Sunday, July 31, 2016

July 31. Day 213. Not a trivial pursuit

You may have read it here first. Alanya Bridge will be a big name in musical theatre composition. The press will herald her as an overnight success. But like so many "overnight" successes before her it must have been a very long and at times very dark night. Unless you win Lotto or have someone film some awful misfortune that goes vital on YouTube, few overnight successes are ever so. Most involve years of hard slog in the lead up to that one big break. And in most cases there was a team around the triumphant victor. Today I saw such a team. Team Fame gathered round its girl of the moment Alanya who has been accepted into the prestigious Graduate Musical Theatre Writing, Master of Fine Arts Program at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts. She has received a scholarship but there is still a mighty big financial hole to plug. And that's where today's trivia competition came in. Staff, students and families past and present gathered to do their bit to raise funds to help Alanya realise her dream. Along the way supporters were treated to performances of her original compositions. And there was trivia - not that that mattered (I would not be saying that had our team won). What mattered was Alanya. Remember that name (Fame).

Saturday, July 30, 2016

July 30. Day 212. You make me sick

Of course I don't stick my fingers down my throat. It's not that I make myself sick, even. It's just that I don't do what I should to make myself better. Today I could have, possibly should have, stayed in bed. But I didn't. The lure of the Queensland community theatre premiere of Wicked was too great this afternoon. And tonight my son was performing in a one-off Fame drama recital. I have not missed one of his shows to this point and I'm not about to start now. Both were thoroughly enjoyable and it didn't kill me so I guess that means it will make me stronger. Earlier this week a work colleague and I sniffled, snorted and whinged our way through a working lunch. I threw in coughing up a lung occasionally for good measure. We are both meant to be on duty at QUT Open Day tomorrow. He has a sickness certificate and won't be there. I will turn up as long as there is any air left in my lungs. Do I think he's a slacker? No. I sent him an email saying he needed to look after himself first and foremost. And I meant it. It's do as I say, not as I do. He's doing what his doctor ordered. He's listening to his body. I am hearing the signs and going "la, la, la. I can't hear you". Of course I can't hear. My ears are blocked and the coughing drowns out any other communication. Seriously, some people make me sick ... And by some people I mean me.

Friday, July 29, 2016

July 29. Day 211. In need of a strong black coffee

June Balfour as Mrs Bennet. June's other characters include Mrs Bennet's daughter and the story's protagonist Elizabeth

Peter Crees as Mr William Collin. Peter's roles also includes Mr Darcy
Nigel Munro-Wallis with leading lady June Balfour
I think it is time to admit that I am a failure. Exhibit A. I may be very well educated in the formal sense of the word but I am clearly exceptionally poorly read. So far this year I have had to 'fess up to never having read Wuthering Heights, Sense and Sensibility and now Pride and Prejudice. Woeful. Exhibit B. I call myself a journalist and/or an academic and I don't drink coffee. Ever. This is in clear violation of the codes of conduct of both professions. I do however know that true coffee drinkers like their coffee black and without the frills of half strength decaf, soy or mocha. Black coffee is stripped back to its essentials with just a flavour burst in one big hit. It is this that new Brisbane theatrical company Black Coffee Theatre aims to deliver - theatre with punch but without the trimmings. If the first production Darcy and Eliza is anything to go by it is a flavour that hits the spot. This is the second play in the "Austen Seven" series which Brisbane actor, director  and playwright Nigel Munro-Wallis hopes to eventually bring to the stage (Northhanger Abbey is already in the bag having been staged in 2013 so only five to go). Starting from the blissfully ignorant position of not having read the novel is good and bad. It means I am an abject failure at discussing whether this faithfully captured the essence of Jane Austen's original. However, it does allow me to consider the production without any baggage of expectation, or indeed prejudice if you like, as a piece of theatre in its own right. And I loved it. This is such a fine character driven-piece which could only be have been pulled off with a tight and lively script and a powerful and versatile cast. Munro-Wallis worked the cast hard and they rose to the challenge. He has just three to play all the roles which demanded supreme script editing and that every one of the actors commanded the stage. It's not at though they had an elaborate set to rely on - just two chairs, a table and a hat stand (plus a grand piano courtesy of the fact that the 4MBS studio space has been chosen as the venue.) Through imagination and a huge degree of coordination and planning, the cast pulls small costume pieces from a hat stand, wicker basket or the piano and transform themselves into the myriad of characters to tell this story. All credit to them. If I have one criticism, and hands up this is again from my position of ignorance, I'm not sure about the title of the work. Pride and Prejudice gives away less of the ending than Darcy and Eliza but as probably just about everyone has read the book perhaps it doesn't matter.
I feel sure Monro-Wallis, who took a year translating this work for the stage, took that into consideration, given every other aspect seems to have been very carefully thought out. Which brings me to Failure Exhibit 3. In a former life, Munro-Wallis was 612 ABC Brisbane's performing arts reviewer, a job I now hold. My chance of ever pulling off a work of this nature, indeed ever attempting it, is zero.
Darcy and Eliza is playing at the 4MBS studios at Coorparoo until August 6 at 8pm. Book through 4MBS Ticketing on 3847 1717 or  at 4mbs.com.au
John Ashton as Lady Catherine de Bourgh. John is also Mr Bennet, among other characters

