Letter from the President 11 April 2021

Dear Members,

I hope you found the ‘What’s On’ useful, the Society’s listing of events and opportunities for April, something I have introduced to help members stay up to date with activities. It has been posted on the website.

If you have any news, articles, reviews, items of interest, short stories or poems you would like to contribute to the weekly email, website or newsletter, please keep sending them in. Members love hearing from other members. Mary Jones has written a review of Sexual Conduct of the Middle Classes, a play she recently went to see after a long theatre drought, and Michele Revill has reviewed Becoming a Writer by Laurel Dumbrell, a book that may be of use to writers.

I received an email from the Wheeler Centre this week that included a link to Maggie O’Farrell’s talk about her book Hamnet at the Adelaide Writers’ Week 2021 and I know a few members have read it and discussed it during Book Chat. Maggie O’Farrell’s award-winning novel Hamnet gives us new and illuminating insight into Shakespeare, his masterpiece and the family that nurtured him. It is a very interesting and informative talk. You can view it HERE if you are interested. I highly recommend it.

There are plenty of writing opportunities to keep you busy during the coming weeks and also details of the ‘Sonnets, Songs and Supper’ event featuring members Mary Jones and Carla Russo. 

Until next week, happy writing,


Please send in your reviews of books about the craft of writing that you
have found useful or interesting

BECOMING A WRITER   By Laurel Dumbrell
Reviewed by Michele Revill

I think what struck me first when reading this craft book was it’s welcoming ease to the adventure of writing and it’s construction in so far as the process of drafting and redrafting. 

I might add it does not gloss over the fact that there will be inevitable challenges, but it seems that all is worth the blood, sweat and if not tears. 

Her book examines the importance of participating in a writing group, rather than shutting yourself in a room and writing, which I might add personally is okay if that works best for you. What impressed me was the reminder, and this is something we may forget, is that according to Laurel Dumbrell, “…you learn respect for the unique potential of each offering… In a group you learn to evaluate each person’s writing and your own, and appreciate the time and discipline that may have been involved producing one page of lively, polished prose.”

A group it seems is worth considering, after all as I have slowly learnt, no-man – or woman – is an island.

Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes

After a year of closed theatres, it was a joy to be back in the Sumner Theatre for Melbourne Theatre Company’s first post-Covid production, Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes, by Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch. The play explores a relationship between a lecturer and one of his female students, and inevitably invites comparisons to David Mamet’s 1992 play Oleanna, in which a University professor is accused of sexual harassment. The power imbalance in this play, though, is subtler and much less threatening. It has occasional echoes for me of Educating Rita rather than Oleanna. Jon, the lecturer, is older in years but not in emotional maturity, and some of his vulnerabilities are exposed, making him a largely empathetic character. Annie, the student, is both confident and intelligent, showing from the beginning that she’s likely eventually to surpass the academic achievements of her teacher.

The production was originally due to be part of MTC’s 2020 season, and the set design was intended for the Fairfax Theatre. Perhaps partly because of the switch to the Sumner, the set is a little confusing and distracting as it covers different scenes in different venues and time-frames. This does not detract from the excellence of the direction and the two central performances. Dan Spielman as Jon and Izabella Yena as Annie are both totally convincing, as they lead us through the stages of a relationship based on mutual intellectual and physical attraction, going on past its end and into its aftermath.

The revelation at the end of the play, which casts a whole new light on the power imbalance between the two characters, is not entirely unexpected but still makes an effective theatrical denouement. This is one of those plays that sends you home wishing you had a copy of the script to go back and savour again from the beginning.

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