saturday night

If I ever have to define an adventure for somebody I’m going to explain what happened last Saturday night.
We were meant to be seeing a play. Decided not to. Had drinks instead on William St in an empty pub save for the tennis blaring on the platinum TV screens and a couple waiting for Godot (one of these men found Federer incredibly frustrating and worked it out by swearing at his bowl of nuts). This pub was remarkable only for the number of sneaky hidden steps (like the constant surprise of silent letters) that filled it. I think there must have been quite a few hidden cameras for the staff to pass the time watching everybody, drunk or sober, trip up.
Dinner. Bill and Toni’s on Stanley Street. White paper tablecloth. A constant supply of orange cordial. A schnitzel on a plate (just a schnitzel, save for the over-steamed carrot sticks trying to kamakaze off the side). ‘Salad’: chopped up iceberg lettuce. An unashamed/beautiful bowl of tomato sauce.
Move to the footpath outside with beers.
Move across the street to The Hazy Rose. Perhaps one of the coolest bars I’ve ever been in, but without the hipster-intimidation of most. On special, fresh summer fruit juiced in front of you with your favourite liquor. Cue frothy pineapple and rum. Cue The Clash’s London Calling. Cue Chuck Berry’s ‘You Never Can Tell’ and Pulp-Fiction-dancing. Cue overwhelming joy.
Midnight strikes. Bar closes. Head towards Town Hall to catch the bus home.
Wait a second. There are people in Hyde Park having fun. Let’s go look. 1.5 minutes later and we’ve joined the Sydney Festival Up Late crowd. Try to follow another girl who we think has found a way to sneak into the Spiegeltent. End up in the disabled toilet with said girl. Partake in the confusing sparkling/regular water tap system. Watch a group of girls dancing in a circle. The one guy in their party walks away and they immediately disband. Watch the beauty of people dancing by themselves. Watch the tables and tables of carefully made mess – hair, clothes, mannerisms. Smile at the Festival staff, all who are incredibly friendly and dressed in bracers.
Leave again for bus. Walk past woman (with a partly shaved head and dreadlocks on the rest, swept up in a bun. It was like a tsunami of hair) and man smoking weed just outside Festival barrier, staring at the trees.
Abandon bus – plan to aim for Circular Quay, for water. Walk through Pitt St Mall, drinking beer. A French man approaches, asks for a swig so he can wash down the pill he’s just swallowed. Start talking to him and his friend, both who seem to be caricatures of attractive Parisian males. Start walking with them towards a hard-dub-deep-bass-something club around the corner. Stand for a bit as they finish their cigarattes.
The one I talk to – Mr Pill – has an exquisitely trimmed beard and a cap that seems a very real extension of his face. He talks to me about the danger of growing up in the outer suburbs of Paris. About how his cousin is a drug dealer who’s learnt the magic rule – don’t take your own product and you’ll make a whole bunch of money. Also, when dope-heads come at you, you’ll have a clear head and know whether it’s a good idea to knife them or not. This man I was talking to is never bothered by anybody – I think the cousin’s knifing skills might stretch beyond dope fiends.
Walk down into the belly of a building. Music ripples towards us like a heat wave. We find out it’s $25 each to get in and quickly pivot back up the stairs, abandoning our French men to the darkness.
Start off towards the harbour again. Pass a pair of abondoned trousers – someone decided they could do without – and a surprising number of abandoned girls with heels bigger than their skirts.
Walk past The Ivy. Everyone standing outside, security and patrons alike, looks hard and mean. Neon dresses. Hair-gel that could cut like a knife. Tightened muscles under tight shirts.
Make it to the Quay. Sit on a bench and look at the watery Harbour Bridge and its solid cousin, the dancer and the drugdealer. There are a surprising amount of people that walk around at 2am.
Go to some pub to pee. This one also has a tricky front step. Play a game at the bar – pretend we’re strangers and we’re trying to pick each other up except each line we use has to be more outrageous than the last. First person to laugh loses.
Go and wait for our bus.
Invest in some McDonald’s chips. Only two people are working and they’re handwriting orders. Suddenly a mile-long queue is behind us and there’s one guy at a table with a mountain of burgers, laughing at all the hungry people.
Go and wait for our bus, again.
Get on.
Go home.
It’s 4am when we find our pillows.

Lesson: aim to catch the last bus.


RianI went and saw Rian last night for Sydney Festival.

“Joyous and exhilarating, the latest creation from Irish dance company Fabulous Beast is a thrilling evening of music and dance.

For this internationally acclaimed work, director and choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan collaborates with composer Liam Ó Maonlaí of Hothouse Flowers, drawing inspiration from Ó Maonlaí’s 2005 solo album Rian (‘mark’ or ‘trace’  in Gaelic).

