how it leads you to reading what you mightn’t had otherwise, about the record it keeps, about the cataloging and classifying and curating writing.
In her book Seven Days in the Art World, Sarah Thornton describes art magazines as a place where “art is an excuse for words”. And for one reason or a million this is an excuse I love. But what of the future for it? When Alison Croggon wrote of the hanging up of her Theatre Notes hat, I shocked even myself by crying. Alison’s blog shaped the path for me and countless other writers and while for her – and her other writing pursuits – it is clearly a positive choice, it’s hard to see its loss as anything but sad for Australian theatre.
It’s easy in these discussions to get caught up in navel gazing, but what is the future of this crazy career path I’ve chosen for myself? How long can I afford sustain it? How long can the Australian theatre industry afford to not sustainably support it?
I spoke to Chris Drummond of Brink Productions in December for the February Adelaide Review. Talking about arts writing, he spoke about the record of Adelaide theatre being lost: “the critics and then the writers who record the history make the history and Adelaide hasn’t been good at recording the life of productions, where as Sydney and Melbourne are very adept at that.” Of Theatre Notes, he said “I can easily remember a pre-Theatre Notes era. And so it’s not that impossible for that to just go away.”
This isn’t only an issue which can easily effect smaller cities like Adelaide and Perth, but there are the questions of what work is being written about in all cities – are independent companies covered? will we be able to look back on the beginnings of careers? – and, perhaps even more importantly, where is the record of work being created in our regions going to come from?
In this internet age, much work will be written about. But will it be recording a history, or will it just be written for the here and now, for those with $20 or $50 or $100 burning a hole in their pocket, deciding which show to buy a ticket for?
These are the questions I’ll be carrying with me into this new year. I’ll try and keep on asking them, and maybe even answering them. See you in the theatres.
For further reading, if you missed it, Jana Perkovic asked some very pertinent questions about the future of Australian arts writing on her blog in an obituary to theatre notes, and perhaps to criticism, and in theatre criticism in australia: what is actually going on?, with some stats.