10 October 2009


Melbourne Writers' Thearte
BOObook Theatre
7 October 2009
Carlton Courthouse

The Melbourne Writers’ Theatre have presented eight short play festivals. MelBorn was established as their Fringe showcase in 2007 and two years later...well, unless something changes, I'm not going to MelBorn2010.

Four short plays were chosen for MelBorn09, but the night still went for over two hours and I contemplated doing a runner in the interval. In over 25 years of choosing what I see in theatres, I've completed such an act once. (It was in 1999 and I left a show to see Robert Forster and Grant McLennan performing together as The Go Betweens for the first time since 1988.) I don't leave during intervals because you never know what piece of magic you might miss and the artists who created it don’t deserve such disrespect

So, I returned to my seat and wondered if perhaps I was expecting too much, if I was becoming one of those reviewers who only sees bad, who criticises for the sake of criticism and loathes all artists. My own notebook assured me that I’m still fond of theatre. Back home, I re-read my reviews of MelBorn 07 and 08. I can vividly remember the atmosphere, the evocative design, the theming, the terrific writing, the engaging performances and intelligent direction of 07. I also remember why I only mentioned one writer in 08. I don't understand how a season can slide from something that showed such an understanding and love of theatre to something that I wanted to run from.

Writers know that the first draft of anything is shit. It's full of clichés, the plot clunks along like a bike with a flat tire and a broken chain (and uses hideous metaphors), you repeat yourself, the dialogue sounds like aliens trying to learn your language and there's no hint of subtext. You just vomit out ideas and then start the drafting and feedback process. And you make sure you delete that first draft in case anyone ever reads it.

Or submit it for MelBorn.

There were great characters, beautiful ideas and highly creative and original stories hidden on that stage, but none of these scripts were ready. And the writing was more solid than the design, the direction or the performances.

However, there was something after interval that I won't forget; something that held most of the audience's attention. The noxious smell of a burning gel is hard to miss, especially when the floor light responsible is smoking and most of the room is keeping an eye on it in case an emergency exit is required. Any professional stage manager and lighting operator would have dimmed that light, and any professional actor wouldn't have given a toss that the lighting state wasn't what they rehearsed. Putting that room in a situation that has the slightest potential to turn bad is unacceptable - but at least it created some tension.

More 2009 Fringe reviews.
This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com

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