October 2011

Arts & Letters

Theatre masterpiece

By Alison Croggon
Tom Wright & Benedict Andrews - ‘The War of the Roses’, 2009

'Masterpiece’ is a chilly word: it takes a work out of the flux of creation and pins it in the gallery of cultural regard. When speaking of performance, it seems especially fishy. Still, put to the question, I’d nominate Tom Wright and Benedict Andrews’ adaptation of Shakespeare’s history plays.

The final work of the STC Actors Company, this eight-hour epic presented in two parts demonstrated the depth and breadth an empowered ensemble can bring to performance. It was bookended by Richard II, with Cate Blanchett in the title role, and Richard III, led by Pamela Rabe. A naked stage adorned with a single visual gesture – endlessly falling gold foil or grey ash, an electric guitar or a field of broken flowers – became a metaphor for an Orwellian state of total war.

It featured astonishing performances from a brilliant cast, including Ewen Leslie’s breakthrough performance as Prince Hal. The austerity of Andrews’ direction foregrounded the power of Shakespeare’s language, excavating the visceral truths of its poetry through gruelling physical demands on the actors. It was desolatingly beautiful, as exhilarating an act of theatre as I have seen.

—Alison Croggon

Alison Croggon

Alison Croggon is a Melbourne poet, novelist, librettist and critic. 

@alisoncroggon

Cover: October 2011

October 2011

From the front page

Black Is the New White

Welcome to The Summer Library: selected extracts from the best new books this summer

An Orchestra of Minorities

Welcome to The Summer Library: selected extracts from the best new books this summer

Close to Home: Selected Writings

Welcome to The Summer Library: selected extracts from the best new books this summer

Climate Justice

Welcome to The Summer Library: selected extracts from the best new books this summer


In This Issue

Scene from 'The Theft of Sita'. Image courtesy of Melbourne Festival.

Music theatre masterpiece

An Australian–Indonesian production - ‘The Theft of Sita’, 2000

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Robert Helpmann & Anna Pavlova

The incendiary Meow Meow, 2011. © Magnus Hastings

Queen of the night

Meeting Meow Meow

Contemporary dance masterpiece

Tanja Liedtke - ‘construct’, 2007


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Still from Cold War

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More in Masterpieces

Poetry masterpiece

Jennifer Maiden - ‘Friendly Fire’, 2005

© Sergio Dionisio/Getty Images

Design masterpiece

Marc Newson - ‘Qantas A380 Economy Seat’, 2008

Fiction masterpiece

JM Coetzee - ‘Summertime’, 2009

© Chris Harvey

Architecture masterpiece

Lindsay & Kerry Clare - ‘Gallery of Modern Art’, Queensland, 2006


Read on

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The lady vanishes: ‘The Beehive’ at Sydney Festival

Zanny Begg and Philippa Bateman on their enigmatic film that explores the unsolved disappearance of Juanita Nielsen

Image from ‘Primavera’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art

‘Primavera 2018: Young Australian Artists’ at the MCA

This exhibition of the up-and-coming asks complex questions about who we are

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