Academic journal article About Performance

Why Did the Actor Cross the Road?

Academic journal article About Performance

Why Did the Actor Cross the Road?

Article excerpt

Okay, it's so long since I've performed that I'm a bit nervous.

Hmm. This is a kind of a speech that it's a bit of a crisis paper really. I think there is a crisis. I'll start by stressing that my last contact with academic discourse about the theatre was here in the Woolley Building in a lecture on Australian theatre which I was half asleep because I'd spent digging up stones in the Main Quad to decorate the set of an Edward Bond play that I think Max was in, in The Cellar.

My language is going to be alarmingly accessible, perhaps more alarming for me than you given the way I saw you analysing rugby scrums the night before, but I am prepared to be tackled, and I assume this is the spirit of the conference. This is about theatre, and theatricality at least will never be dead, so, I welcome the fireworks.

In a way, I shouldn't be here. I haven't been on stage for two and a half years, and that was in a play that Max talked about. I dropped off the Sydney mainstream acting treadmill to move into documentary film, making which is for me in many ways focussed on capturing the theatricality of life. My training as an actor has been central to the way I approach my new form of work; but the problem I have with being here, which I admit openly now, is that my move into film making has been entirely deliberate: I am dissatisfied with theatre. I could have stayed where I was and still be performing to a bank of semi-comatose subscriber audiences at the STC and the matinee even as we speak, but I chose to drop out, and I'm finding filmmaking a hell of a lot more fulfilling for many reasons, one of which is what I will call the ideology. I actually believe that good art has a message and people were talking about pacificity and it seems to me its very easy to be cynical when you lack a cause. Well, I think (and it's so out of date and so passé) but I think that good art has a message and has politics and we can change society through work and my feeling is that as I haven't been able to do that through theatre, I haven't been able to access a wide enough audience to effect the kind of change that I want to, and I can do that in film. And theatre for me is pure . . . it's pure and beautiful, but unfortunately I think it's just losing the capacity to be the kind of space where change can be effected.

Anyway, I explained all this to Max, and he said good, come and talk anyway, so here I am. I've thought about the state of theatre, the climate of ideas in this society as a whole in a rushed way; I've been busy trying to earn a living playing a psychotic police psychologist on Home and Away while I get my next film up. So, I'm going to present for you my thoughts in what we call in the editing process a non-linear structure. This is not a well-made play; it's something closer to Troilus and Cressida which Beckett once called the headless, tailless trunk of an action: I'll rant, you can work out my conclusions for me.

Now, does anyone know why the performance artist crossed the road? I don't know, I didn't stay ?til the end.

And in a sense that kind of sums it up. Substitute a Stoppard character or David Williamson, or even a Company B actor lately and I'd still answer the same. Theatre for me has lost most of its relevance. When you realise as a practitioner that theatre is more fun to be in than to watch, you begin to get worried. There's a great trick that you learn as an actor, and that is to make the other person on stage more important than you; listen to their every word, don't obsess so much with your own acting as with reacting to them, and this applies equally I think to the audience: theatre is not theatre without one. Although Bogdan Koca would beg to differ. I remember I was in a play with him once at the Crossroads, and, you know, no-one was coming, but it was brilliant, and undcrlit and the people that were coming were falling asleep because it was so underlit, and we were all sitting there very depressed drinking vodka after the show, and I said "Bogdan, why are why do you do this? …

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