Sunday, April 8, 2007

Established distraction

I've always considered myself 'anti-establishment'. To my very core. Homosexual, unfortunately ... sadly even. Single, passionately. Broke, cyclically. Imaginative, cursedly. Independent, determinedly. Creative, habitually. Leftist, necessarily. Anti-establishment ... single-mindedly. And in spite of the feisty arguments and passionate altercations my blind faith in any and every thing anti-establishment may have fueled over the years, it's actually one of the aspects of my character I've never been entirely comfortable with.

Until yesterday ... when Rosemary Neill wrote into my life.

With this - the single most fearless piece of Theatre Arts journalism written for an Australian newspaper since ... for as long as I can remember.

Why has Rosemary Neill's article had such a major impact on me?

Ms Neill has dared to rise above the suspicion that dare not speak its name: that taxpayer funded Arts organisations - their internal processes and procedures - are somehow impervious to media scrutiny. The Sydney Theatre Company - in fact possibly any performing arts company in Australia - has, to my knowledge, never been scrutinised with this much tenacious spirit and clarity. Ms Neill's article is meticulously researched, authoritative, beautifully structured, razor sharp, and written with great detail, style and courage.

And just like the screenplays for Mississippi Burning and Silence of the Lambs, it's something I truly wish I'd written.

Perhaps most critically, it finally bucks the increasingly disturbing trend throughout the Australian media generally of hapless fawning over the insidious nature of both 'minor' and 'major' celebrity ... to the point where you could almost be forgiven for thinking that New Weekly is our national journal of record ... our New Yorker ... our Time, as it were.

Valid Passport? Check.

I mean, really! In the blog-eyed and Google-eyed blur that was my last week, our increasingly story-addled The Sydney Morning Herald, via their almost perfunctory online edition led - yes led - with a huge photo story about Shane and Simone Warne getting back together! Well roll me over and fuck me sideways with a dead dingo's donga - that's news! And what are they 'photo story leading' with this evening? Well might you ask: "Dehydrated Chappell in hospital: Former Australian cricket captain Greg Chappell, who quit as India coach this week, undergoes hospital tests." Give the man a glass of water, not a fucking headline!

Big suitcase? Check.

I love Cate Blanchett as much as the next person, but please - she's not the greatest actress of this or any century. And in case you missed the critical word in that sentence, it was 'actress' ... so can we please all try and keep this thing in perspective? I mean, I've typographically and graphically designed some nice looking shit in my day and I've been nominated for - and won - an award or two, but hello? ... reality check? ... it doesn't automatically qualify me for the Creative/Artistic Director job at Saatchi & Saatchi. Even if the job were to have been advertised - which, perhaps not ironically - the Artistic Director position ... er, positions ... at the Sydney Theatre Company was/were not.

Visas? Check.

I predict that the Sydney Theatre Company's response will be as cynical as it is well-rehearsed. Ms Neill will be accused of subscribing (pardon the pun) to the "Tall Poppy Syndrome". She will probably be called "Un-Australian" and accused of gross unfairness to Ms Blanchett and Mr Upton by daring to pre-empt 'what we're sure will be a dazzling, daring and successful 2009 Sydney Theatre Company Season'. They will probably be referred to as 'easy targets'. She will be accused of parochialism of the highest order by even questioning the decision to import Phillip Seymour Hoffman to direct one of Mr Upton's plays at the expense of a job for a local director. And in an 'industry' where the unemployment rate rarely falls below about 78 percent - that is a shameful ego-centric crime against the creative talent in this country. One almost wonders what the Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance might have to say about it. I doubt we'll ever know.

But it's the penalty for even faintly suggesting that Robyn Nevin is nepotistic that obliterates even my rampant imagination! (If the wind had changed direction this morning, I'm convinced I might have heard the reaction from here!)

Credit card with zero balance? Check.

Rosemary Neill is responsible for the fact that a few things about who I am mean more to me today than they did yesterday. Chief among them is the realisation that we must read - and write - about unpopular truths. They might keep us poor, but they keep us honest ... just as much as they help us to nurture, value, understand, develop and maintain our personal and creative ambition and integrity. That arrogance and conceit are weapons employed, quite strategically and selfishly, by those in privileged positions to keep the less well-connected and more faint-hearted but equally as capable folk at bay. And that 'anti-establishment' sensibilities are, collectively, equal to significantly more than my ever-faithful flame-thrower, habitually tucked under my arm in preparation for what might turn out to be impossibly boring dinner party conversation.

Anti-establishment is a cultural responsibility.

Shit! Wait!

With a bit of 'Googlestraction', it would seem that Rosemary Neill is certainly no stranger to controversy - or the concept of 'unpopular truths'. Here is a link to her book - published in 2002.

Cancel that cab! Let's put on a play! Maestro?

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