Small Metal Objects

January 15, 2007 at 6:24 am (Uncategorized)

If you are planning to see this Sydney Festival event, playing in Customs House Square until January 25, perhaps you might like to skip this post. And if you got yesterday’s Sun Herald, I hope you managed to avert your gaze from Jason Blake’s lazy and unforgivable ‘spoiler’ review of the production. You read that, and you don’t need to see it for yourself anymore. I’d actually like to know what kind of reviewer thinks a step-by-step summary amounts to a critical opinion. It seems to be the new review: summarise the plot from start to finish. That ought to do it. Film reviewers are getting right on that bandwagon, too, and so are some book reviewers. I’ll never forget one critic including in his fiction review a detailed description of a suicide, before mentioning it’s the book’s shock climax. Well, gee, thanks for the heads up, you dickhead. It certainly won’t be a shock now…

And Blake’s review of Small Metal Objects is worse, because it so thoughtlessly, selfishly pillages the company’s clever set-up for its own (oh so very limited) purposes. It just drives a big truck of stupidity right through a really subtle and beautifully executed theatrical idea that is married faultlessly to its set design. Blake? Sign posts the size of a Humvee. A plot summary with the disintegrative impact of a match thrown into a heavily sprayed head of hair. An inexplicable compulsion to spoil the surprise. It has to be one of the worst reviews I have ever read – and it was glowing, effusive, positive in the extreme. At least we can agree on something. Otherwise, were I still tutoring the Professional Writing course at UNSW, I would be running full speed to class with Blake’s excellent, explicit example of what not to do. It’s woeful.

Unlike Small Metal Objects, which is deeply impressive. The great script aside, the production’s use of space is absolutely fascinating. Customs House Square is as much a star of the show as the exceptional company from Geelong’s Back to Back Theatre. Small Metal Objects confronts all our assumptions about space, and theatrical spaces in particular, and then reeducates our eyes and ears to the much more complex truth: theatre is all around us, all the time, everywhere. And sterile commercial and commuter spaces can be riveting, very moving sites of artistic endeavour. I just loved it.



  1. Mike said,

    Again, relates back to media laziness these days. Most media ‘commentary’ is just that: a blow-by-blow ‘he-said-she-said’ rather than adding any critical analysis. Just read any newspaper article and it’s usually a summary of what other media has said (or, if you’re lucky, you get a summary straight from the horse’s mouth – but still no analysis). Of course, as with every rule, there are exceptions.

    I swear this world is becoming more and more brain dead as time marches on:
    “As long as me morgij ain’t more ‘en X% an i cn av me big fat car ‘n’ foxtel, she’ll be roite maayte — nuffink else maa-ers”

    i’m having one of those ‘crisis of confidence’ kinda-days, and everything is pissing me off today — can you tell? Probably not — I’m usually whinging about something!


  2. doctordi said,

    Mike, you do sound very embittered today! Yes, unfortunately I think media laziness is a fairly accurate reflection of our current societal apathy. No one wants to know or have to think about any of the world’s grim realities. Just keep serving up the mindless dross and all the bad and difficult things will just seep away, just as soon as another Australian Idol contestant releases their new album. Stop the presses. That whole head in the sand reflex that’s becoming such a disappointing feature of our national character keeps the country clambering to tune into easy listening/reading/watching, and means the media can safely dumb itself down, too.

    There WAS a good article in The Australian yesterday – you can probably find it online but sorry, I don’t have the link. It’s Andrew Sullivan’s analysis ‘Ideology must not be allowed to trump reality in Iraq thinking.’ But oh look, it’s from The Sunday Times in London. What a surprise.

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