Poseurs in uproar over David Williamson's play "Don Parties On"

The "superior" people despise anything that is popular. The fact that Williamson is as Leftist as they are doesn't save him. Being popular is the unforgiveable sin to their envious minds.

That any theatre company would knock back the opportunity to stage a new Williamson play is almost inconceivable, particularly a sequel to his most famous play. It shows how deep their hate and envy is.

Although he is a Leftist, Williamson is a brilliant and accurate observer of Australians, so when he puts our follies in front of us, that makes us laugh.

Miranda Devine

At the opening night last week of David Williamson's latest play, Don Parties On, the Sydney audience was laughing so much at times the actors had to repeat their lines. Bruised from a bashing by Melbourne's black turtleneck theaterati, Williamson - Australia's most successful playwright - laughed along and looked utterly delighted at the reaction to his sequel to the iconic 1971 Don's Party.

During the curtain call and extended applause, Garry McDonald, who plays Don, gestured at Williamson from the stage. The applause ratcheted up so much that Williamson got to his feet and waved at the cheering crowd. Bob Hawke - one of a dozen politicians in the audience - even stood to applaud the maligned playwright.

The reaction was hardly what one snide reviewer the next day described as a few cheap chuckles. And what a difference it was to the thin-lipped, crossed-armed reaction on Melbourne's opening night.

But disparaging Williamson has become a badge of belonging in the arts world, despite the fact his plays have kept Australian theatre solvent for more than 30 years. His work is slammed as too bourgeois, too commercial, too accessible to mainstream audiences.

One particularly bilious online critique described Williamson as an "ageing irrelevance" whose writing was "fat, lazy and stupid". Williamson was so wounded he wrote hundreds of words in blog comments in reply, his graciousness being a credit to him.

It is an indictment of our taxpayer-subsidised theatre industry that Don Parties On, which, despite the critics, ended up a smash hit at the Melbourne Theatre Company, was rejected by the Sydney Theatre Company, whose artistic directors are Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton.

Instead, Williamson had to hunt around for an independent commercial producer to take it on. Enter Rachel Healy, who had just left her post as Opera House performing arts director. She found a private investor and put a chunk of her own money into the production in Sydney for 21 performances.

"The critics and the arts community have a response to Williamson you would never see elsewhere," she says. "He brings thousands of people out from their couch to (be) incredibly entertained. But it's bizarre that being entertaining is something to be ashamed of (when) the prime motivator for people to go to the theatre is entertainment."

But of course, if you are an insecure philistine posing as a sophisticated arts appreciator, you won't trust art that is entertaining, beautifully constructed, and coherent. Poseurs like to consume obscure niche art -- no matter how bad -- because it marks them as superior.


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