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

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In This Issue

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Music theatre masterpiece

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Fiction masterpiece

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Architecture masterpiece

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Read on

Image of Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit.

Chequered careers: ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ and ‘The Good Lord Bird’

Among October’s streaming highlights are tales of a teenage chess prodigy and a zealous abolitionist

Image showing Sidney Flanigan as Autumn and Talia Ryder as Skylar

Quiet desperation: ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’

Eliza Hittman’s abortion drama is marked by the emotional solidarity of its teen protagonists

Image from Rebecca, with Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs Danvers and Lily James as Mrs de Winter

Airbrushed horror: Ben Wheatley’s ‘Rebecca’

The new adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s gothic tale is visually lush, but lacks the nuance and ambiguity of the novel

Former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull with a screenshot of Turnbull’s confirmation of signing the petition

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