Wednesday, February 28, 2018

February 28. Day 59. Send in the Clowns

Frank Sinatra once described Send in the Clowns as"I think one of the most beautiful songs written in maybe all the time I've been in this racket".

He also described it as "one of the best marriages of words and music done in a long time".
No-one should ever argue with ol' blue eyes. It's a kick arse song from the show A Little Night Music by musical theatre master Stephen Sondheim. Despite it being "poignant and beautiful"  A Little Night Music was last performed in Brisbane almost 40 years ago (one can only guess how many  times Cats has been performed in that period).
"I do believe the last time it was performed in Brisbane was the late 70s, early 80s," says Brisbane actor, director and acting coach Cienda McNamara. Cienda, a Sondheim lover, says the show has been dormant for too long and it is now time to bring it out of  hibernation.
She has teamed up with friend and colleague Michael Keen, the conductor of the Brisbane Philharmonic Orchestra, to realise the dream.
Cienda is directing the concert staging of  A Little Night Music which will be performed twice only at the Princess Theatre in Annerley on Saturday.
It promises to be extraordinary - but no-one should underestimate how difficult pulling it off is.
"Sondheim is a tricky, tricky beast from the actual book itself to the music, the music is incredibly beautiful and incredibly dense but really challenging," says Cienda.
But if any cast is up to the job it's the one assembled for this production.
Taking to the stage will be will be a cross section of talent from musical theatre, opera and theatre as well as the 50 members of the Brisbane Philharmonic Orchestra.
Three days out, at the Sitzprobe (the first seated rehearsal bringing together the voices and the orchestra), Cienda took time out to reflect on the process of creating a staged concert rather than a full musical.
"It's been a challenge but a really interesting one," Cienda admits. "This is my first experience of trying to find that balance and working out what we need to tell of the story that will lead us from song to song and give us back story of the characters. It's been a bit of a challenge and we are still figuring out how it's going to work out."
Where we sit outside the auditorium at the Old Museum, a vast array of props and costumes for the show is being organised on the floor. In that collection is a promise that while this may be a concert, the relationship to the original musical theatre piece will not be lost. "You'll get a theatrical experience but we are using costumes to notate and hint at. It's not exactly of the period and of the era but representative of. That's how we are treating the staging. It's not a full staged production but it is representative of it."
For those not familiar with the work it promises to be an amazing awakening.
"People don't know it but when they do find themselves listening to Sondheim they can't help but get into it. It's just about educating audiences and getting their palates more whet with Sondheim."
This weekend's performance promises to be quite the introduction to those who haven't heard a Sondheim work before or a rediscovery for those who have.
"It's a chance to see a wonderful piece of American musical theatre performed by extraordinary performers and a wonderful orchestra," says Cienda. "It's a chance to listen to a 50-piece orchestra and actors sing this incredible genius's music."
Now that has to be better than A Weekend in the Country (inside joke, that's the song that closes Act 1. Also I don't like the country much).
Concert tickets are available from Sticky Tickets

You can listen to the full interview here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

February 27. Day 58. Dog's day

Every time I come home it's the same. The dogs greet me at the door. The dogs jump on me. The dogs wrestle each other. Winkle jumps on Rumple and then they go about their business. Much of that involves lying around as close to me and each other as possible. That's until the food comes out. You know how they say pet owners start to look like their pets.
In the case of my dogs and I, there's little in the way of physical similarities but we do share the same interests - food and sleep.
My dogs approach mealtime with the same slavering enthusiasm as I do at an all-you-can-eat seafood banquet. I love that about them. Food should be enjoyed and enjoy it we all do.

