A post-event note on Stockholm- which I did manage to see- I scraped-in and sat in some dodgy seats in the last week of the production- I was largely curious to see what the fuss was about- why it had disappointed so many- why some complained of it being over-produced… why some complained of a glib script… why some complained that the actors were satisfactory as actors but not as dancers- and if any of this matters in the larger scheme of the story.

This is not a review- if you want a review- check out the SMH- or the STC website… this is my response, a personal response to Stockholm, not a review.

I don’t envy the Artistic Directors of Sydney Theatre Company- it’s a tough position to be in. And I’m not talking about the fact they are inescapable celebrities. That company has a huge lurching history- a sense of elevation/mystique amongst the regular punters and the general public- a grandeur to aspire to be apart of for practitioners- the STC is Cate Blanchette’s theatre… Robyn Nevin’s old theatre… seen to be filled with rich, grey-haired partrons who sip their white wine whilst ruminating the glossy production of their evening out- the hottest overseas script (or well worn Australian classic) over blue cheese and glittering Sydney Harbour lights…

Do you programme for the people who already go to your theatre- and what they seem to enjoy (if subscription sales can be interpretted as a measure of “enjoyment”) – or do you programme for a potential audience you want to attract? In recent times I am not sure who the STC is programming for- or what is being said about the wider world. Now and then I get the distinct impression that the role of the STC in the landscape of Australian theatre is to inform us of what is popular elsewhere- theatre (and film) practitioners are flown in, to give us an International cosmopolitan experience without having to get our passport stamped. I just wonder if this international perspective is granted to our playwrights in the Northern Hemisphere- do theatre companies in Britain find a need to produce new Australian plays in order to show/prove their cultural capital as an internationally relevent and connected company?

“Yes, yes… Augusta… we know … we’ve heard you bang on about this before… but what did you think of the play?” I hear you sigh-

“Well…” I answer, I didn’t think much about the play- I felt much about the play. I got sucked into that vortex of the world and dwelled in a dark place tangled up in the dark knotted vines of desperate and violent need- but everytime I did, something jerked me out of it… A visual trick- a moving set, a dance routine, a sound effect, a liquid desk top or a spritely direct address to the audience. Everytime I felt myself slip into that soul-heaving trembling space, I was made aware of all the conventions.

Perhaps that’s a good thing- perhaps that a psychological safeguard to make sure that the audience is not left damaged by the experience? Perhaps if we are jerked out of the experience by production values it stops us descending deeper than is safe to? Because once you have seen something, you can’t unsee it. It haunts you. It lurks in your mind’s eye. It changes you.

Perhaps ancient theatre models of confrontation were designed as a means of triggering catharsis… but in this age invested in psychology and nihilsm- what is theatre for us- is it entertainment, a balm to soothe the wound of the everyday? Is it the doorway into an alternative world/way of seeing the world? Is it a safe space to experience the horror and intensity which lurks beneath the surface of things? Perhaps all of this- to some degree at all times, in all genre and platforms… I know what theatre is for me and why I keep coming back- regardless of what I am seeing and how it is presented. I love theatre because it reassures me. It says, “Augusta, you are not alone in your yearning and your pain and your passion and your indecision and your fervour. You are human. You suffer the same as any other. You are resilient and broken like anyone around you. You are alive, and the act of your engagement with this moment is proof. You feel, therefore you are living.”

Stockholm, felt to me to be like my heart was being plunged repeatedly in buckets of water- one hot and one ice cold. A never ending drenching. I felt the heat and the warmth of glowing soft skin and the razor sharp rasping voice of violence. I felt the exhaustion of the battle- and the exhilaration of the sexual highwire act. I felt the joy and the magnetism- I understood the swing between the two opposite and conflicting experiences- the embodied pressence and the cerebral distance. Heart vs logic.

It’s ok for me to have the experience fluctuate and flair out at different moments. I’m going to embrace it as a built-in defense mechanism- to save me from being overwhelmed by those aspects which I recognise in myself, in my past, in my relationships. I am safe to confront myself- because look- they are dancing- because look- there’s a different light casting a shadow over Socratis Otto’s back… because it’s theatre.