Wow, it’s been a year since my last literary week post. How did that happen? I have had many literary weeks since then – haha – including a few that I even thought writing about, but each time something got in the way. This time, though, I’m not letting it …
Family values …
I was inspired to write this post by seeing a performance of Australian playwright David Williamson’s latest (and possibly last) play, Family values, this week. It is quintessential Williamson, I’d say – a satire in which a contemporary issue/ethical or moral concern is explored during an event or tightly defined period, in this case a retired judge’s 70th birthday party for “family only”. (Don’s party, for example, is set during an election night party, The club takes place over a football season, and Travelling north during a family holiday, to name a few well-known examples.)
What Williamson does is use satire to skewer some aspect of modern Australian life and values. In Family values, his target is our treatment of asylum-seekers/refugees. So, we have the successful but conservative recently retired judge Roger, and his tolerant but definitely not down-trodden wife, Sue, preparing for the birthday party. They are joined by their three, all divorced, adult children – daughter Lisa who arrives early with the recently medevac’d and now escaped refugee Saba, born-again Hillsong devotee Michael, and Emily who brings her partner Noelene. Lisa’s plan is to get Saba away to the family holiday house before Emily and Noelene, Border Force employees both, arrive. Of course, she doesn’t, and the stage is set for a family conflagration over values, priorities, and politics – all complicated by longheld childhood grievances.
It was highly entertaining as Williamson always is. I’m sure most of us watching could see bits of ourselves, and/or of our lives, in one or more of the characters. The set was effective, with its central staircase going nowhere, the actors did excellent jobs with their parts, and there were genuinely funny moments, but the satire was a little too obvious and some of the speeches were just that much too preachy and declamatory for me*. Mr Gums found it distressing because of the cruel intractability of our government’s attitude to asylum-seekers, but I’m afraid I was somewhat distracted by the play’s didacticism, despite its heartbreaking theme. However, the play’s heart is absolutely in the right place and I did enjoy the evening.
Coincidentally, we are currently watching and enjoying the new Australian television series Stateless, which is also about our cruel mismanagement and mistreatment of asylum-seekers. It, though, is drama, and so quite different to Williamson’s satirical approach. All of this has reminded me that I need to read Behrouz Boochani’s No friend but the mountains, which will give me a first person account of what it’s like to be an asylum-seeker to Australia.
Miss Fisher … an interlude
We also saw, in the last week, the Australian feature film, Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears, which was inspired by the very popular Australian television series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, which itself was inspired by the popular Phryne Fisher 1920s-30s set detective novels by Australian novelist Kerry Greenwood. It was fun, but, although I like much of screenwriter Deb Cox’s work, this story and the production pushed my disbelief beyond my comfort level. However, as always, I did love Phryne’s clothes and derring-do!
Quote of the week
Having included a Quote of the Week in my last two literary week posts, I’m continuing the tradition. This post’s quote, coming from Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the bodies (my review), is, however, not new:
What is the nature of the border between truth and lies? It is permeable and blurred because it is planted thick with rumour, confabulation, misunderstandings and twisted tales. Truth can break the gates down, truth can howl in the street; unless truth is pleasing, personable and easy to like, she is condemned to stay whimpering at the back door.
Like most, I read Bring up the bodies soon after it came out, but I have just seen this quote in the free little reading guide – The world of Wolf Hall – which I picked up in our local independent bookstore, Harry Hartog, last weekend. It is one of the guide’s two epigrams, and seems strangely applicable to our times! I’ll leave it with you …
* That said, I did love Williamson’s “going forward” joke.