Monday, February 26, 2018

February 26. Day 57. Diet is die with a T

I'm on a diet - again - still. Technically, I think I've been on a diet since I was 15 and lost hundreds of kilos. I'd hate to think how many I've put on in that time. Next to yo-yo dieter in the dictionary should be a time lapse video of my bum.
But right at the moment,  I'm in the weight reduction phase. Lite n Easy is delivering bundles of food to my door. I am eating the food and nothing but the food.
I'm sticking to it because the alternative at the moment is not very pretty. Nothing fits, everything is too hot and too hard. The trajectory is unattractive - like my bum. So diet it is. If you so much as see me sneaking a snack feel free to knock it out of my hand

February 25. Day 56. Haunted house

I seriously hope Jean Trundle is okay with what I saw at Brisbane Arts Theatre today.
I'm not actually referring to the action on stage. Jean founded Brisbane Arts Theatre with her husband Vic Hardgraves in 1936 so she was clearly a lover of the performing arts. However, she died in July 1965 and was cremated so I doubt she care much one way or the other about Shrek The Musical. But her ghost is believed to haunt the theatre and I'd been repeatedly told "her" seat in the back row of the balcony was always left empty. But today the Full House sign was up outside the theatre and indeed every seat was filled. Every seat. Including Jean's seat. I don't believe in ghosts but I do love a good ghost story and it would have pleased me greatly to see that one empty seat (as long as the empty seat wasn't the one my bum was meant for). Shrek was a huge amount of fun. For the record I think Jean would have really enjoyed it. There was one small hitch. Donkey's entrance didn't quite go to plan and involved a stunt double losing a limb. The cast turned it into a moment and all was good but perhaps that was ghostly work at play. Part of me likes to think so.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

February 24. Day 55. Dramatic licence

Before there was a Drama Teen there was a Drama Three-een. Brisbane Arts Theatre was one of two companies that had a pivotal role in creating the dramatic individual that occupies the bedroom down the hall.
He was three when I first bought tickets for him to see Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves at Brisbane Arts Theatre.
He was hooked  performed in many children's shows there including, as it happens, Ali Baba.
We both continue to hold a great affection for the place.
I feel it my duty to direct other impressionable young dramatic individuals along the same path.
Enter Miss Molly. I have already been instrumental in convincing Molly's parents to enrol her in Fame.  Task one of two completed.
So when we were asked to occupy Molly for a few hours while the family moved house, the distraction of choice was a no-brainer: Arts Theatre. Miss Molly sat transfixed while watching 12 Dancing Princesses.
When the show was over, it was Oliver who led her around to have her program signed. There was a light in her eyes just as there had been in his at the same age.
She carefully studied the season guide and when asked which of the remaining show she would like to see she said "all of them".
Job done. Sorry Tiania and Jamie. I have ruined your child. You can thank me later.

Friday, February 23, 2018

February 23. Day 54. Apples to apples

Yada, Yada, Yada

Demi Lardner
Luke Heggie
I never knew how much passion people had for apples. To me, it's largely a question of red or green. The red ones I eat. The green ones are for cooking. How wrong am I. It started this week, when my son refused an apple I had in my bag because it was a Royal Gala. He was hungry but not hungry enough to bite into anything else but a Pink Lady. This is weird for a person who for years would only eat green apples because Snow White had taught him the red ones were poisonous. The next day in a consultation with a student about something completely different, she volunteered that she would only eat Pink Lady Apples. None of this Royal Gala nonsense. Either this is a "thing" or I just happen to attract Pink Lady tragics. I decided some peer reviewed quality research was needed. I took to social media instead. The outpouring of love for the the Pink Lady was instantaneous and overwhelming. Okay, let's take this hypothesis to a wider audience. Today I was fortunate enough to be invited to a media preview ahead of tonight's opening gala of the Brisbane International Comedy festival. We were given one-on-ones with three performers -Luke Heggie,  Demi Lardner and Yada, Yada, Yada (AKA Lauren Edwards and Jude Perl). Five minutes with each. That's not long enough to delve deep into their psycho and runs the risk of asking the same stock questions and getting the same stock answers. So let's go all random. The same five questions for each, not at all related to their performances - at least as a starting point.
Our questions were.
1. If you could ask five people living or dead to a dinner party, would Barnaby Joyce be one of them?
2. A quick game of F**k, Marry, Kill with the choices being Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein and Karl Stefanovic
3. Which reality TV show would you be forced off first: "I'm a Celebrity Get me Out of Here", My Kitchen Rules or Married at First Sight?
4. Could you please settle an argument we are having? Which is the superior apple: Pink Lady
or Royal Gala?
5. What would you tell you 10-year-old self?
The Pink Lady was three from three. Not one person gave a moment's hesitation. They didn't even seem to think it was a randomly stupid question.
Our Brisbane Comedy Festival podcast is available for your listening pleasure here.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

