Same old schtick still rakes in the bucks

I wonder why oz theatre icon David Williamson reacted with complacent high dudgeon to a bitchy review on Crikey of his latest turgid thespian offering Don Parties On?  After all, the Murdoch and Fairfax reviews were almost as negative, and redoubtable blogging theatre critic Alison Croggon posted a splenetic masterpiece.  Croggon is married to someone with a real claim to be Australia’s leading contemporary playwright in Daniel Keene, so you’d imagine her undisguised contempt for Williamson’s writing would sting rather more than the somewhat amateurish scribblings of some callow youth on Crikey.  Here’s an extract from Alison’s review:

In Don Parties On, all his writerly clumsiness is writ large – the dire expository dialogue, the stereotypical characters, the almost neurotic repetitiveness, the constant machinations of getting people on and off stage. Much of the dialogue – the pronouncements on baby boomers, greenies, Australian politics and so on – in fact sounds as if it’s been cribbed from some of Australia’s more active political blogs. The people-moving is about as clunkily done as I’ve seen – characters are constantly announcing that now they must go into the garden to show each other photographs of their children, or to the bedroom to check on someone hysterical, or to the study to watch a DVD, so that two or three people can be left on stage to reminisce or reveal something shocking. Alternatively, you get rows of frozen actors standing on stage watching as two or three others do their dialogue.

Robyn Nevin’s direction makes as decent a fist as is possible of this stylistic rubble – I left feeling that it could have been a lot worse. The actors fail to make the characters credible, but it’s hard to blame them given that they are all written as walking cliches; although Sue Jones gives some feisty life to the character of Jenny. But for me, there was no escaping the creeping numbness as the evening wore on.

Naturalism this certainly isn’t. Considered as a comedy of manners, it lacks the grace, wit and formal mastery that gives the form its champagne fizz. A direct comparison with Don’s Party starkly demonstrates how stale Williamson has become: the lively colloquialism of the original, its chief virtue, has long leached out. This really is zombie theatre, devouring the brains, not only of its audience, but of its own playwright.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
10 years ago

As they say in the classics: “meh”.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

A case of the review being better than the product! Thanks for that excerpt, good spleen is a delicacy indeed.

murph the surf.
murph the surf.
10 years ago

One parent , 78 can’t wait to see the play.
Despite the suspicion I have that this is all about a few bucks more I hope they are entertained.
It looks like a slight widening is occurring in the Gen gap – such hatred directed at boomers by the young elites of the theatre going public!
The idea that the theatre must have more diversity is also trotted out by some reviewers out but which city’s crowd of white middle class theatre goers could even undertsand what they are looking at? Give the punters what they like for God’s sake.
Having seen enough perfomance theatre done by wildly speechifying japanese you soon look to appreciate the dance work but the deeper nuances of intercultural politics? Well the lighting was good.

FDB
FDB
10 years ago

Gimme a break Murph.

People will go to see it because it’s by Williamson and has people from the telly in it.

Don’t you think there ought to be more to theatre than that?

murph the surf.
murph the surf.
10 years ago

Of course there should be but who is driving what innovation sold by who exactly?
The manipulation of the age gap is delicious in this debate but for all that still another hackneyed theme done to death by cumbersome newbies discovering the extent of their chosen artform.
Critics who are producers who are also doing a few shifts and still manage to be directors and are still working on their own story!
You just have to love the theatre.

Peter Patton
Peter Patton
10 years ago

From the very first David Williamson play I saw as a 19 year old undergrad, I vowed that any social ascent I might pursue would involve leap-frogging Sydney’s bourgeois left. A more perfect group of irredeemably vile guinea pigs could not be found to test retroactive abortion technology. How could any sentient being arouse even zoological interest, let alone empathy, and god forbid sympathy, for his characters aka the residents of Louisa Road, Birchgrove, and its environs.

Put them all to the sword, and double the nation’s IQ in an instant.

Rafe
10 years ago

The reviewer and the writer appear to deserve each other. A dignified silence from David Williamson would have been more…dignified!

Why is he so defensive? He should be relaxed and mellow this year, after all Collingwood won the football.

It seems that one would have to see the play to get anywher near the truth of the matter.