“Drama is like the minute hand of the clock.”
– Julian Meyrick

In episode 5, Julian Meyrick, theatre historian, cultural policy analyst, and Strategic Professor of Creative Arts at Flinders University, joins Fleur and Jana in the concluding conversation on theatre histories and documentation. We talk about his controversial essays on the history of independent theatre in Melbourne, his historical analyses of arts funding in Australia, and on what mistakes have been made, again and again.

This episode is our longest so far, and we still had to cut our conversation short (because minors in our custody were starving) without touching on everything we were planning to talk about.

We were really interested, right from the start, in talking with Julian, because we found his writings so useful in creating this season of talks. However, his new Platform Paper was published right as we were going into production, and then an unnecessary (and, in our opinion, somewhat dumb) controversy exploded around the margins of his argument. In this episode, we take time to talk about ideas, in this essay and in Julian’s other writings, while trying to give as much room to nuance, as nuance needs.

“If we paid the true value for our cultural experiences, rather than the discounted value of buying American scripts and British scripts and doing those (because we don’t have to translate them and the fit is ‘good enough’, as it were, culturally speaking) […] we would realise that we’re free-loading on global culture. We’re taking that hidden subsidy that Britain and America do invest in their work and we nick it. That allows us to under-invest in our own dramatic culture.”
– Julian Meyrick

Discussed in this episode:
the comprehensive history of Australian theatre in one minute and a half according to Julian Meyrick; projectors in theatre (so important); Australia’s horror of its past; Are we dumber than we were forty-years ago?; the cultural hangover called J. C. Williamson; Louis Nowra’s The Golden Age; Patricia Cornelius; cultural rights and cultural duties; should we be optimistic about careers in theatre?; and how in the world does a dramatic canon come about.

“I am absolutely sure – 100% sure – that it (the break down in the development of new Australian works) cannot be solved by just trying to pick winners. I don’t think that that is a viable strategy for horse racing let alone for playwriting. You need some deeper philosophical, political, social and artistic sense of what drama is if you’re going to encourage and develop Australian drama into its next diverse and myriad-formed existence.”
– Julian Meyrick

With this concludes our first season, on remembering theatre. But stay tuned: we have more exciting and intellectually rigorous conversations to come. Next week, we will start talking about yet another big topic: responsibility.

Podcast bibliography:
Julian Meyrick: Trapped by the Past, Why Our Theatre is Facing Paralysis (Platform Papers, Quarterly essays on the performing atrs, No 3, January 2005)
Julian Meyrick: The Retreat of Our National Drama (Platform Paper n.39)
Julian Meyrick: The Logic of Culture: The Fate of Alternative Theatre in the Post-Whitlam Period (Australasian Drama Studies, April 2014, issue 64)
Sydney Morning Herald: ‘Australian theatre exhausted and waning, claims director and academic Julian Meyrick’ (Steve Dow, May 8, 2014)

For more information about Julian Meyrick, visit his profile page on the Flinders University website.

Photo credits: Christopher Deere.

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