In a dynamic celebration of Ireland’s roots and traditions, Celtic sounds are mixed with elements of West African music, as eight dancers  from around the world unite with  five of Ireland’s top musicians.

There is reverie and release as the music propels the dancers across the stage, empowering them to make their mark.”

I have no words. Last night, I finally realised my failure in being able to express myself only through language.

What I saw on stage was magic. Not kitsch-card-trick magic. Real magic. Real Gaelic magic.

The music made my bones vanish.

And the dancers. One vignette may suffice: a skinny woman in a green shift with short hair, rolling her body through the air like her joints were ball-bearings. And she smoked a cigarette the whole time.


Sometimes the internet is a blessed thing. Of course a Tumblr blog entitled Cats That Look Like Pin Up Girls exists.

Yesterday I saw two shows at Carriageworks as part of Sydney Festival: It’s Dark Outside and Othello C‘est Qui.

Othello C’est Qui‘s blurb:

“Of all the roles for black actors in the western world, Othello is by far the most powerful and legendary. Yet Shakespeare’s famous Moor is barely known in Africa.

Across this cultural divide, Ivory Coast-born performer Franck Edmond Yao and German actress Cornelia Dörr unite to interrogate the confrontational world of Othello and Desdemona. Sharp, political and sensual, Othello c’est qui (Othello who’s that) is a liberating exploration of cultural clichés and boundaries.

The actors reveal their distinctly expressive playing styles as they parody traditional Othello performances with candour. Together they pull apart themes of colonialism, migration, religion and politics in an urgent, seemingly improvised way.

This award-winning production creates a tough yet moving portrait of prejudice and the theatre itself.”

The moment that crystallised this production (aside from the stunning performance itself) were the two women sitting in front of us in the audience. Theatre etiquette should be pretty easy to follow – minimise auxiliary sound production, engage with the performers, etc. Not only did these women bring hot chips (one in tupperware, the other in extra-crinkly foil), they also brought extra gassy soft drink, which sighed quite loudly every time they opened the bottle, and turned their phones on to check they were on silent (ensuring that nice warm Nokia welcome note rang out).

This, however, was only a prelude. At the end of the show they both got up to leave and one of the women turned to the other, leant over, and said:

“I think Othello must be about jealousy. Yes, that must be why they referenced it so much.”

When I recounted this vignette to my Dad, rather than being amused he turned to me and said something along the lines of the following. He said that he’s never understood how Mum, Amy, and I can go and see so much theatre, and not be superhumans. I was gobsmacked.

Just take the two shows we saw yesterday: one was intensely moving and the other provoked ideas about performativity and race that had never occurred to me. Why am I still this same person? Surely they pushed my mind and stretched my heart out by its ventricles? Why am I not better today than I was yesterday?

it’s dark outside

ImageThis evening I saw It’s Dark Outside, which is currently showing at Carriageworks as part of Sydney Festival.

“From the creators of multi-award winning production The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer comes this heartfelt adventure of an old man wandering into the wild.

As the sun sets he is swept up in a surreal western, on the run from a mysterious tracker hell-bent on hunting him down. The world around him crumbles, revealing that he cannot hide from everything.

Created and performed by Tim Watts, Arielle Gray and Chris Isaacs, this exploration  of dementia is told through puppetry, mask, animation  and live performance with  a haunting score from Rachael Dease.”

The effect of the puppetry was sublime. Dementia is an illness that hollows out many families – the people I was with had all had a grandparent who suffered from it and the tears from those around us well attested to its pervasiveness. But the presence of the puppets meant the agony of direct confrontation was suspended. We did not have to sink under the weight of recognition – there were no ‘humans’ onstage for which we could substitute our own grandparents/loved ones, whose minds have become cotton wool.

Lesson learnt: never underestimate the power of cotton wool. As the old man slowly lost his grip on the world, the puppeteers, dressed in black, would pull out small cotton-shaped clouds from behind his head, which would then waft across the stage as he desperately fought to catch them back. With the black background, the puppeteers all but disappeared, leaving these soft white clouds floating across the stage as this old man lost his mind.

The lack of language in this show was intensely inspiring. I suspect it could be watched almost anywhere in the world and much the same reaction would be suckerpunched from the audience. The only words came from Rachael Dease’s stunning score. The rest was movement and image, plain and simple (I’m sure it was incredibly complex but it felt like it had been concentrated for the audience from a frenzy of possible gestures down to a quiet exactness, wringing pathos out of each moment without soliciting sympathy or risking alienation).

I saw more grown men crying after this show than I think I have ever seen before. It’s on for a couple more days. Don’t miss it.