Monday, March 27, 2006

Melbourne: the shame

One wonders what countries were inflicted with telecasts of the Commonwealth Games Closing ceremony. The fewer the better.
If the opening was a cringe-making affair, the closing was a display of gauche parochialism on the most spectacular scale. Melbourne is besotted with Melbourne. Melbourne celebrates Melbourne. Everything is about Melbourne, to the boorish exclusion of the rest of the country and the Commonwealth. And so, with a terrifying lack of taste let alone sophistication, the ceremony featured dull rock music accompanied by football players and ballet dancers in football colours. Melbourne is the world headquarters of football, don't you know. The Grand Prix made it in there, too. And, for some reason, photos of people's relatives to convey the message that Melbourne is the great cultural melting pot. Doh. Just like the rest of the country - but don't tell Melbourne. It thinks it is unique.
I had to watch the closing ceremony out of macabre fascination - hoping that perhaps it may be better than the opening. Hopes dashed by the Melbourne-centric obsession and the general choregraphic mess and hotch-potch of half-baked, self-aggrandising ideas.
Redemption came in the form of the Indians. As their teaser for the 2010 Games in Delhi, they turned on Bollywood delights complete with giant elephant floats and myriad well-wrought and jolly cultural representations - including, of all things, Bollywood hip hop. It was a vivid, celebratory joy. India may not have won as many medals as Australia, but it won the ceremony production stakes hands down.

Of course, medals are the rub of the Commonwealth Games. India scored only 50 to Australia's 221 (with England at 110 and Canada at 86). The competing countries include Tuvalu, Nauru, Malta, Botswana, the Maldives, Belize, Kiribati, Bangladesh, Grenada, Tonga and Papua New Guinea. Funnily enough, these are not countries who can invest vast amounts into institutes of sport, not countries in which sport is the big priority. So the significance of these games is questionable. One may call it a vast waste of money.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Hiss and miss

The lack of grace in losing goes on in South Australia. It has been an astonishing display of venom and sour grapes from the Liberals who were defeated by a landslide in the elections on the weekend.
Their hissing and spitting is not worthy of professional politicians. Somewhere along the line, they have to show some respect for the voters. The voters made a choice and the power is theirs. Losing politicians should acknowledge this with some degree of humility if they are to win the voters back.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Journalists making news

Good to see journalists making their way into the nitty-gritty of politics. At this State election we have the divine Chloe Fox with a runaway victory over a popular veteran politician and the ebullient Leon "Biggles" Bignell who also made a comfortable win for Labor. Then there is Grace Portolesi, former political media advisor and wife of one of our top journalists. And we could amost count Russell Wortley, a career trade unionist but married to the former head of the journalist's union, Senator Dana Wortley. We can call him cousin to the profession, I think. Certainly he has lived close to our issues for many years.
One must not forget, of course, that the State Premier, Mike Rann, whose popularity as leader generated this landslide back to Labor Government, also was once a journalist.
Truly may we say that the wordsmiths rule in South Australia.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Election sour grapes

There can be a nobility in defeat, or at least dignity. Not so here in South Australia for the conservative Liberals after the spectacular trouncing they suffered to Labor in the State Elections today. Rather than admit that they had been bettered in the polls, they chorused a line of sour grapes carping that, obviously, had been the on-the-spot brainchild of one of their spin doctors. Their line was that the voters had been naive because they had not understood that Labor's success in Government and the healthy state of the State was really due to the national Liberal Government's economic policy out of Canberra. And these voters were in for a big, dire shock.
Now had the Liberals thought of this line of argument before their defeat, they might have used it as campaign material. If it was true, of course. But it is the first we have heard of it. If it was true, they have been seriously remiss in not alerting the State to this potentially dire situation long since. Why wait until they lose an election?
I think we may have respected them more had they acknowledged that they had been outvoted and congratulated the victor.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Commonwealth Games gripes

Quel dogs dinner was the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony! It was one of those overproduced messes that looked as if it had been designed by committee. There was an overdose of "cute" and a desperate sense of plagiarism. Sydney Olympics had a little girl being awakened to wild imaginings...we can be different and do it with a boy. Gee. And a duck. I didn't mind the flying tram which others seem to find cringe-making. The old tram is undisputed as the Melbourne hallmark. But the flying dancers and boats and swings and visual fruit salad of bits and pieces was plain bad television and one can only hope it looked a bit more co-ordinated and thematically coherent from the grandstands. $50 million was spent on the Games opening extravanganza. No comment, methinks. Only the general conclusion that perhaps it is time to scale down these absurd provincial back-patting rituals and think of some other way to celebrate openings of large sports events. The ideas have run dry. They are trying too hard. The Melbourne event had an air of desperation to it. It was embarrassing. Time to let go.

As for the Australian athletes. They made one cringe, too. Seventy international teams came out with some degree of dignity. The Aussies walk into the arena and starting screaming the idiot excitement "whoop whoop" and lunging at the television cameras to stick their tongues out and shout at their mothers. Unruly, stupid, undisciplined children. I felt ashamed.

Festivalled out

Another magnificent Festival, Fringe and Womadelaide season draws to a close leaving us sated and exhausted. From the work perspective it was a matter of just making it through to the end of almost a month of review nights on top of working days - coming to the point where one was so tired that one could not sleep. Which is now. Well, the last week. A bad time to put straws on the old camel's back. But the workplace is nothing but straws.
The theatrical experiences have been rewarding - from the spectacular Berlin production of "Nora" to Angelica Torn's dazzling one-woman "Edge" performance, embodying Sylvia Plath in a skilfully-written play by Paul Alexander. There was the Stephen Sewell play, "Three Furies" on the life of Francis Bacon, a Beckett-like Irish piece called "Trad", the topical new play on cloning, "Honk if you are Jesus" by Peter Goldsworthy...there was, there was, there was.... I reviewed about 45 works, only a fraction of the massive arts entity, but largely the best part.
And, of course, it is always contenting to see the city bubbling with the sort of life the Festival brings. It's a feeling of joy - a city sharing joy. The parklands glittering and shimmering with tent theatres, cabaret, burlesque, circus and even pleasure rides for children. The river amassed with audiences 50,000 strong to see free site-specific peformances. The Persian Garden festival club crowded with convivial after-show party people. The lively hum in the piece of park where Writers' Week takes place beneath the grand marquees - the elegant sprawl of readers en masse, listening to writers talking about writing. The sounds of jazz and blues emanating from backstreet clubs. Queues of young people lined up for comedy shows. The sidewalk restaurants and cafes packed late into the night...which is not really festival-exclusive, but seems somehow more bubbling at festival time. Oh, it is all very nice. Very civilized. And I reflect on what a charming city this is.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Festering on

Festival time in Adelaide - and its 7-days a week, 16 hours a day for those of us on the reviewing team. Physical exhaustion seems offset by some strange energy which artistes give off in their best work - in other words, good shows keep us up and powering while duds sap the spirit and drain the stamina.

But, while we may be weary and bouncing off the walls, we are not complaining. We are always happy when the fecundity of the creative spirit surrounds us at Festivals. Well, perhaps we get a little bit snippy with some of the publicists who send us email attachments and hard copy and then pester us on the phone to see if we have things. It would not be so bad if there were fewer of them - but, talking about fecundity, publicists seem to do nothing but multiply these days. There's a bloody plague of them.