• 25 Aug 2013 /  News, THEATRE 5 Comments


    There is a meta-narrative under-pinning (over-riding) many theatre blogs which is the wailing and gnashing of teeth about not getting to enough shows, worse still trying to find the time to write about them meaningfully.  The diva, Alison Croggon, who tried the hardest most often suffered the most. Me, to get around the problem, I have mainly just skipped a  lot of shows, ushering in disappointment from fans, and privately great waves of guilt (more so given the generous support I get from all of the main theatre company publicists). We are in a situation now in our city/society where the print media contribution has become so minimal it is almost not worth mentioning. So it is left to the mostly unwaged bloggers, giving of their time to an often take-it-for-granted readership and a feeling-neglected theatre profession who desperately yearn for their work to be acknowledged. We bloggers are a troubled lot and I don’t think even the broader theatre industry quite realises what is currently at stake.

    The New Prince Alfred Park Pool


    Exhibit A! I  have said it in the past: paintings and novels can lie around for years unacknowledged before being ‘discovered’. But in theatre-land, while an old script may be lying around somewhere, the actual artistic event which this script serves – the production – is gone. Long gone – lost in the mists of time and irretrievable. Without criticism (especially good quality criticism) no meaningful record survives.

    Yuppie breakfast at the new pool – poached eggs and smoked trout!

    Alison Croggon, tearing out her hair on a pre-dawn basis under the weight of demand did her superhuman best for many years before giving up. Lucky for her, her readers, and for those looking back to this time in the future, Ms Croggon got hired pretty much the next day by ABC online. In Sydney we have a group of on-liners (a nicer word for blogger?) who together (as a mob) make a contribution that approaches Croggon’s Melbourne-based achievement. But it mostly comes without financial reward and, in a city as expensive as Sydney, the current arrangement cannot last. What we are seeing at the moment is the publication of a bunch of newbies  (admittedly some very bright newbies) submitting reviews to online publications for no more than a couple of freebie tix. But once they have cut their teeth, are moving on to greener (aka ‘waged’) writing pastures. Employed by a big theatre company or industry body to run its own blog –  basically PR, hardly a balanced view. Or getting into ‘PR’ itself, or ‘marketing’ or ‘philanthropy’. No single reviewer born of the current circumstances is likely to hang around long enough to offer quality product and/or attain a merit-worthy following born of years of experience and a thousand mistakes.

    Pasta Bros birthday party – run by two French guys – Devonshire Street

    As one of the more experienced ‘not-for-profit’ reviewers based in Sydney, I am currently facing my ‘Alison’ moment. The way I have set up my site, I simply cannot sustain it for much longer. In fact it’s kinda over. It’s not just because the pieces themselves take so much time: one of my bigger pieces might take three days. My slow rate of delivery also does not work for the blog reader. When they click on my site after yesterday’s curious reading, they want more. An impossible task for the sole trader. This one anyway.

    Puppy dog sun-baking on the pavement in Crown Street. Not long after this was taken he got hit by a car. A heap of floral tributes were left at his spot. Clearly he had a sizeable fan base – including me.

    Okay I am particularly slow. But that’s because I like to try and get to the ‘bottom of things’. On a good morning after a good show the night before perhaps the ‘top of things’!

    Back lane – even the Quakers make rubbish.

    Here’s my situation and what I plan to do about it. I said a little while back I  had to take some time out to get overdue National Library work done. I haven’t got very far – there’s still a backlog. So this time-problem remains for at least a couple more months. I’ve still got a pile of ‘Timed Summaries’ to type up. And then there’s the backlog of interviews to get stuck into. I am not complaining: I LOVE this work. But I can’t do both  jobs well at the same time, and only one pays the rent.

    I recently put in some window boxes to my 3rd-floor flat – the weather has got them booming.

    Here it is straight up. Writing lengthy, closely argued, time and brain-devouring reviews for free is not how I wish to spend the rest of my writing life. For charity, I’d rather throw a blanket over someone sleeping rough or toss them a few bucks. Yes I do like the intellectual challenge of writing these long pieces, and I wont stop. But I am going to redesign this site so it can carry other forms of writing – exactly what shape that writing takes is still in its foetal stage. No doubt I will draw on the best suppositories of knowledge I can access: including my famously unreliable memory. Some circumstances have changed which suggest I can make better use of  this web-site. Plus these photos are a bit of a hint. Also the ones I have put up on Facebook about growing up in New Guinea.

    Dude with coffee and laptop at Ampersand – the cafe adjacent to the Clover’s Surry Hills library

    Between 1983 and the launch of this site a few years back, I wrote a lot for various high-life and low-life print media outlets: theatre reviews, other features and interviews, and think-pieces relating to theatre and theatre practice. And on other topics ranging from travel to architecture, to the latest fashion in eyewear. I have edited parts of, and whole magazines. I have lectured at a couple of universities. My flat contains mostly a collection of boxes stuffed with cuttings and publications begging to be put into some form  of order. A reason to bother has recently come my way. 

