“I think being part of the community is key to being a good critic.”
– Jane Howard

“My rule of thumb is, if they’ve been to my house for dinner, or I’ve been to their house for dinner, I’m not going to review them.”
– Richard Watts

In the second episode of our season on responsibility and art, our guests are Jane Howard, SA-based theatre critic whose work appears in The Guardian, Kill Your Darlings and Meanjin, and Richard Watts, host of SmartArts for 3RRR, national reviews editor for ArtsHub and long-term champion of Melbourne arts.

We talk about responsibility in arts journalism and criticism: how much of it is advocacy and how much critical reflection, ignorance and how to avoid it, and how to avoid becoming friends with artists!

“One of the things that got me into reviewing in the first place was going to the theatre and hearing critics in the foyer afterwards loudly complaining about a show and then seeing a very lukewarm review, a blandly critical review published the next day. I thought “No, it’s important to actually be critical.” As much as I admired Margaret Pomeranz’ passion for Australian cinema, for example, I thought that by going soft on Australian film she did the industry and the audience a disservice.”
– Richard Watts


“I think [the larger companies] should be forced to take more risks.”
– Melissa Reeves

“Nurture the audacious. The works that you remember are works with audacity.”
– Patricia Cornelius

And… we’re back! Fleur and Jana are talking to theatre-makers from Australia and abroad, with Kieran behind the mixing desk. Our second season will tackle the topic of responsibility.

‘Responsibility’ is a word that comes up a lot in art but its meaning is as multifaceted as the artists who use. It can mean ‘duty of care’ to your fellow practitioners, ‘responsibility’ to deliver the product the subscribers are paying for or not traumatising an audience who did not consent to be traumatised. But it can also mean responsibility to be brave. Brave enough to tell the hard stories. To press on wounds that need pressing. Sometimes the old adage that art ‘holds a mirror up to society’ is far to passive. Sometimes that mirror needs smashing.

In this, the second season of Audio Stage, we are talking ‘responsibility in art’. Over the course of the next ten weeks we will be in dialogue with various practitioners, programmers and thinkers about what ‘responsibility’ means to them and how we remain ethical in art.

Our first guests are playwrights Patricia Cornelius and Melissa Reeves. We talk about responsibility in playwrighting: the words we use, the stories we tell, the people we stage, and the playwrights we give money to.

“I’ve never believed the bullshit about how audiences don’t like risk. They actually really do. I’ve seen it. I’ve been in enough audiences that are asleep and I’ve seen them wake up when there is something that unsettles them… I think an audience is dying to be offended.”
– Patricia Cornelius


“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


“At the end of Keating’s prime-ministership, he was talking about embracing complexity and multiculturalism, and the difficulties there. Howard’s masterstroke was to come in and say: “I want Australians to be comfortable about their past, their present and their future.” Which is to say, “we’re not going to talk about this anymore.” And I feel like, since that period, we have not had a robust national conversation. Where is the cultural discourse about any of this stuff? We’ve had the apology, great; but that is not the end. Kevin Rudd’s apology should have been the beginning of this, kind of, great evolution in the way Australians see themselves. But I think that’s failed.”
– Mark Wilson

“I would characterise the Australian experience as, unfortunately, having to reflect a majority, and a popular view – more than art is required to in other cultures.”
– Marcel Dorney

In episode four of Audio Stage, our studio is full. We have gathered some of our favourite people, to talk about what it means to work in contemporary Australian theatre, and operate without history. Fleur is away for a wedding (luckily, not hers!), but the magic of technology, and Kieran’s amazing production skills, keep her present. Meanwhile, Jana is joined in the studio by: Marcel Dorney, Artistic Director of Melbourne independent theatre collective Elbow Room Productions; John Kachoyan, Co-Artistic Director of MKA: Theatre of New Writing; and Mark Wilson, independent theatre-maker and dramaturg.


“Making art is a sedimentation of layers. What we make today indirectly reflects what was done before. Maybe it comes as an opposition, or a continuation, as an echo, but we need to be aware of that. And I do think that in Australia we are not aware of what’s been done.”
– Angela Conquet

In episode three, the Artistic Director of Dancehouse, Melbourne’s home of contemporary dance, Angela Conquet, joins hosts Jana Perkovic and Fleur Kilpatrick. We talk about contemporary dance in Australia, what makes it particular; about the urgency to preserve it, and whether Australia, being such a young country, is not aware of the forces of impermanence.


“There is a good side to not being crushed by culture. I think in Europe you’re really aware of the centuries and centuries of Western culture and it has all been done. One of the beautiful things about Australian writing, culture and performance is this sense that that’s not hanging over everybody. I think at its best there is a tremendous freedom in Australian performance, a huge intelligence and a kind of disrespect that’s really healthy.”
– Alison Croggon

In episode two poet, novelist, critic and commentator Alison Croggon, joins hosts Jana Perkovic and Fleur Kilpatrick. We talk about the place of the review in art documentation and how one balances the responsibilities that the critic has to the artist, the audience and to history.


“We characterise development historically as a kind of linear progression from ‘bad’ to ‘good’ to ‘better’. It is demonstrably not true. It expands, it contracts, it expands, it contracts. It is not a mechanical process. It is an organic process.”
– Robert Reid

In our first episode artist, historian and prolific contributor to Australian theatre, Robert Reid, joins hosts Jana Perkovic and Fleur Kilpatrick. The conversation gives context to this moment in performance history whilst looking to the future of documentation.

Welcome to Audio Stage, a podcast for conversations with performance makers, critics and academics.

In our first season, we tackle documentation and history. Documentation is a notoriously problematic aspect of our practice. Live performance is defined by its live-ness and yet a failure to record its intangible presence can result in a deep cultural ignorance. What we record is what we remember – if we remember at all.

In the next few episodes, We will be talking to historians, critics, artists, and programmers about selecting work, documenting work, remembering work and, thus, writing history. Enjoy, and stay tuned.

June 11, 2014