So Channel 10 News went all cultural last week. It went to the theatre under the headline "stage shocker" to deliver the goods on MKA's The Economist, a play the "critics have savaged" before it has even opened. Tobias Manderson-Galvin was interviewed for the feature but the sound bits used gave little defence to what Channel 10 were clearly branding as the distastefully-ugly-and-shameful-practice-of-using-a-mass-murderer-as-subject-matter.
Here is the news bite:
When the news is like this, who needs horrifically righteous shows like A Current Affair or Today Tonight? This is not to say that using source material such as this should never be questioned or debated - but the forum should be appropriate and allow for commentary from both perspectives. Apart from anything else the 'psychologist' opinion is flashy, emotive and manipulative. He can clearly condone himself talking about the atrocity on a national television in feature that broadcasts images of the murderer, victims and scene of the crime but woe to creative types attempting to understand the context is "damaging".
Theatre exists entertain and make us smile but it also exists to confront us with things that we might not be comfortable. Indeed although I haven't yet read the play and won't get the chance to see it [don't worry I'll be up to my eyeballs in fabulous panto in London] even from the information on the website it is hard to argue that the play will ask us to be sympathetic to the protagonist. It is a work that will force us to recognise and confront the reality of this man. The Economist is a play not about pitying a murderer but of dissecting and understanding the society that produced such a terrorist. Here is the page with info and the trailer for the play.
On a side-conspiracy-theory-like-note The Economist seizes connections to Australia and front and squarely highlights Andrew Bolt and John Howard as contextual political motivators behind Anders Behring Breivik's murders. This is politically interesting and dangerous and this is ultimately where the roots and unease and opposition to this play are coming from. It might be dressed up as 'innappropriate' and 'shocking' news that has making 'international' news but seriously? Andrew Bolt has just started working for Channel 10! Coincidence? Ha.
MKA is a company that privileges new writing in independent theatre. Their open season at the start of this year in the pop up theatre above the Pahran City Mission was eclectic, dynamic and exciting. This season is shaping up to be just as interesting and potentially more thought provoking. "Any publicity is good publicity" is a phrase that Jeffrey Archer has instilled into our culture, maybe all this will result in more people going along, watching the show and then forming their own opinions. Forming your own opinion, go see it and give your own review.