Thursday, July 28, 2016

July 28. Day 210. Playing chicken

          Why did the chicken walk down the road? If that chicken is Dalmatian I secretly suspect the whole purpose is to walk past the fence and drive my dogs crazy. Look at her. Walking along the fence just out of reach of the fur friends strutting her stuff. The free range chickens in my street are especially free range. In Dalmatian's defence, it is also true that I haven't seen her on parade for a bit and I suspect that today's visit may have had as much to do with the return of Margaret and her window of treats for all creatures great and small as it did to dog taunting but that's not how the fur friends saw it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

July 27. Day 209. Home again, home again. Jiggety-jig

I'm not sure if Margaret is happier to see the dogs or vice versa. Either way there was a mutual admiration society meeting going on next door today.  After a month in hospital and rehab Margaret was discharged today and about 20 seconds after I drove her home I was instructed to bring forth the fur friends. They greeted each other with unrestrained joy. She knows they are not allowed mince. They know she'll sneak some to them anyway but today I  didn't bother objecting. It was a treat for both of them. I know that just sitting back in that chair by the window watching the world go by, feeding the birds and receiving visits from the dogs are the highlights of Margaret's world. We all know there's no place like home especially after a period in hospital. Let's hope the rehab has done the trick and there are no more enforced absences in the near future.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 26. Day 208. In a spin

I'll be honest. If one of my nearest and dearest had done the same thing, I would have rolled my eyes. There may have been a sarcastic comment under my breath. There may have been an audible expletive. But I guess it just proves I'm not perfect which I know will come as a shock to just about no-one. Anyway, here's the spin out story. A plague-like virus has struck the house and I admit to feeling less than wonderful, where less than wonderful is defined as wanting to put a pillow over my head. So I decided to have a little lie down before a very important meeting. What could possibly go wrong with that plan? I guess I'll have to catch up on what I missed later. Clearly my body needed the sleep. I listened. That's good. It's what happened next that won't win a gold star for bright thinking. I felt a bit better so I took the dogs for a walk just as the afternoon chill was setting in. Genius. The resulting cough-a-thon meant I ended up calling the after hours doctor. The one thing I do not need is a repeat of the six week bronchitis fest of April/May. The doctor listened in horror to the bark and decided that while normally one might wait before prescribing antibiotics this one was a hit early and hard kind of cough. More antibiotics for steroids. Bless. The good news is that this time I didn't wait weeks before seeking medical advice and treatment. And the after hours doctor is free. Now, hopefully, we can all get some sleep.

Monday, July 25, 2016

July 25. Day 207. Clouds descending

The universe is punishing me. The dark clouds of sickness have descended on me and I only have myself to blame. After all I almost issued a challenge and there was no way the universe could ignore it. Exhibit A. I shamelessly teased Drama Teen about having Man Flu. If that's not asking for it, I don't know what is. And then there's Exhibit B. Today was first day of the teaching semester. I love teaching but I always find the first day of the semester really stressful. I joked that I could ask my mother to call in sick for me. Naturally a woman of my age wouldn't get a sick note from mummy and I am not the type to take a sickie ever. But joking about it?  Well when you move down that slippery slope karma will behave like an over-stretched rubber band and come back and hit you in the face. And so it did. I have girl flu. It started with sniffles but by late afternoon it was a mild case of plague. But promises are promises so a brief dog walk was in order. It would have been longer but then came the cough of death and clearly it was a bridge too far. So I retreated. If this is my last post, I love you all... Yes, I can be a bit over dramatic.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

