TODAY is a holiday and meant to be taken, at least by non-believers, as an exercise in ease and indolence. That fact is worth noting because the Professor could not be bothered doing a proper job and hunting up a list of judges for the Victorian Premier’s 2012 literary awards. The great minds who distributed artsy cash in 2011 came more readily to the top of Goggle’s search results so, for an exercise in determing what sort of people get these gigs, it will have to do. Let us start with the Drama award, whose three judges are listed as Richard Watts (convenor), Wendy Lasica and Jason Whittaker. Let us see if they have anything in common, shall we?
According to his blog, Richard Watts is “a 44 year-old gay man living in Melbourne, Australia: a writer, broadcaster, arts worker, arts lover, and Collingwood supporter.”
So does Dramatic Dick have any, you know, firmly held political views? Turns out he does, as he explained in a November, 2007 blog post devoted equally to the left’s election-night triumph and that nasty piece of work, John Howard (the bowdlerising asterisks were added at the Billabong):
Woke late. The fear and doubt that had built in me throughout Friday was gone, replaced by a 'nothing else to do but wait' mood.
Voted - no sausage sizzle, damn it. Went to Richmond, took over from KP handing out how-to-vote Green flyers at a polling booth for two and a half hours. Still no sausage sizzle. Bantered with a Liberal, kinda ignored Family First, chatted happily with Labor volunteers.
Polling booth closed; walked over to KP's house for election night party, ended up staying considerably longer than intended because bloody Howard wouldn't do the honourable thing and admit defeat early. It wasn't until 10:30pm that he appeared to tell us what we'd know for hours; that his government had been swept dramatically from power. Elation, and yet...
Last night it all felt unreal, even with Rudd claiming victory on the TV before us. Thence to Trades Hall, and a huge f**k-off-Howard party; a sweaty, drunken, happy mess of a night packed with friends and strangers and delighted, disbelieving faces.
Today, it feels even stranger. After waiting and hoping so long for a change of government, now there's a sense of - waiting? sameness? A pregnant pause? Time to see what happens next; to see what Rudd will act on in his first 100 days of power. Indigenous reconciliation? Ratifying Kyoto? Dismantling WorkChoices? Will he govern well? Radically? Badly?
The sense of joy which filled me last night has been replaced by a sense of calm anticipation, and something else; something I can't quite put my finger on.
Don't f**k it up, Kevin.
So much for the panel’s chairman. What of his associates?
Wendy Lasica is an arts bureaucrat with the good sense to send her child to a private school, which might be taken as speaking of a solid, bourgeois sensibility. Then you read one of her reviews and come across this:
…in Guerin’s Incarnadine, a tension is set up between the performers and the audience. At times, it was as if one was watching this work through a transparent barrier. Guerin sets up a scenario that demands our empathy, but denies us the emotional access to it. Guerin and Rebecca Hilton perform a tireless unison boundary-marking pattern on matching white spirals painted onto the floor. The sound by James Lo crashes and crackles around the dancers, while the stark white light dramatically changes direction, striking the dancers at odd angles. They are exposed by the light. They rarely leave their spirals, perhaps only to extend a movement onto the floor; but they retreat, eager it seems, to maintain their space.
By Lasica’s reckoning, this is bonza stuff. And the third member of the Drama panel?
Why, Jason Whittaker, who is the deputy editor of Crikey! Need any more be said? Actually, yes. Whittaker displays at least one of the traits that so often mark members of the New Establishment. He doesn't much like the working class or approve of its interests:
Just so you will know, the $25,000 Premier's prize went to Patricia Cornelius for Do Not Go Gentle, a production whose journey to the stage was long and very nicely funded:
… Patricia Cornelius took out the Victorian Premier’s Literary Prize for Drama worth $25,000 for her play Do Not Go Gentle, which premiered last year at fortyfive downstairs in Melbourne. She adds the prize to the shelf along with the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards - Play Award ($30,000) that she won earlier this year for the same play. It also scored the R.E. Ross Trust Playwrights' Script Development Award in 2006 and the Patrick White Playwrights’ Award in 2007. She’ll have to wait a little longer to see if she can score a State Premier trifecta with the West Australian Premier’s Book Award for Scripts ($10,000).
So it must be a great play, right, what with all those awards and prizes? Here is how lady of letters Alison Croggon describes what audiences can expect:
The opening scene is spine-tingling: Maria (Jan Friedl) shuffles onstage in dressing gown and slippers, opens her mouth and sings a glorious aria, while behind her six anonymous figures, dressed in thick arctic gear, march onto the stage, each leading the other like the figures in Breughel's painting The Parable of the Blind. It recalls Walter Pater’s insistence that all art aspires to the condition of music, yearning towards the mysteries of what can’t be expressed in words, and is as moving an image of mortality as I have seen in the theatre.
Ms Croggon, who served with Cornelius as a judge on the Ross Trust Drama Awards -- which Wendy Lasica now administers, just coincidentally – is baffled that mainstream audiences have been denied the opportunity to witness her associate’s genius, observing, “…this is another play that has struggled to find mainstage production.”
But seriously, who needs a paying audience when a play so long in development and for years unseen can generate such a nice revenue stream?
Victoria Premier and arty dilettante Ted Baillieu will host the upcoming annual literary handouts, every bit as unaware this year as last that those artistic sorts with whom he breaks bread at the bang-up celebrity dinner cannot stand his foul black guts.
That would be because they mistake the Liberal leader for a conservative, which is perhaps the ultimate demonstration that luvvies really are an extraordinarily thick and unobservant lot.