February 22. Day 53. Bad hair day

I know I have no right to but I feel kind of bad. I have convinced my neighbour Margaret that she needs a carer to take her to the weekly hairdresser's appointment. We have reached a compromise where I will cover the occasional visits - such as to a specialist - while the MyAgedCare-appointed carer will be the haircut man. Today Geoff was on duty and I felt guilty. The thing I only got the taxi to the hairdresser gig by accident. When Margaret was discharged from hospital last year after a fall, I sensed she wouldn't be steady enough to make the weekly pilgrimage alone. I offered to take her for a couple of weeks until she regained her strength. Weeks became months and clearly taking a cab was now out of her reach. So I got the job by default. I know finding a more suitable permanent arrangement does not make me a bad person but I still feel bad about it. Geoff did a sterling job and she arrived home to her birds happy and groomed. Job done.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

February 21. Day 52. Blowing in the wind

 Sometimes you see something that until that moment you'd never considered had to happen. It's a thing, you never knew was a thing. Such it was today. There are there beautiful bright coloured banners flapping in the wind outside QPAC.
They are there to promote Aladdin and are glorious sheer fabric numbers with the faces of the cast in costume. It would be hard to drive, walk or ride across the Victoria Bridge and not be lured into the magical cave inside the performing arts centre. What I didn't realise is that you have to work hard to retain that beauty. The Brisbane sun is hard on everyone and every thing including coloured banners. In short, they don't last the season and have to be changed.
Today I watched as a bloke struggled in the wind to pull down old banners and replace them with ones identical apart from the fading. In part the process is like hoisting a flag but it's far more complex. The raising and lowering is quite straight forward. The threading on to the wires that keep the banners neatly vertical looked far more difficult - at least in the wind. But our lone hand was not deterred. He kept at it.
The funny  thing is that you only really noticed how faded the old ones were when there was a line up of both old and new. The new ones really did outshine the old. That has to be reward in itself for a really annoying job.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

February 20. Day 51. All is not lost

All Who Wander Are Not Lost. So said a sign that appeared near the bus stop at UQ some time since I was last there. It was one of a series which I suspect is an orientation thing encouraging new students to explore the campus. It's a great campus and a fine message which I suspect many, if not most students will ignore as soon as classes starts. One you know where the lecture theatres, refectory and watering hole is the wandering stops. I see a few students hanging down by the lakes but not many. All the more room for me, I say selfishly. I need to get back to mindless wandering because it is good for your mind. I also need to take the advice of one of the other recently installed signs.  "Take a minute, breathe and enjoy the surroundings." Words to live by which I will almost certainly not do,.You can take a girl to the lakes ....

Monday, February 19, 2018

February 19. Day 50. You have to laugh

I find that there is something uniquely demotivating about motivational sayings. Sure attitude counts for a lot  but a few words can not change the world as must as we might like them to. Still, there is some truth in some. Laughter is a good medicine. But take something like "Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life." I don't believe that for a second. I do believe that a job you love is a whole lot better than something that will destroy your soul but a job is still a job and work is still work. You still have to work hard to perfect the things you love. Attending a play briefing for the upcoming production of Queensland Theatre's The 39 Steps highlighted this for me tonight. The cast have clearly found the rehearsal process to be a laugh. There was a playfulness in the way they described how the rehearsal room worked. But it was also clear that to make the chaos that the audience will see on stage come together seamlessly will require a huge amount of hard work and precision. There's a huge reward in that which really only comes as a dividend for the hard work put in. That almost certainly won't make the cover of a motivational book but even if it did I wouldn't read it. Perhaps if they turned it into a play...