    My bachelor pad with flowers.

    Some of you know, as of July 2013, my website has been included in the National Library’s online cyber collection – called Pandora  - and will be updated once or twice a year. In a lightbulb moment, after such flattering news, I realised this presents me a reason to bother sorting through my clippings. And posting them in an archive folder linked this site. So, if I am not posting something new, I can put up something from the past. Possibly with some notes added now on how I think the piece reads now, however many years later. 

    ‘Skipping Girl’ – Wilson Street Redfern. On the way to Carriageworks.

    How am I going to do it? Probably start a whole new site, differently formatted and designed – to hold more than one single thread. I have got as far as purchasing the domain name – jameswaites.com.au. To do this I need help. And that is available to me in November when my ex Brett (who helped in setting up this site from his base in faraway Milan) has some time to help out. I will move across the content on this site – jameswaites.com – and start all over again. It should be lot easier than redesigning this site, especially since it’s so intertwined with ilatech.org (the ‘patch’ this site after being ‘Trojan-Horsed’ by a video-store in China a couple of years back). It was a life-saving measure at the time, thank  you Larry; but it also adds an unnecessary layer of complexity.Especially for people searching.

    Nitro on the left and the white one is Amos – my flatmates. They look after me as well as each other. It’s a happy household!

    I hope to spread my wings a bit on the new site – meaning not just stick to big theatre items or even gross und klein theatre items. There is other stuff I want to write about. It’s like this, I have got to a point in my own personal time-line where there are more years gone than yet to come. I promised myself I would try to live an interesting life, even if that meant never earning much money. Admittedly, I was from an early age drawn to the life and characters inhabiting the ‘other side of the tracks’. But then how many other people can say they have dined alone, on more than one occasion, with reclusive novelist Patrick White and his boyfriend Emanuel Lascaris.

    Redfern Station – returning from Carriageworks

    The deal with the devil was that this might give me something interesting to write about . ‘So where is that writing?’ the devil laughs.

    Busker outside State Theatre – 2013 Sydney Film Festival

    And now another nudge. If you are still with me (lolling half-asleep in James’s very own Garden of Olives/Eden), you may well prefer to know (as opposed to not know) the latest. And it is to put to rest any unnecessary concern or confusion down the track that I want you to know. I would keep it quiet, but it’s going to get out and so I want to make my situation clear. Everyone knows I have a thick medical file. So much so I have for a long time expected that if I wrote about some of what I have encountered in my years on this planet, it would be difficult to get around saying something about illness and injury, about recovery and well-being.

    Wilson Street – also on the way to Carriageworks.

    After a several year-long battle to get over what I got to call ‘the incident on the train’ (which took a lot longer than  expected), I enjoyed last summer almost daily at Coogee Beach, in the water, in  union with my million-year-old chromosomal origins. Well into autumn, it just got more beautiful and more healing as the early days of global warming kicked in. I was so delighted with my progress I made the mistake of declaring on the Facebook (aka ‘the Illustrated Buble‘) that I was  healed. At last I’d got my life back! We had a warm winter. Then, at some point a few weeks, a bout of cold windy wet weather set in. And, to my utter shock and dismay, the straw-man that is little me got blown down – again. Back to the chronic pain – but more of it and worse. How was I going to rebuild the mental detachment I had previously discovered the hard way was vital to cope now I had brought the defences down. Pain and suffering you learn are two very different things.

    Victoria Park – adjacent to Sydney University

    So what a smack  across the face with God’s handbag it was when I was this time diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Don’t freak out just yet – there is quite a bit of  silver lining.

    Now I know why so many things have been going wrong for me, and  hitherto not made sense – even the difficulty of getting over the train thing. A person can live with this neural disease for quite some time before it starts to manifest in  the more obvious symtoms of trembling hands and/or a stutter and/or a stooped walk and/or forgetfulness. Where was I? Oh yes – this is my message and why I am outing myself. It’s like coming out Gay or left-handed to one’s folks. What I want you all to know, medical advances being what they are these days, is  that the medication I am on makes me feel great. Certainly better than I have for a long time. I can’t use chopsticks, my handwriting is akin to that of a five-year-olds, I clap with one hand while the left one just waits to be smacked (so no I don’t hate your show). But also I feel good in myself. The pain disorder has retreated once again. And as of this last week I am back to doing a few, very modest, yoga postures, and as of yesterday back in the water. This time, at last, Clover’s Piece de Resistance – the Prince Alfred Park swimming pool (see top photo). Just a bit of walking in the deep water and then a few modest laps. But gosh given the early spring weather we are currently and as a Piscean – how truly aqueous and astrological. And a fresh opportunity closer to home to stay as fit and mobile as I can for as long as I can.

