Sunday, September 22, 2013

Looking For Top Notch Drama? That Would Be Theatre Australia's Domain

Forget about Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Forget about The Black List starring James Spader playing James Spader chewing scenery the way only James Spader can (if Christopher Walken is unavailable). Even forget about the Fremantle Dockers' march towards a possible inaugural flag.

The hottest new drama to hit the screen - albeit those affixed to computers, tablets and smartphones - is the apparent stoush between Theatre Australia and the Independent Theatre Association over ownership of, an online portal used by the theatre community nationwide.

Now, I have no idea who the players are. I'm a film guy. The politics and machinations of the theatre are way beyond my ken. My only qualifications in this regard are: I know lots of people who act, often on a stage; I am an eager audience member; and, when the mood strikes, I occasionally write reviews of the productions I attend.

I went to see a production last night in fact. Went to post my review on the Theatre Australia website... to be redirected to some other website called the Independent Theatre Association.


Then I discover a tsunami of comments on the Theatre WA facebook group. Claims, counter-claims, controversy, committee actions, people's revolt, chatter about domain names and legal action and all sorts of fun and games. I don't pretend to understand any of it other than someone (or some body) made a decision, people weren't consulted, an unexpected action was taken, a backlash resulted.

Why should I care?

I started writing the occasional review last year largely in support of a performer whose work I liked. Let me stress, I don't write anonymous reviews so I don't talk up shows if they don't deserve it. My name is my reputation and I'm not prepared to tamper with that by writing puff pieces.

That initial catalyst created or perhaps rekindled a love of live theatre. I also quickly came to realise how much talent there is in Perth... and how many of those people I know. As a screenwriter, the many actors I encounter in my film misadventures also tread the boards. I like to get along to shows to support them but increasingly because there's some damn fine theatre being produced here.

Now, I'm no "Gordon the Optom" who appears to be a revered figure in the local theatre scene not only because he goes to a LOT of shows but also reviews them. Those reviews are found on, you guessed it, the Theatre Australia website.

Not wanting to step on any toes being an outsider (read "film person"), I tend to only write reviews for shows Gordon hasn't seen. While he reviews a helluva lot he can't see everything. If I'm impressed by a show I'll comment on his review if he's already covered it. If he's nailed it and there's nothing else for me to add then so be it. Otherwise, if I have enjoyed a show and there's no review on the site I will write my own. If I don't like a show well, I'm not a professional reviewer and I'm not inclined to stray down the harsh critic path. However, there are also occasions I simply don't feel qualified to say anything useful - Shakespeare plays would be a prime example.

I hope these reviews, in some small way, throw a spotlight on the hard work and talent of all involved in a production. I hope maybe they might prompt someone to book a ticket and go see for themselves. I hope it is some form of recognition for the performers and crew as well.

Which brings us back to the issue of the Theatre Australia website currently being "unavailable" (insert whatever the correct technical terminology is here). All those reviews are, in effect, GONE. Vanished. Sucked up into the Mothership. Dispersed into the ether. "They is no more." Nor does there appear to be a way to easily add reviews to this other website. Or find the handful that have been transferred across to an archives section (?).

How then can I tell a wider audience how marvellous I thought last night's production was? (Go see it, it's really good!)

I was a little miffed that everyone was only concerned about Gordon's reviews. Sure, by sheer volume, he is the big enchilada (that is the first and perhaps last time you will ever see me use that phrase!) but he's not the only one who takes the time to knock a few words together.

It also means all the links on my facebook page to reviews I've written are now broken until - if - the website is re-established. That's a little annoying. I wanted that to be an easily accessible portal of my own.

So here's hoping cooler heads prevail and the whole schmozzle is quickly resolved. Though I have to say, the undertone of discussions on Theatre WA doesn't make me hopeful.

Drama, hey? It's all about conflict and this one has all the hallmarks of being a doozy!

Richard Hyde; username "rwhyde" on

1 comment:

  1. The Theatre Australia website is now back up. I hope it stays that way!