Of course, if there had to be one kookaburra with a sweet tooth, he’d end up in my yard. We have been rinsing the dregs of honey and jam jars out for the lorikeets (who usually aren’t that appreciative, to be honest), but the day Himself put out the left over icing, well, somebody went nuts for it.
Now, whenever I’m in the garden, I hear the low trill of a kookaburra letting me know he’s nearby and waiting. Oh dear.
The other poor animal I’ve ruined is the little scalped lorikeet. I’m not sure how he ended up so thoroughly scalped, but scalped he was, but aside from that he seems fine and happy, it’s even growing back, a little, at the back, like an odd bright blue mohawk. The only changes to that wee critter is that he’s tamer and fatter than his brethren, because somebody was all sooky with him when he really did look quite dreadful.
Parrots come and go, the table service is never to their satisfaction, but I did see a bearded dragon sunning itself by the banks of the river on the way to the theatre.
It was supposed to be a wet weekend, as advertised, when I booked my tickets, but no, the most perfect day for weeding ever (and I’d already been rebuked over the grass in the front yard so it needed doing). Ah, well. I did see a Globe screening of Antony and Cleopatra, or Clony, as I kept calling them, and it was fabby. I know some folks take issue with all the romping and cavorting at the Globe, but I’d rather that than some of the dread earnest pieces I’ve sat through. Himself didn’t snore, which I take to a solid indicator of entertainment value.
It’s really Cleopatra’s story, from start to finish, which is probably why you don’t see it performed a lot, and never in film (not properly), and I liked the human moments taking precedent over the big off-stage battles (lack of CGI FX means ye olde playwright had to actually develop character – discuss) and I still such a Shakespeare fan. He writes the best roles for women.
The other great play with a strong woman demanding and taking centre stage was Venus in Fur at the Darlinghurst Theatre, and this I loved. I’d not been to the Darlinghurst Theatre before (though it’s closer to work than the Belvoir) and it was a lovely little theatre, with the nicest front of house staff (the guy who made my cocktail, yes, they had Venus in Fur cocktails and I’d had a day, also took my ticket and asked how I’d enjoyed the drink – I like that attention to detail).
Before that they’d had a dinner deal with a nearby restaurant that I signed on for out of expediency (figuring I’d not have time to wander the streets aimlessly, nor did I) and it was a bit meh, and omfg, that loud, loud drunk lady at the next table you could hear from the street, but the food was nice, and if you ever want to pretend you’re in an episode of Number 96, then I’d recommend it. But it very much added to the flavour of the evening.
Anyways, I’d wanted to see the play, having read about it performing elsewhere, and from what I’d seen and read, this appeared to be a very faithful staging, and that’s exactly what I wanted. And it was good, the acting was great, fantastic, and even though I could see where it was going a mile off, and the sex games seemed to rather overdo the whole discussion of gender roles, I did like it. Very much so.
I’ve also seen the Belvoir’s Seventeen, it of the viral Twitter campaign that managed to secure the rights to a Taylor Swift song – and it was worth it, the dance was hilarious. What was Seventeen? Well, it wasn’t complex, it wasn’t deep, and yet it was. It was a cast of older actors playing teenagers, getting drunk, dropping truth bombs. That was it, pretty much, but it’s simplicity, it’s joy, it’s sadness, it was a delight.
Thus proving, dear Belvoir, that not everything has to be avant-garde, enfant terrible, obtuse, abstract and just plain awful to be art. A simple tale, well told and well acted, is a thousand times more memorable and enjoyable.
But you know me, I go to the theatre to be entertained, not lectured to, so I’m weird that way.
Which is probably why I didn’t enjoy NT Live’s Everyman that much, as it was, well, a morality play, so it was nothing but lecture, but honestly, it was a bit 80s, no, make that way too much 80s, and the synchronised coke snorting, well, yes. I’m surprised nobody was wearing red braces. So yes, it was big on the Christian themes, but to be honest, the whole ‘don’t be a dick’ thing is very Aristolean, and while I’m totally on board with that, there was just too much gold and fluro for me to cope with. Also, Himself snored all the way through, so that’s a low score on the snore index.
I did enjoy NT Live’s Man and Superman though, just to be difficult, as it was nothing but lectures about morality and gender roles, but as I’m a massive Shaw fan, and it was Ralph Fiennes at the height of his powers, it was just so bloody wonderful. I loved every minute of it (alas, it suffered a middling score on the snore index).
And am I right in thinking the devil in Man and Superman was far more entertaining, and thoughtfully provocative than god in Everyman. It must be true what they say, the devil really does get the best lines – grin.
Less concerned with gran themes, but still on redemption and what it is to be a good man (or good dog/cat) was Brendan Cowell’s The Dog and The Cat at the Belvoir. This was downstairs in the broom closet and so I was lucky to get tickets because it was so very wickedly funny. Oh so Sydney and very autographical, Brendan even castigates himself in the script as only being able to write what he knows, but what he does write is so acutely observed for all its absurdity. Brendan is a funny, funny man, and stamps his works so completely that even when the male lead is being played by someone else (here and in the film he’s got out) you’re still watching Brendan Cowell. And I don’t have a problem with that.
