Lilias and P.B.

I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time in a single space recently: the foyer of Griffin Theatre in Darlinghurst. I’ve been filling in some bouncer shifts (not in any serious muscular sense, we just can’t let glass out on to the street or neighbours/council will get mad).

As my job is to watch that people don’t drink outside, which is definitely up the easy end of a easy-hard job continuum, people-watching is inevitable. And I witnessed, on Wednesday night, one particular clash of lifestyles that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind.

Standing right in front of me was a North Shore quartet, all robust 50-somethings, dressed in shades of brown, white, and navy. The men stroked the biceps of the women when they were making a point and the women had that vitality that comes from rich pilates. They spoke of their friends and the holidays planned for the coming years (two friends that stood out were Lilias and P.B. I am still struggling to think of more perfect North Shore names.) I’ve been forcing myself to remember that all four of these have more than likely experienced incomparable suffering, but you could not see it in their faces.

It was almost as though someone had made a pre-play play in the foyer and asked what the polar opposite of this quartet would be, and then placed them beside each other. Spilling onto the street was the most glorious group of misfits that I have ever seen. I wasn’t able to work out who this group was run by but it was clear that it some sort of specifically designed social outing (the two women running it were wearing permanent-marker name-tags). There was an overweight woman with a brightly-stretched top, short hair, and black hoop earrings, who was trying to explain to the group what she thought the play was going to be about (“love and climate change, I think”). There were two young men wearing matching fedoras; one who must have had a twisted spine for he limped quite heavily on his right leg. The other had a very narrow, ginger face and perfectly round glasses. There was a much older man who had a tie-dyed hessian bag and walrus moustache (who happened, by sheer coincidence I think, to be wearing the same sandals as the brightly-coloured woman. These two were also both called Max, which was a favoured talking point).

My favourite, however, was the first man who arrived (maybe twenty minutes before anybody else). He had hair that I think was meant to have been peroxide blonde but was instead a light sherbert orange. It was combed out straight from a part centred down his scalp but rather than being combed over the curve of his head it just stuck out straight, like a graduation hat. He wore a fluoro pink polo shirt with denim jeans and a denim jacket. His smile was the most beautiful thing about him – it was slightly uncertain but also seemed glad, somehow. He had crooked teeth.

Think about this group next to the North Shore quartet.

cotton wool panic

Tonight I went and saw Ian Meadow’s Between Two Waves at Griffin Theatre. It was bleak and beautiful; indeed, much more can be said for it except that one mome

nt made all else fade into the background for me, like the snake-fuzzy hiss of bad radio

feedback.

The protagonist has high anxiety about the general malaise of man and his destruction of the world, which is compounded in one scene by his inability to explain to ‘the girl’ that he had meant to call but his own social awkwardness had rendered him incapable of action. She proceeds to rant/rave around stage, blissfully unaware of his rising panic, until he is brought to his knees with an anxiety attack, choking and spluttering apologies about his behaviour. The girl begins to photograph him, which only exacerbates his terror (watching him I could feel my own lungs filling with cotton wool stuffed hysteria).

Something breaks through, though – she finally sees him. And what does she do? She kneels down in front of him, takes his face between her hands and gently kisses his mouth. She keeps his lips on hers, having panic-air blown into her own lungs until his chest-heaves slowly even out.

She literally swallowed his panic.

And they just sat there, their lips glued together, as the lights slowly faded around them.

Theatre, right? Fuck.