Food and the Adelaide Festival Centre, Part Two

by Jane

Long story short: I bought post-show bar snacks in the Bistro last night, and was very happy.  I was then approached by the manager, who talked to me about my blog.  Here, I write about my blog, our talk, and what I feel about writing.

Something you probably realize if you read this: I write a blog.  I write a blog for myself.  Writing it for anyone else would be pointless, because no one reads this blog.   I don’t mind.  In my head I have this fantasy where it will one day be bookmarked on the browsers of many theatre geeks (like I have done for many blogs), I will have dozens (or even couples) of email subscribers, and it will be popular.  But that is a fantasy, one which will probably remain a fantasy for a very long time.

Then, last Saturday night, a little before midnight, I wrote a ranting blog about the food at the Adelaide Festival Centre.  And for the first time ever, people read it.  I don’t know who these people were, I don’t know how so many people read it (and read it so fast!), and to be honest, I felt a little uncomfortable that that was the post which was getting so many hits.  How many hits?  129.  Yes, I am the person who thinks that 129 is a lot of hits.  When I write for Australian Stage I get a lot more hits than that, but on this blog?  Not so much.

So basically: I never thought anyone would read it.  I was writing it for me, and for my couple of friends who read it.   I didn’t have anything against people reading it – I strongly encourage it!  If I publish on the internet, I publish for the world to read.  The world just chooses not to.

Last night, after Superheroes I went down to the Bistro for two reasons: I had a lot of thoughts about the play I wanted to discuss with my friend Immie, and because a tiny narcissistic part of me thought maybe, just maybe, I had made a difference, and I can get bar snacks.  And if that happened, I was going to do exactly the same thing I did when I couldn’t get bar snacks: tweet and blog.  Because I’m that cool.  I wasn’t going to attack again if I couldn’t, I was going to drink my rose and get on with it: I said everything I had to say.

And then what happened?  I got my chips. And they were good, and I was happy, and if I had the ability to tweet on my phone straight away, I would’ve.   I am not that technologically advanced.  I stand by everything I write: here, on my old blog, on Australian Stage.  And part of that is giving credit where credit is due.  But more so than that, it is just a celebration that people aren’t so stagnant that changes can’t be made.

So thank you, The Bistro, for making a change.

So people did read the blog.  And, as I was alerted to tonight, well and truly (because I did check the time, thinking “maybe the kitchen closes at 9:30?”), people at the Bistro, including manager Cindy Halasz, read it and talked about it.  Extensively.  How was I alerted to this?  When I was approached by Cindy.  (Are there spies working in the AFC?  Was my name picked up when I got my tickets from BASS, and then passed down?  Am I . . . gulp . . . known?).

So, very taken aback, Cindy sat down and talked to me about my blog, and what happens when things are posted publically on the internet, and how she wished I had emailed her privately.   She spoke of how it hurt a lot of people, and I should think of the consequences, and their chips are not frozen, and mayonnaise is hand made (just so people know, I was being slightly factitious in that blog).   I spoke to her about how it seemed to me that the consequences was that a positive change was made, and I’m sorry that it hurt people, but I stand by everything I said, and I post things on my blog because I am a writer.   As the biggest arts institution in the state, I feel we should demand better from the Adelaide Festival Centre, and while The Food Business maybe an external contractor it is still under the umbrella, and that is how it will be judged.  And beyond that: as a part of the arts, and the food industry, these places are under scrutiny.

I feel it was a good talk.  I don’t quite know what we each got out of it.  I certainly got a shock, but I am glad I got an opportunity to defend what I said, and she got an opportunity to stand up for the business.  I don’t think we came to an agreement on where we stand on the issue, or on blogging and criticism in an open forum, but she asked me to think about writing something explaining the change: something I was always going to do, and here it is.  If I see Cindy around the Festival Theatre again, I will say hi.

And on writing …

I’ve only recently started calling myself a writer.  I suppose it is only recently true, because it took me a long time to claim that.  Now that I have, I feel really good about saying that.  I am a writer.  I feel like I am a fair writer, who writes the truth the way I see it.  Most of the time I write positive reviews, because the reason I go to the theatre is because I love it.  I love it.  And I want to work in it.  I will work in it.

But, not everything I write is positive.  I think the first really critical review I published was for the second night of Gorge 09, presented by Brink Productions.  And what did Brink do with that review?  They published it on their website. No commentary, no defense, just published, as it was, saying: this is what people said about us.  I respect them so much for that, just absolutely.  Sure, it was a one-night-only thing, and the thing I had issue with was an outside production company, but it reflected on Brink, and for them to claim that, I think is incredible.  (Brink was also the first – Only, I still believe – to use a quote of mine on a poster.  And it was a blog quote, at that!  So I have a particular soft spot for them.)

When I was offered the Ambassador position with State Theatre, I was asked if Australian Stage Online would be okay with me working for the STC while also being a reviewer, and I said they may ask me to not review STC shows and “of course, if you want me to stop reviewing your shows, I will.”  Their reply?  They want me to keep reviewing their shows.  And I don’t give just raves to them.  I’m harsher, because as our Flagship Company I feel they have a responsibility to stand up to that.  This year, I loved Toy Symphony. My reviews for The Price and Entertaining Mr Sloane are rather average: no pitfalls, nothing incredible.  My review for The Sapphires was . . . rather less than complementary. (The 7 Stages of Grieving really surprised and delighted me, and I thought Lisa Flannagan was brilliant, but I didn’t get around to reviewing it.)  But despite, or perhaps because of my honesty they are happy for me to keep on giving my opinions.  And I love that.

I think the “Open Forum” of the internet is so important, and I’m going to keep using it, to celebrate and criticize, and I will stand by what I have on here.  And if you want to comment back: here, through email, or in person, do that.  I love this forum, and the discussion that the internet creates, and thank you to the people who commented on that last post.

And clearly, using this forum can have a good result.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a review to write.

I’ll see you in The Bistro for a drink and a bar snack after my next show.