July 24. Day 206. Sunday best

I often joke, and not in a very funny find of way, that I accidentally shroud myself in a cloak of invisibility when I walk into an electronics store. A person over a certain age is made to feel that they could not possibly have any knowledge of, or interest in, anything a gadget store has to offer and any offer to help would be useless, frustrating or time consuming. Perhaps all three. The best way for the staff to deal with such a person is to look right through them. The older you get the worse it gets and the more places this happens. I presume this is why the guests at Blue Care respite afternoon at Woolloongabba this afternoon were so happy to see a troupe of  teenagers from Fame Theatre Company rock up this afternoon to perform. Because I'm always up for a chat, I sat myself at a table with guests and found myself talking photography with a woman in her 90s.  We exchanged email addresses. They admired my necklace. I admired a two rings Grace was wearing. One, she confessed, was cubic zirconia. Her engagement ring was a diamond bought by her butcher husband on Brunswick Street Station. We had a lovely chat. I was told I was like a breath of Spring and having a child who would take time out on a Sunday to come and entertain senior citizens was a credit to my parenting. Now if that doesn't make your day, I don't know what would. They also said how lovely it was that all the volunteers were prepared to put in the hours to cook and serve. But that's the thing about volunteering. You really do get a huge amount back. Even if it's just a lesson that there are real people with really interesting stories to tell if you just stop pretending they borrowed Harry Potter's cloak of invisibility.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

July 23. Day 205. Dancing queens

 So so much is said about the idle youth of today.
Apart from the fact that every generation seems to think the next one is full of slackers.
I mean  philosopher Socrates who lived from 469–399 B.C.E. famously wrote: “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” 
But honestly those who write those things are not seeing the full story. Today I was invited to witness a small dance display which my delightful nieces Lucy and Amelia were involved in. There had already been netball in the morning and shopping and a film shoot in the afternoon. 
One of my other nieces, the lovely Cleo, played netball for her club in the afternoon and school in the morning although perhaps it was the other way around.
I get tired just thinking about it. However another talented group of young people may have uncovered the real reason I'm tired.
Tonight I saw Seven Little Australians, a story etched in my youth. As part of the plot, the children had been banned from attending a pantomime because they had been most badly behaved. They dreamed of what they would do if mean old Dad was out of the way. One decided they would go to a show every night. "If you went to the theatre every night your eyes would be out on stalks".
Yeah but you would be happy, cultured and avoid housework ....

Friday, July 22, 2016

July 22. Day 204. Smokin'

Winter? Seriously? I suppose waking to a city shrouded in fog would be a winter thing in other parts of the world but the concept of winter doesn't usually involve temperatures around 29 degrees centigrade, bright blue skies and people swimming in an unheated outdoor pool with the CBD in the background. Welcome to Brisbane. I found myself at South Bank twice today. In the early morning the fog was engulfing the city highrises. In the afternoon the only rising mist was from the banks of barbecues fired up for the night noodle markets. There was probably a bit of heat being generated from the Pokemon Go hunters who had crowded the promenade but I considered it better not to know about that. It was the sort of day where it would be a crime to be inside. Not being such a criminal I took a long afternoon stroll with a friend that ended up in a beer garden with a glass of cider on ice. Yep, that's so very winter (not). I think we did get winter this year. Two days in early July then the seasons that was enough of that. As the song says "roll on summer, roll on".

