Taking the Risk for Creativity

Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon


follow passion, encourage talent, be creatively opportunistic’ – Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon

Over the last few months, I’ve been to a number of theatre productions. Stage, ballet, contemporary dance and music. Some have been extraordinary. The boundaries of creativity pushed, where  an engagement between the performer and audience beyond a passive show and tell experience, has been demanded. Others have pushed, taken risks, but not quite achieved that perfect intersection of ideas, performance, design and delivery.

One of the productions that didn’t quite work for me was Graeme Murphy’s production of Romeo and Juliet for The Australian Ballet. The set design, costuming, performance and much of the choreography were spectacular. But the central drama, the emotion of the narrative, was lost amongst the busy-ness. Murphy’s desire to convey the universality of the story and themes overshadowed the poignancy and tragedy of the ‘star-crossed lovers’.

Romeo and Juliet

And I say that as someone who has admired Graeme Murphy’s work for nearly 30 years (ooh – that hurts! But I was only 2 – okay 20, when I first fell in love with his Cupid skateboarding down a ramp in the Sydney Dance Co.’s ‘Daphnis and Chloé). Murphy’s reworking of Swan Lake is hauntingly, heartbreakingly beautiful and still moves me to tears when I watch the DVD.

Murphy is not only a sublime choreographer for ballet, musicals and film, his productions for Opera Australia are also fabulous, sumptuous and original. Going to a Murphy production will always be interesting, will always have moments of breathtaking genius and creativity. Even the productions that are not ‘successful’.

As a writer I am inspired by Graeme Murphy and his partner and creative associate, Janet Vernon. They are risk-takers, willing to explore and experiment, to gamble with the possibility of failure in a very public sphere. It takes courage, commitment and a belief in your ability and talent to allow yourself to be so publicly vulnerable. It is easy to be ‘safe’, to write without challenging yourself or your reader; to adopt an attitude of ‘settling for’ rather than pushing through.

And for me, much of my procrastination centres on the knowledge that ‘settling for’ will not satisfy me, and yet, pushing through, the risk-taking, can be a daunting prospect.

I’ve yet to bulldoze my way through the envelope, but I have stepped through and then retreated. Working on my 2nd draft, the editing and re-writing of my novel I realise that now is the time to bulldoze.

Wish me luck!

Watch the skateboarding Cupid, danced by a very young Paul Mercurio.