I also went to see Of Mice and Men at the Seymour Centre, mainly because I’d missed the NT Live screening of the Broadway production, and it was niggling at me and so off I went. And, oh my, that was a night. Firstly, I walked there because I thought I ought, and it was a lovely evening, and then they had mulled cider for sale, which made me very merry indeed, and I’m kind of fond of the Seymour, even though it still screams university property (there are so few English speaking students now the drama club has folded).
Anyways, what a production. Even though I vaguely knew the plot (spoilers) and it was very much foreshadowed with the mouse and the dog, it was such a tight twisting turn to the very end, and it such a small stage, it was magnificent. So visceral and raw, so simple in setting and telling. There was a review about casting the perfect old dog for the first act, and they had – either the reviewer went the night I did or audience members sob into their scarves every night. Whoops, spoilers.
So, yes, the cast was amazing, right down to the dog, and Sport For Jove always do amazing, faithful, versions. (Honestly, you don’t need fluoro lights to zing up a play, you just need smashing actors). Loved it.
In fact, I’ve enjoyed this year. I missed out on the usual subscriptions, but I like it better this way. Instead of having to bundle shockingly awful plays with the good ones I’m instead picking and choosing what I want to see from all over the place.
Which is why I went to see the Bell Shakespeare Company’s Hamlet down in Melbourne.
I’d never been further than the foyer of the Melbourne Arts Centre before, and let me tell you, the fake brass and fake red velvet go all the way down, well, until you go even further down and then it’s wall to wall aubergine and steel. It looks like a large suburban RSL (oh dear). The effect was to have me quaffing a large glass of red even though my recent heightened allergies make such an action questionable in the extreme. Fortunately, no such after effects, and my seat, purchased only a fortnight before, wasn’t that good, but, ah, the play’s the thing.
I heard grumblings on the way out (and I wasn’t with Himself but still somehow expected to elbow the snorer beside me, a complete stranger), but I loved it. I liked the vaguely modern, vaguely not indeterminate setting, I loved the rather obvious references to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and I loved Josh. Josh McConville, best Hamlet I’ve seen yet. Angrier than Tennant, more present than Law, even better than, yes, way better than Schmitz. My boy Josh, he kept it real.
So, yes, I was down in Melbourne. Again. Because Bowie.
Yes, the V&A David Bowie Is exhibition, or some of it, at least, had made it as far as Melbourne, and oh yes, another pilgrimage was called for. Demanded.
So off I set, to the Friday night session (having been up since ye gods early in the am and still having to wait three hours for my flight so it paid to be prudent) in a special occasion dress I’d bought that afternoon (because there was no morning in Melbourne, grumble) to wait in the Bowie bar. This was my plan. As they had timed tickets I figured I go the night they had the bar going, hoping it be more fun and mean no pram – yes and yes. In fact the bar, which I think they were hoping to be a sophisticated affair, devolved into a school disco by the end of the evening. Best ever. Still, Bowie, I hope, would have enjoyed the crowds as just about everyone had carefully curated their outfits and there were some amazing looks –outstanding. So waiting in the bar was definitely a great entrée to the night (not an American entrée, because that just makes no sense).
And I did enjoy myself. Not quite the same as seeing it the first time, in London, but the wine buzz was happening, the crowd way way, way, way groovier and friendlier, and they only thing that made my smile turn upside down was how small it was (two rooms as opposed to the V&A labyrinth) and how ACMI had insisted on organising it objectively rather than subjectively, as Australian museums will insist on doing, so it lost all context, and it a Bowie show, that’s just so not right, as the original show took in the many ages, phases and faces of Bowie as he changed from one creation to the next, lived one moment to the next, and it was like a journey, An odyssey.
Here instead we had all the lyrics in one cabinet, so you couldn’t watch and sign along with the video, while admiring the video costume and album cover work. Nope, costumes all against one wall, so Ashes to Ashes was standing shoulder to shoulder with Life on Mars, and all the videos wee against the other, on a loop so you couldn’t see them all, ditto the films.
So that was a touch annoying and disappointing, as discovering he’d actually written down the ‘beep beeps’ and singing along to Starman had been highlights before. But the crowd was fun, the bar was fun, and I did really enjoy myself, more than I feared I would, second time around.
So there I was, walking back with my Bowie bag of loot (exit, through the gift shop), like a salmon swimming upstream against the be-scarved hordes of the football stadium which had just got out (no idea, Victorian teams are more foreign to me than UK teams). But the hotel was close (my favourite, I even had the same room) and they had cheese toasties on the late night menu so I sat at the bar devouring that, and then everyone came in and ordered one (my, I was popular for that one, as the night-kitchen wasn’t prepared to make a dozen, all at once).
A grand night out. It truly was. I’m so glad I went.
