October 2013

Arts & Letters

David Williamson’s ‘Rupert’ at the Melbourne Theatre Company

By Rhys Muldoon

“I come not to bury Caesar, but to praise him.” – a misheard quote

The surprise of David Williamson’s Rupert is that it is peaceful. There is no battleground and there are no wars. There are no bullets and no barricades. There are no warriors of the left and right struggling with one another to find the truth, or even an understanding of Keith Rupert Murdoch. There are opponents within the tale, but they are mere ninepins to Murdoch’s bowling ball. They are not ideological opponents. They are business opponents. Does Murdoch dispatch them? You know he does. If the Rupert Murdoch in this play could be boiled down to one sentence, it would be: “Relax, it’s just business.”

Williamson, a former university lecturer, has chosen a didactic method to reveal Murdoch. I don’t mean didactic in a disparaging way. The conceit is that Murdoch himself is giving us his version of his life. It’s always entertaining and always fast moving. It has a loose but, paradoxically, tightly choreographed joy in the telling. There are many wickedly funny caricatures (not least the Packers) and the cast is uniformly excellent. The director, Lee Lewis, has crafted a very merry dance indeed, and it is a little like watching a comic, rough theatre version of Richard III. Without the death. Without the evil. Without the drama. But with plenty of “cheeky chappy”.

Tackling a subject as complex and powerful as Murdoch is risky. There are not many people in business, politics or the media who don’t fear him, or, at a minimum, respect his power. It seems to me Williamson has been tactical in his approach to his topic. There is no judgement of Murdoch (or any of his actions); it is merely an account of what has happened during his life, as told by the man himself. It falls to us to decide.

Williamson has managed to be simultaneously respectful and iconoclastic. While I watched the show, the thought occurred that Murdoch himself might enjoy it immensely. I could imagine this band of travelling players performing at the court of Rupert and his laughing along, with only the occasional grimace.

As a figure of influence, Murdoch regularly challenges the concept of truth and downgrades it to opinion; indeed, that is one of his greatest strengths. He is a deconstructionist of the highest order. Perhaps Williamson wanted to avoid a fight, to meet not on the battleground but the playground. He’s chosen to tickle rather than to punch. Shakespeare himself had similar dilemmas when discussing royalty and power. If you want to live, you don’t attack the king.

Rhys Muldoon
Rhys Muldoon is a contributor to The Drum, as well as an actor, director and radio presenter. In 2010 he co-authored a children’s book, Jasper & Abby, with Kevin Rudd. @rhysam

October 2013

From the front page

Green tensions build

The Batman by-election loss cannot be swept under the carpet

Image from Dark Mofo 2018

Dark Mofo: an easy cell

Incarceration is a recurring theme at Mona’s 2018 winter arts festival

Collingwood

A song cycle in 5 parts

Illustration

Curing Clarksdale’s blues

A music-loving Melbourne economist is revitalising a Mississippi town


In This Issue

Watching ‘Orange Is the New Black’

Pretty on the inside

Begging the Breaker’s pardon

Tim Winton’s ‘Eyrie’ and Richard Flanagan’s ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’

Light and shadow

The best of Australian arts 2013

Critics give their picks for the year’s top ten


More in Arts & Letters

Collingwood

A song cycle in 5 parts

Image of The Cure in Brazil, 1987

The Cure’s permanent twilight

Robert Smith and co. are celebrating 40 years of the band. Why do they still inspire such love?

The elevated horror of Ari Aster’s ‘Hereditary’

This debut feature will test the mettle of even the most hardened genre fans

Image of Rhonda Deans exploring “the Squeeze”, Koonalda Cave, South Australia

‘Deep Time Dreaming’ by Billy Griffiths

This history of archaeology in Australia charts our changing relationship with the past


More in Noted

Cover of The Lebs

‘The Lebs’ by Michael Mohammed Ahmad

A fresh perspective on Muslim youth in Sydney’s west

Cover of A Sand Archive

‘A Sand Archive’ by Gregory Day

Day grasps landscape as an intimate living thing

‘The Choke’ by Sofie Laguna

Allen & Unwin; $32.99

Cover of Anything Is Possible

‘Anything Is Possible’ by Elizabeth Strout

Viking; $29.99


Read on

Image from Dark Mofo 2018

Dark Mofo: an easy cell

Incarceration is a recurring theme at Mona’s 2018 winter arts festival

Image of ‘Miss Ex-Yugoslavia’ by Sofija Stefanovic

Storyteller Sofija Stefanovic’s ‘Miss Ex-Yugoslavia’

A vivid account of growing up in a time of war, between two worlds

Image of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US president Donald Trump

Seriously scary times

What are the implications of the Trump-Kim summit for America’s allies?

Image of ‘Spiegelenvironment’ by Christian Megert

ZERO is the beginning

A new exhibition at Mona brings the light to Dark Mofo


×
×