If we paid the true value for our cultural experiences, rather than the discounted value of buying American scripts and British scripts and doing those (because we can do that because we don’t have to translate them and the fit is ‘good enough’, as it were, culturally speaking) if you took that out of the equation and we had to pay the full price of it, we would realise that we’re free-loading on global culture. We’re taking that hidden subsidy that Britain and America do invest in their work and we nick it. That allows us to under-invest in our own dramatic culture.
– Julian Meyrick
Episode five. Jana Perkovic and I spoke to Julian Meyrick, historian, arts commentator, dramaturge and director. This is the last episode of the history and documentation season and was such a great way to wrap up. It was our longest episode and we loved every moment. Julian’s comprehensive one and a half minute long history of theatre is just hysterical. Fortunately, our laughter doesn’t drown him out too much.
The biggest enemy you have as an Australian theatre historian is the fact that everybody believes that this stuff is known and on the record and in fact almost none of it is on the record. You are conscious again of this huge gap between what people think and what is actually the case.
The biggest enemy you have as an Australian theatre historian is the fact that everybody believes that this stuff is known and on the record and in fact almost none of it is on the record. You are conscious of this huge gap between what people think and what is actually the case. Australian theatre is fuelled not only by a neglect of its past but almost by a horror of it; a horror of what’s in that past and a horror that it’s got a past.
– Julian Meyrick
Discussed in this episode: What Australia thinks it is vrs what it actually is; the ‘certain kind of agony’ that comes with being both an historian and an artist; Australia’s horror of its past; how Australian plays succeed and fail publicly; the cultural hangover called J. C. Williamson; Louis Nowra’s The Golden Age; cultural rights and cultural duties; should Fleur be as depressed as Louis Nowra about a career in playwriting?; what playwrights need to develop; our critical landscape and how in the world does a dramatic canon come about.
I am absolutely sure – 100% sure – that it (the break down in the development of new Australian works) cannot be solved by just trying to pick winners. I don’t think that that is a viable strategy for horse racing let alone for playwriting. You need some deeper philosophical, political, social and artistic sense of what drama is if you’re going to encourage and develop Australian drama into its next diverse and myriad-formed existence.
New episodes will be released every 2 weeks, and we have made quite an effort to make them as accessible as possible, on a variety of platforms. Stay tuned and enjoy!
Julian Meyrick: Trapped by the Past (Platform Paper n.3)
Julian Meyrick: The Retreat of Our National Drama (Platform Paper n.39)
Julian Meyrick: The Logic of Culture: The Fate of Alternative Theatre in the Post-Whitlam Period (Australasian Drama Studies, April 2014, issue 64)
Sydney Morning Herald: ‘Australian theatre exhausted and waning, claims director and academic Julian Meyrick’ (Steve Dow, May 8, 2014)
For more information about Julian Meyrick, visit his profile page on the Flinders University website.
Photo credits: Christopher Deere.