    Homeless man – Taylor Square. I found him lying lost in his dream in the sun on a very hot day. I managed to wake him up and help him relocate to this shadier spot. He even trusted me with holding his bottle.

    Meanwhile I am grateful for the diagnosis, and the forewarning it brings. Thus I can sort out my priorities and get on with them (hence much of the above). One of two things is going to happen. 1. Medical science is advancing at such a rate, by the time I would otherwise be getting into trouble, a magic bullet may exist. That’s the medical gossip anyway. They are already inserting mirror-balls and even Priscilla buses into the brains of some sufferers further down the track than me. If not, well we all have to end our time on this planet one way or the other – and  the way is rarely of our own choosing.

    Busker – Devonshire Street tunnel

    My main point is this (said KRudd poking his finger through the TV and into my face): what I want you all to know is that my well-being is going to improve for a period of time before it’s starts getting worse. How long – who knows. No one can answer that – not even Godot. It is way too soon for anyone, even me, to start getting upset. I am outing myself here also because, having informed a few intimates, most of them confessed they had noticed odd signs but did not know how to ask or what to say, and were ‘very worried’ about me. So if you’ve seen me bent and slow struggling in the street against the wind (like some drag Miss Docker), no I am not jazzed-up to the hilt on methadone or absinthe or gone quietly mad or gripped by Abbott-fever. I am fine and right now, a month into the right medication, getting better everyday. Want to know more? Google Michael J Fox Foundation.

    Bachelor cooking – inspired by watching too many episodes of My Kitchen Rules!

    Meanwhile from me: here’s a bunch of haiku-sized responses to some of the shows I have recently seen. Eamon Flack did a great job with the massive Angels in America - with the help of a perfect cast including a super-spectacular Robyn Nevin in several Meryl Streep roles. Persona also at Belvoir was very interesting – certainly a refreshing change in terms of tone and timbre to what’s currently fashionable. At STC, a truly fun-filled brain-fracked Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead with an all-star cast, niftily directed by Simon Phillips (welcome to Sydney – do come back). And Storm Boy- my apologies I took my new medication at the wrong time and I pretty much woke up at the curtain call. There was kid hanging onto a dead bird? What prefaced that situation I am not sure. But it must have been good since one of my besties – who collects children’s books – was sobbing as she exited the theatre.

    My latest bit of ‘found’ furniture – off the street!

    See you soon in a foyer near you. If not here sooner – then definitely around November sometime. I may not be able to resist commenting on the Simon Stone Hamlet starring Mr Toby Schmitz up the street from me at Belvoir! It’s being promoted as a ‘cure-all’!! Could be just what I am looking for!! ‘Let’s keep on dancing and playing the tune.’


    Posted by James Waites @ 1:42 pm

5 Responses

  • Ulo Says:

    listen to Music , even music that does not usually excite you……it releases chemicals in the brain that no Pharmacist can ever invent, music can bring more than just joy it improves good health..

  • Tim Says:

    Not knowing much anymore about Sydney’s theatre world doesn’t stop the fun for me of reading your writings as it’s always the Jim Waites injection I get that I particularly enjoy. I always get a laugh out of your cleverness and a good ride on your passion and determination. You’ve always had the window open to yourself and we love knowing you. I look forward to what you come up with on your new site, when it happens. Sounds like it’s going to have more of what I want!

  • James Waites Says:

    Thank you Tim – I am glad the writing appealsand not just the content – with any luck might start getting crazier!! J

  • James Waites Says:

    Thank you Ulo – I love music – all sorts from the blues roots to Bach and beyond – but this is a silent house and I should really change that – I have no doubt there healing powers involved J

  • Maurice Giacche Says:

    Flack DID do a fabulous job with “Angels”. The cast owned this production and inhabited their roles in a way that Gow and his team for that first STC production in the early 90s did not. To be fair, Gow did not have anywhere near enough time to digest Kushner’s sprawling , epic text. Nor did he have the luxury of rehearsal time afforded Flack and his actors. Persona WAS a a refreshing departure from traditional narrative. It was beautifully paced. And the actors didn’t act in as much as “feel”. I loved it. Bergman adapted for the stage? Who’d have thought!. It remained true to the spirit of Bergman’s film, had the immediacy of a live performance and left me feeling like i had been hit by a train at the end of it all. YUM! Hope you enjoy Hamlet. It’ll be a knockout! Btw Ulo is spot on about music. I can’t imagine a “silent house”. I’m sure you’ll change that when the time is right. Thank you for sharing. That is sharing your PASSION for your…well, passions. You seeing “Godot”? :-)

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