Mark Thompson

As they like it: QandA’s Shakespearean turn was bardly worth it

Last night, QandA donated their weekly discussion to all things Shakespeare. But with 96% of the audience agreeing with the panel, I’m wondering what was really debated.

 

 

As Australians, we understand one thing. We have problems. We also know that our issues are many, and our public forums are few. All of which makes last night’s entirely-Shakespeare QandA episode a trifle odd. Now, actual progress enabled by angry questions raised might be hard to quantify, but QandA is an opportunity either be heard, hit the Twitter lottery, or solidify your prejudices. It’s important.

 

 

And, on the surface, sure, who doesn’t like a spot o’ Shakespeare? I’ve seen Geoffrey Rush’s dangling bits in King Lear, the bard’s words have entered the lexicon, and his musings about the hopelessness of grim repetition adorn my Tinder bio. For what it’s worth, the audience of the pro-Shakespeare episode of QandA were pro-Shakespeare.

 

 

Cool. But, I have to ask, was it really necessary? I mean, there were great minds on the panel present, including Nakkiah Lui (who you should definitely go see her plays) reduced to discussing the bard in a manner dangerously similar to humouring that one dinner guest who just stumbled across him in first year drama, and as a result, attempts to twist every subject discussed through the prism of Shakespeare.

Alas, even if it was tongue-in-cheek, or if it was an intermission in the usually rolling storm of discourse that represents normal service, it came off as a bit, well, facetious. Especially when the topics at hand were actual problems, but they were crippled by their method of delivery. They fired in the format of soliloquy, not debate. Whitesplaining, climate change, and even the instability of our government were shoehorned into Shakespeare’s loafers. The problem with doing this, is that it gives those who disagree with an easy out. If they don’t treat it seriously, why should we. This is naked stereotype here, but if someone attempted to convince you that offshore detention is actually a positive, because the writings of Jimmy Barnes are real good, our iris would detatch from the cornea, given the force of our dismission.

 

 

 

 

Ostensibly, it was a panel that agreed with the audience on a topic beyond reproach. Which, any way you cut it, is not really QandA. We didn’t even get a chance to be angry. MeToo was fielded, as was the question of whether the government should fund more theatre, pitched to the theatre community. There was even the question of how Bill wrote minorities back in 1600. It was, a communal nod. What was missing, was the attendance of someone we had to convince. Having him appear via hologram or ouija board would have been more the QandA brand. Having Bill face the baying mob of the unhappy, unwell…and explain yourself. What we expect of Bill Shorten, we should expect of Bill Shakespeare, or whoever dare sits on the panel.

My point is that Shakespeare will remain a constant, he’ll forever be an option participated on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday evening. But he’s a luxury, he sits outside the problems that we wake to each day. I won’t list the particular things that need debating in this country at this moment, because it is a subjective list. One up for debate. We need that back.

 

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