And if you don’t know by now I’m a mad keen Bowie fan, well. Not that I have the albums. I bought one, once, as a kid (I never had pocket money but my Dad taught me to pick up loose change in the lane behind the pub and I managed a nice little nest egg, let me tell you) and was dragged by my ear back to the shop by the auld harpy and made to exchange it for a lesser work by lesser artists (let’s not compare the prices on ebay, lest I get my blood pressure up again). But yeah, going to the Bowie exhibition is always a revel in what I enjoy, illicitly enjoy, and a big FU to the auld harpy, so win/win all round, in my book. And I had fun, real, proper fun.
Ah, but it wasn’t all Bowie and the Bard. Oh no. The other big ticket item on the agenda was catching the tram out to Rippon Lea, a grand old estate, and going to the Phryne Fisher exhibition. That was also big fun. Once again, Melbourne did itself proud. The front of house staff were so very friendly and helpful (unlike the National Trust nazi I was accosted by up here) and Rippon Lea is the best and the exhibition was so much fun. Not just room after wonderful room of fabulous costumes from the series, but they’d also set up a murder mystery, with clues and props hidden in every room. Groups were going through in costume! Ah, Melbourne, so not Sydney (and thus all that it needs to be). That was so much fun. I went around twice, once to ogle the costumes and once to solve the mystery.
Then I had tea and sandwiches in the shed/stables, which looked like it had been set decorated especially for the exhibition, and then a wander around the grounds in the wintery sun (when the sun vanished it was colder than Glamis castle in the snow, I kid you not). That was also quite nice. I saw spring blossoms and ducklings.
I also stumbled across a book fair, featuring every book I’ve ever wanted (oh dear, lugged back a suitcase full of books) and I took in the wartime art exhibition, which featured emotional blackmailing WWI posters, even stranger WWII filmed propaganda, embroidery from Changi and a tracing of the nose cone of Enola Gay. All very strange, horrible, funny and moving. Yes, funny, the small sculpture of the two American sailors rolling drunk was a lark.
So that was my trip to Melbs. Magnificent moments from start to finish. Even a walk through a mad Blade Runner-esque art nouveau laneway in the rain was magical.
Couldn’t live there, though. I’m worried the wonderful would become ordinary. Can’t have that. I need somewhere to runaway to (somewhere that isn’t Adelaide).
More Sydney theatre in the form of the STC’s The Present. Check out the cast: Cate Blanchett, Richard Roxburgh, Toby Schmitz, Eamon Farren, Jacqueline McKenzie–on stage, all at the same time! Well, mostly, you know.
And it was great, very, wickedly funny, even if it was a bunch of bored middle-class white folks bitching and moaning and waving guns around – because it’s Chekhov. Someone always waves a gun around during Chekhov. By heck, Toby even grabbed a guitar and sang A New England (one of my so very favourite songs) for reasons not entirely clear but not caring. (A thought occurs, if Toby’s here, should I expect Black Sails spoilers?).
Richard, as ever, was in his element with the drunk acting and aging lothario bit (basically, as the Herald rightly observed, turning Rake up to eleven), Cate ran from bored to brittle to wild and back again, and Eamon’s eye rolls could be seen from the back row (where I was, or near enough).
On the snore index, high marks indeed (i.e. no snoring, and guffaws, even).
Also, there was a Q&A with the cast, alas high-jacked by budding actors putting themselves forward 9the bane of all Q&As) but still pretty interesting (and Richard was taking this performance very seriously, whereas others he’s been more light-hearted in the Q&As). Cate meanwhile singled out a member of the audience for their particular laughter (oh, she’s a wicked one).
And still more, the sponsors threw on a soiree so there were packets of gooey macarons (due to my dear coat’s capacious pockets I ‘accidentally’ acquired two packets), nibbles including sliders to die for and goat cheese tarts and free drinks, oh man, the drinks – they kept refilling my glass (at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). That was dinner (and morning tea).
A grand night out indeed. And I didn’t spill anything down my beloved green spotty dress. Yay.
Reading? A couple of Rebus novels in-between my harder going tomes. Just dragged myself through through the Divine Comedy, and now onto Scott’s Waverly. I was hoping it’d be at least a bit Outlandery, as it seems to share an awful lot of similarities in plot, but I tell ya, if it doesn’t kick off soon I’m going to lose my patience with it (never mind the misogynistic intro by some puckered old Oxford queen, I mean don, who railed against female novelists of the 19th century, including St Jane, while praising Scott; a very shaky premise imo on what I’ve struggled through so far).
Telly? Enjoying Humans at the moment. Colin Morgan notwithstanding, I just like the slow burn plot. Lots of interesting ideas and philosophies are woven through the narrative without being particularly shrill (like Doctor Who tends to be these days, yes, I said it).
Ditto loving Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. I know it wasn’t well received but I like it very much. It reminds me entirely of the creepy, weird and off-kilter British shows I used to watch as a kid in the 70s (usually featuring those harbingers of doom, morris dancers). So I like it, I really do. I think the actor playing Jonathan Strange should be the next Doctor, and I just love the weird.
Penny Dreadful, of course, continues to be a lurid dark fairy tale, and I’ve no problem with that (I even ended up watching the League of Extraordinary Gentleman, my other dose of Rox this week).