Writer. Podcaster. Crepuscular pedestrian. Hero of our times.
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Cultural criticism

The role of the law in upholding human rights: a study of Debbie Mortimer SC

Published in December 2012, this biographical essay about Debbie Mortimer SC (as she then was) was commissioned by Meanjin.

Ordinary people, says Mortimer, don’t tend to need the protection of human rights laws:

It’s people on the margins. It’s once you get in the hands of a police officer. It’s if you happen to be same-sex attracted, if you happen to be different from the comfortable majority, then it matters. And that’s like every other exercise of power. It’s not to the comfortable majority that it matters, but exercises of power matter to people who aren’t in the comfortable majority.30

Where the ‘comfortable majority’ begins and ends is a question Mortimer seems to regard as under constant review.


The Melbourne International Comedy Festival: a critique

Published in Meanjin in 2011, this essay about the Melbourne International Comedy Festival was commissioned by then editor Sophie Cunningham to mark the festival's anniversary. You can hear me talk about the essay with Jon Faine, Christos Tsiolkis and Arj Barker on The Conversation Hour here and discussing it on Radio National with festival director Susan Provan here

If the MICF must continue to support international guests with its own resources, it should establish clearer guidelines in consultation with participants. Otherwise these structures combined with the longevity of Provan’s directorship will continue to perpetuate the sense, keenly felt by the comedy-performance community, of a closed shop.

Contemporary theatre in Australia

This is a CAL/Meanjin essay called 'Like this little spririt that wafts: contemporary theatre in Australia'. The essay was commissioned by Sophie Cunningham, then the editor of Meanjin. It was published in 2010. 

At the centre of the current resistance to traditional plays is the question of authenticity. The current crop of theatre-makers reject as crass the idea that the actors on stage are pretending, that sets and costumes and accents are being used to represent an aspirational reality. Experimental theatre that fossicks through the experience of the everyday to expose the fake authenticity of ‘realistic’ theatre suggests that the job of locating genuine authenticity and arbitrating its ethical dilemmas lies with us. Whether other, newer, non-Anglo voices, or stories that depend on narrative specificity can speak authentically within either of these remains uncertain.