Thursday, July 21, 2016

July 21. Day 103. The cat that got the cream

 It is now almost four weeks since my neighbour Margaret was taken by ambulance to hospital. I've walked up to visit her every day but one and I have to say today she looked like the cat that got the cream. She's been told she can go home next Wednesday and she has started to make plans. The hairdresser is booked for Thursday. Meals on Wheels have been advised to restart deliveries and she's writing me a list of things I need to put in place. She's good like that. In fact, she puts me to absolute shame when it comes to lists and record keeping. Every bill that has ever been paid is recorded. Every appointment mapped out. Pension days, bin days, mowing man days are all listed. As soon as the Sunday paper arrives she highlights then lists the programs for the week. And while she's been in hospital she's studied the menu and written out her menu plan. She can tell you what she will eat next Tuesday. I'd be flat out remembering what I had for dinner tonight. And yet she relies on me. To be honest, she bosses me about. But at the end of the day I don't have to do it. I choose to because it's the right thing, it's the neighbourly thing and I'm very fond of her. It will be good to have her home. The birds are looking forward to it. The dogs are looking forward to it and I'm kind of keen to walk a route that's not to the Mater. I suppose I could drive but if I became a list person the record of parking costs might be enough to see me admitted for stress.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

July 20. Day 202. What's the buzz

Be honest. Have you ever gone to a school reunion and secretly marked a report card about who has survived the post school years the best? Or perhaps you have wanted to slash the tyres of someone who has done the dirty on you or even reprimanded an old friend who seems to have dumped you because his new significant other has cut old acquaintances out of his life. It's a fair bet that one or more of those things are more likely to have happened to you than your house fall or a witch, a magical nanny dance on your roof or a cellar-dwelling opera phantom kidnap you. Do not get me wrong. I will NEVER, EVER dis the good old musicals. Ever. But new audiences are demanding new musicals and that's where modern duos such as Justin Paul and Benj Pasek come in. There's a whole new world of musicals out there and a whole generation of performers ready to embrace them. But those in the creative and performance industries, like workers in just about every other sector of the economy, are realising that there's no point in waiting for the big break to present itself. The next job is just as likely to be the one you create for yourself. That's where Understudy Productions comes in. The Brisbane-based company is the baby of Alex Woodward, a Musical Theatre graduate from the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and Edges a Song Cycle, which opened tonight at the Metro Arts Theatre in Edward Street, is its debut production. Alex is joined by five other local rising musical stars (Dominic Woodhead, Luke Hodgson, Pia Frangiosa, Stephanie Long and Danika Saal) in a musical that presents vignettes about relationships told as a group of old friends reunite and catch up. Like all the best musicals there is a variety of styles and a mix of humour and sadness because that's life. These young performers have talent to burn and the intimate performance space of the Metro Arts Theatre allows an up close and personal look at the talent of tomorrow. There will be many who prefer a chandelier dropping and that's okay. But there's a buzz around the new musicals that is well worth checking out.

EDGES by Understudy Productions continues at Metro Arts Theatre until Saturday.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

July 19. Day 201. After the fog lifts comes clarity

I tried to catch some fog but I mist. I mean really, when it comes to fog there's nothing to see here. Blame the fog. It's clearly obscured my ability to think. It's not as though I spend hours looking at my view but I do enjoy gazing across the river to the university. The open space and view is a big bonus in a part of the world where small inner city blocks are the norm. The open space also means this area is home to plenty of birds. My fur friends generally mean the birds try to avoid getting too close to my windows but with Margaret and her mince still absent the birds are getting a bit cheeky. This little one was perched on the back deck today. When I opened the window to photograph the fog it came right up.  The good news for the feathered friends is that Margaret and her mince will most likely to making a return very soon.

Monday, July 18, 2016

July 18. Day 200. Chicks

 I swear today I learned what scores of teenaged females ovulating simultaneously sounds like. It's probably not the reaction of the creaters of The Wider Earth were expecting but it's fair to say it's far better than  ambivalence or distaste. This is an extraordinary production combining puppetry and multimedia projections and a very talented group of actors to tell the story of Charles Darwin and his five-year voyage on The Beagle. Years of work have gone into creating the revolving set, the original music score and the extraordinary life sized puppets. This is a tale of a man  destined for the priesthood who left the UK and the woman he would like to marry for what he thought would be a three-year journey of discovery. This is about a man seriously challenged when science and faith seem to conflict to the point that he tried to leave the journal of his findings buried in Tasmania. Along the way he learned that faith and religion need not be the same and that creation is evolving. Extraordinary stuff. But that wasn't it. All the teen girls wanted was a happily ever after love story and when that happened those girls gasped and sighed. It was a beautiful thing that only happens when you find yourself in a theatre largely packed with girls in school groups. I only hope that magic is retained when they start work on whatever assignment is connected to the show....