Sydney Harbour at dusk. NSW, Australia

It’s quite easy when you live in Sydney to forget about how beautiful our harbour is and take it for granted. The greater metropolitan area of Sydney is a pretty big place covering 12,144 square kms (about 4,688 square miles) with a population of 4,254,900 and believe it or not, most of us don’t have harbor views from our homes. For many of us, going downtown is a time consuming drag that we tend to avoid in our leisure. The weather has been getting much cooler lately as winter approaches, which means there are far less tourists than usual around the Circular Quay area. So on the way to the theatre last night I took the opportunity to take these shots of Sydney Harbour.  It was enjoyable to walk around the waterfront without the summer crowds.

Circular Quay

The Sydney Opera still delights me every time I see it. It’s an amazing structure and it’s even more amazing that it was ever built when one considers how conservative Australia is at times. The large building to the right of the Opera House, known as, “The Toaster” is a testament to greed and poor taste combined with political short sightedness. How the Toaster was ever approved, when it was so universally denounced by the public, I’ll never know, but it seems such a bloody minded decision that I can’t help but feel that it has the stink of corruption about it.

Opera House and Toaster

And of course there is the Sydney Harbour Bridge, our beloved “coat hanger”.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Art of War. Sydney Theatre Company

Last night I went to see a performance of the excellent new work “The Art of War” by Stephen Jeffreys. The Art of War was specially commissioned by the Sydney Theatre Company, Actors Company. Yes the play is based on the very ancient and famous work of the same name by Sun Tzu.

Although it is an old text, Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” is still often quoted today, especially in the world of business. This new play addresses Sun Tzu’s philosophy in the context of the play’s three interlinked stories of, love, business and war.

John Gaden (photo by Tania Kelly)

The first act of the play starts off at a cracking pace and the ideas come one after the other like machine gunned crystal to the brain. I absolutely loved the way how the writing presented the ideas in exciting ways. Everything looked so clear, so relevant. It really does look like “The Art of War” can be applied to such wide areas as those explored in the play. However, the second act becomes much murkier as the complexities of real life muddy the waters of Sun Tzu’s advice. At first I thought the playwright had used all his best ideas in the first act and I felt that the play started to falter in the second act. I had the same feeling with Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. On reflection though, I think that the difference between the two acts is a reflection of the difference between the attractiveness of an idea and the reality of its implementation in messy real life. The fog of war, so to speak.

“The Art of War” is a very timely investigation of how ideological driven action without a knowledge of history and the lessons learned in the past can lead to disaster. There definitely is a subtext of rationalism versus empiricism.

The direction of Annabel Arden is very good and I was constantly pleased to see how she moved the actors around the stage; one minute they were moving like a school of fish and then the next they were forming patterns and shapes. There was also very creative use of props,  fluid segues and the humour was well timed.

For me the most compelling idea in the play was that of how philosophies can be interpreted in many different, self serving, and quite often contradictory ways. There are times when this paradox is addressed with what I thought was good effect as various characters use Sun Tzu’s tactics in seemingly opposite ways. The central question posed by the play is; can Sun Tzu’s Art of War be used in all aspects of life? Are Love and business the same as war? If you live in Sydney, I’d say it’s well worth the admission price to find out.