Sunday, February 18, 2018

February 18. Day 49. The Year of the Dog

Happy Chinese New Year.
The Queen Street Mall was today overflowing with our place in Asia.
I love that but it's just as well I'm not Chinese.
The Chinese astrological calendar has The Year of the Dog coming up only one year in 12.
In our house, every day of every year belongs to the dogs. Apparently there are five types of dogs - wood, fire, earth, gold and water.
The 2018 version of dogs are the earth kind.
The earth dogs are communicative, serious and responsible in work.
Rumple might fit that bill.
No-one would confuse Winkle with being serious.
On balance our dogs are wood dogs.
Wood dogs are sincere, reliable, considerate, understanding and patient.
Elvis Presley was a wood dog. Who would have thought. My guess would be more hound dog.
Chinese astrology has no hounds but the Chinese are the home of the shih tzu so they understand my dogs. So happy new year to you and yours.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

February 17. Day 48. Roses are red

This week has kind of sucked. It sucked because I wasn't at the beach. It sucked even more because Charles is at the Coast but will spend the fortnight in a convention centre playing bridge. It sucked because it was back to work right into the chaos of Orientation Week. It sucked because I started a diet and that makes one irritable. It sucked because the heat sapped the will to live. And on top of all of that it well and truly sucked because the sleep apnea splint I took possession of feels like something invented for a torture chamber. Let's force the jaw into an unnatural position and hold it there for hours. It really hurts. So there's a bit of feeling sorry for self going on. And then the package arrived. Twelve long stemmed red roses. There was no occasion, just because which is just the way I like it. Of course the roses won't cure any of the above but a little bit of colour in a dull week does make life feel better.

Friday, February 16, 2018

February 16. Day 47. Thunderbolts and lightening

The weather gods are refusing to keep their promises at the moment. It is a battle of attrition and the fair people of Brisbane and surrounds are losing because the weather gods are just not playing fair. You are supposed to pair oppressively hot humid days with afternoon storms. You are not supposed to send the light and sound show and not the accompanying cooling breeze and cleansing rain. I'm over it. Everyone is over it. We are getting hot and bothered and cranky and by we I mean me. It won't take much to break me. I reckon the next power bill will do it. Until that happens you will see me hiding out in the aircon. At least it delivers a cold blast when it's supposed to.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

February 15. Day 46. Dancing through life

Here we go again.
Another Orientation Week. Another group of students who look in equal measure excited and like deer caught in the head lights.
It's exciting stuff. It really is. The university tries to put on a good show for them but if I'm honest it felt less like a big warm hug today and more like a baptism of fire.
This heatwave thing is sapping everyone's energy.
Still in the best tradition of the performing arts, the show must go on and the more seasoned students tried to ignore the furnace and show the newbies what they have in store. Most of the students seemed more interested in the free snow cones. You can't really blame them for that.
By mid afternoon I hit the wall. You know the saying "No pain. No gain?" It had better be right. This week I took delivery of two things designed to make my life better. The first is Lite and Easy. The second is a Mandibular Advancement Splint designed to revolutionize my life by treating sleep apnea. Jaw discomfort is a side effect early on. Today I was in agony. I drugged myself to get to work. I couldn't open my mouth wide enough to eat much of the diet food. Then the pain killers wore off and the lack of food hit. I had to go home. Liquids, more drugs and a nap helped. As I told the students this morning. "This is new. It will take a bit of getting used to but you've got this." Time to take some of my own advice.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

February 14. Day 45.That's the look of love

Valentine's Day. The day we celebrate love. It's just as well love comes in many forms.
My husband is away at a bridge tournament on the Gold Coast. That's his thing. Everyone is entitled to their thing. I did my "thing" with some of the other important characters in my life.
For the dogs, it was their favourite treats cut into the shape of a heart. They loved the treats. I'm pretty sure the shape meant nothing.
For the lad it was a trip to the theatre, something we love to do together. Being in the opening night crowd is always special.
And for Margaret next door, my act of love was to take her to the doctor's for a skin cancer biopsy. The procedure went well until I noticed the trail of blood from the surgery to the car. Margaret's precious birds had to wait just a bit longer while the wound was redressed. She was incredibly grateful for the attention.
It's just as well I think Valentine's Day is a creation of the greeting card industry back  when people sent cards. There's no harm in playing along, but a big gesture once a year isn't what counts. It's how you treat people every day, right?