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November 30th 2010 print

John McCallum

Shoot the audience

There is a type of theatre-goer who complains all the time and who does so much damage. I know our theatres need to pay attention to the box office, but really, some people are simply dreadful.

From the Philip Parsons Memorial Lecture given in Sydney last Sunday by John McCallum, theatre critic for The Australian:

BARRIE Kosky’s 2008 production of Euripides’ The Women of Troy, was one of the most harrowing nights in the theatre I have ever spent.

The performance at Sydney Theatre Company was too harrowing for many: some people I love and respect refused to see it and there were apparently many walkouts every night. We’re talking about a show with no interval, so walking out is a big statement.

 …

And this is the point for theatre-makers. If you challenge and confront your audience in the visceral space of live theatre, if you refuse to pander to their desire to be merely entertained, then some won’t come, and some will walk out, but some will be changed forever.

There is a type of theatre-goer who complains all the time and who does so much damage. I know our theatres need to pay attention to the box office, but really, some people are simply dreadful.

Source: The Australian

A dissenting view, and an account of what actually happened on the Kosky stage, Michael Connor “On the Importance of Being Kosky”:

Cassandra, a virgin played by Melita Jurisic, stood like Kosky’s other captured Trojan women on a reinforced cardboard box facing the audience. She spoke gibberish then mimed an encounter with an invisible Greek penis which swam upwards from her crotch to her mouth and then she ate it—still miming of course. In the audience a woman and a young girl left the theatre. Groups of students, from posh girls’ schools, remained.

The women, now doing Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp after-dinner entertainment, sang at times. It was a relief when they were badly treated, stuffed into cardboard boxes and wheeled away. Counting them off, like the green bottles in the song, each little death brought the end of the play a little closer.

The child Astyanax, played in alternate performances by child actors from television commercials, waved sweetly to Robyn Nevin before being taken offstage to be thrown from the ramparts. He returned on the squeaky trolley in yet another cardboard box with two small holes at one end from which protruded his legs overcoated in red gunk. Yes, Nevin opened the box, reached in to caress his body then spread high her arms, now dripping with red stuff which globbed to the floor—try keeping a straight face during that!

Source: Quadrant