Thursday, April 4, 2013
Showcasing the work of NIDA
By Frank McKone
The NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art) showcase consists of an interesting exhibition of costumes, set and costume designs and portrait paintings, and three short performances: Play House by British playwright Martin Crimp; selections from I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change! by US musical team Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Robert; and a solo peformance of Roal Dahl’s children’s story, The Witches.
The visual art work in the exhibition was excellent quality, as were the skills demonstrated in the technical work in lighting and sound, the live musicians in I Love You..., and the acting, but I felt rather as though I was watching an audition session.
When I looked more closely at the program notes by NIDA’s Director/Chief Executive Officer, Lynne Williams, I found that the only purpose of the tour is to give experience to the creative and production teams, led by three of the six directors who studied and graduated from NIDA in 2012 – Luke Rogers, Derek Walker and Lucas Jervies.
Each of the actors and the musicians is labelled ‘Guest Artist’, but without biographies or any other kind of recognition. Very strange!
The pieces chosen for what now I understood to be demonstration exercises were suprisingly light-weight. Play House was a good exercise for the actors Sam O’Sullivan (Simon) and Kate Skinner (Katrina) who competently handled the instant changes of relationship; I Love You... required strong singing and musical comedy skills, again well demonstrated by Nat Jobe, Simon Brook McLachlan, Cinzia Lee and Canberran Amy Louise Dunham; while Guy Edmonds playing all the roles in a quite manic mime/movement format in The Witches turned the children’s story into almost a holocaust scenario. Here the director, Lucas Jervies, tried too hard: Edmonds had to work hard to keep up the momentum when simple story-telling would have done the trick.
But since the actors were not the point of the productions, I’m left having to wonder why NIDA chose these items. Surely there is Australian writing, for a start, of much greater significance than any of these pieces.
According to Lynne Williams’ notes “The recently launched National Cultural Policy ushers in an era of renewed vision for the arts in Australia.” Really? If this is meant to be NIDA’s contribution – and I assume that bringing the “showcase” to the Federal Capital has something to do with policy pushing – then I couldn’t see any “vision” taking flight here.