Critical Failure: Theatre
Is theatre criticism in Australia failing practitioners and audiences? In this energetic discussion, Alison Croggon, Julian Meyrick, Cameron Woodhead and Stephen Sewell assess the role of the critic in contemporary Australian theatre.
They ponder the longevity of a critic’s verdict, the role of opinion, emotion and tact, and the relevance of ‘objectivity’. As the conversation fires up, our panellists critique and question the methods of their fellow debaters. More than a discussion of reviewing for the stage, this debate looks at the necessity of critics in improving art.
Declaring that “the internet is full of trolls,” Woodhead raised questions about the value, rigour and veracity of criticism published on the web. Croggon’s response, The Return of the Amateur Critic, begged to differ - generating avid debate on the ABC’s The Drum Unleashed site, where it was published in full, as well as on The Guardian’s Noises off theatre blog.
Elsewhere, Crikey theatre blog Curtain Call described the panel as “almost like a well-made play”, citing “impassioned monologues, moments of general disorder, comedic repartee and plenty of merry-andrew buffoonery”.
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Alison Croggon is an award-winning novelist, poet, theatre writer, critic and editor who lives in Melbourne, Australia. She works in many genres and her books and poems have been published to acclaim nationally and internationally.
She is arts editor for The Saturday Paper and co-founder of the performance criticism website Witness. Her most recent book is the creative non-fiction Monsters, out in March 2021, from Scribe Publications.
Julian Meyrick is a director, theatre historian and deputy chair of PlayWriting Australia. Until recently he was associate director and literary advisor at the Melbourne Theatre Company.
Stephen Sewell has been responsible for some of the most provocative and electrifying Australian plays of the past twenty-five years.
Cameron Woodhead is a senior theatre critic for the Age and is a prolific reviewer of performing arts in Australia.