Tuesday, December 31, 2019

December 31. Day 365. A wee bit Kutchered

Last day of the year. Second last day in London.
Time to act a bit kulchered. So we went to Platform 9 and 3/4 at Kings Cross Station. Like hundreds of others, we queued to pose in front of a replica of a fictional entry to the train station for the Hogwarts Express.
Yep, we are big Harry Potter fans.
Okay, that's not the culture bit.
We went to The Barbican Centre to see The Bard.
The Royal Shakespeare Company was presenting a gender-flipped version of The Taming of the Shrew.
It was beautifully done and I enjoyed it immensely but I didn't think the artistic choice to change the gender of all the parts actually added any new meaning to the text, which is surely the point. Then to round off the year we saw Everyone's Talking About Jamie, a musical with a very modern feel. And finally cocktails in the lobby bar.
Happy New Year.

Monday, December 30, 2019

December 30. Day 364. Bus it

There is, or perhaps was, a hop on, hop off bus tour of Brisbane.
I can't imagine it was very successful.
There's really not all that much to see and in any case, one of the best ways to tour the city is to take the CityCat along the great brown snake of the Brisbane River.
It's a standard commuter trip and as such much better value than any "special tourist price".
But in other cities, the bus tour is a great way to orientate yourself and see the sights in relative ease.
We did that today.
It was scarf, fake fur hat and gloves weather but very pleasant.
I always learn something from the commentary even though London is a city I have visited many times.
Also it gave our pavement weary feet a bit of a rest.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

December 29. Day 363. Everyone is feeling Merry (again)

Because I'm weird like that, I rather like the song Elmo sings in Elmo Saves Christmas. The lyrics go "Everyday can't be Christmas
That wouldn't be such a treat
You can get tired of chocolate candy
When that's all you eat"
Now, I'm not one to argue with Elmo but I'd never get tired of chocolate candy. However, everyday can not be Christmas. But two days, well that seems perfectly reasonable. So today we were back at Jon and Clara's for a second festive celebration which this time Charles' mum Liz was able to join.
We started with a visit to the park with the kids which on a crisp, clear winter's day was rather nice.
Oliver brought with him one of his impossible musical theatre quizzes and we ate, drank and were merry for tomorrow we may diet

Saturday, December 28, 2019

December 28. Day 363. Look behind you

The pantomime is a British Christmas institution. The British invented it and in my (limited) experience any attempt to recreate it elsewhere on the planet fails miserably (despite the fact that many an Aussie soap star has boosted his or her bank balance through the art).
Oliver finds the whole pantomime dame thing fascinating to the point that he wrote a university assignment on it.
So a pantomime was always on the agenda. We'd been told that to get the authentic experience it was best to travel beyond the big smoke, that the ones in the 'burbs had more soul than the giant arena ones in London.
So we went to Maidstone in Kent where the dame Mademoiselle Marmalade was being played by a bloke we met in Brisbane earlier in the year.
It was a fine choice, partly because the train trip into the English countryside was rather nice but mostly because the panto lived up to all expectations. And then back to London for show two of the day. There's no stopping some people.

Friday, December 27, 2019

December 27. Day 361. Masterclass

My feet hurt. A lot. Walking around a city is exhausting. Also I am not at all adapted to operating in this climate. It's not so much the cold (although I don't do cold), it's more the heating. You have to dress like Scott of the Antarctic to cope outside but the shops and underground are stifling.  I've removed more layers than a performer in the Moulin Rouge today. But while my body is tired my mind is enlightened. This afternoon we saw Death of a Salesman, a production which took risks and changed the race of the Loman family. For not the first time I was impressed at how well Arthur Miller's text stood up. We walked around a lot after the show and in the evening backed up for an audience with a master. Ian McKellen's live show was bloody awesome. We all know he's a master telling other people's stories. Turns out he's a huge talent telling his own. It was a thing of great beauty worth all the walking around and undressing.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

December 26. Day 360. Boxing Day

Boxing Day is often just a bit sad. The party is over but the hangover isn't.
The mess remains as do the leftovers and the Visa bill.
There are new release films and a cricket test but that only just takes off the edge a bit.
But no time to mope this year.
We're in London so best get those tourist boots walking.
We did some of the sights - or perhaps it is sites.
We also took a break from West End theatre to try out off West End Theatre.
This differs very little in geography but quite a lot in scale.
Ghost Quartet, by the makers of Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, was interesting but just a little weird for my liking.
But hell, it beats cold turkey sandwiches and trying to work out how all that packaging is ever going to fit into the bin.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

December 25. Day 359. Happy Christmas to you

Most of the Christmas traditions followed in Australia, in no way reflect the reality of the location and climate.
Songs about slay bells and glistening snow, hot turkey dinners and lots of decorations trimmed with fur really just don't work.
Still, I refuse to adapt. I like it that way. I like tradition. But being able to celebrate with family in the Northern hemisphere, well that has to be embraced.
It's not as though I haven't done it before but this was Oliver's first time and the first one celebrated with his three cousins on hid dad's side so that is pretty special.
We ate a lot, drank a lot, played games and read really bad jokes in Christmas crackers.
And for the first time ever we got to dress for the occasion - where that is defined as really tacky sweaters. Perfect.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

December 24. Day 358. History is sexy

History was my favourite subject at school mostly because of Mrs Josie James.
Mrs James was an inspiration, a woman who could weave a story and lure you into her web.
She was a shining example of what teaching could be and how a good teacher makes ALL the difference.
Because history is interesting but sadly so much effort seems to go into making it anything but.
This is why I love musicals that sex it up without dumbing it down.
Yesterday it was Six. Today it was Hamilton. Both were performed in beautiful historical theatres (not like the flatpack Ikea-style ones from home). It makes for a wonderful night. Tis type of history can repeat itself.

Monday, December 23, 2019

December 23. Day 357. I'm going to live for ever

It turns out that, in the words of Fame, "I'm going to live forever".
I know this because of an article in the New York Times and no matter what Donald Trump might think the New York Times does not represent fake news.
In fact, the New York Times represents just the opposite - quality, fairness, balance well researched journalism.
But back to me.
This article in the New York Times quotes a study that found "People who went to a museum or the theatre once a month or even every few months had a 31 percent reduced risk of dying in that period". (Actually it said theater but #American).
Now if one a month reduces your risk of dying by 31per cent, clearly someone such as myself must be immortal.
I went to the theatre twice today alone.
I am an exceptional human being.
We saw the sensational Six at the matinee and then backed up for a serve of Waitress in the evening.
Oh My God. Not only will I live forever but with shows like this it will be a long, happy (and very expensive) life.
Here are some pics - and no, I did not breach any copyright.
Both shows actually invited and encouraged audience members to snap away during the encore.
 For everyone else that meant phones.
Naturally I had my camera on me. So the long, happy and expensive life will also be well documented.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

December 22. Day 356. Feeling catty

A little while back I had a headache so bad I presented at a hospital emergency department where I was fed serious painkillers through a drip. It's hard to know if it was the drugs or the pain but weird shit was going on in my head. My senses were all out of synch and at one point I heard voices. A work colleague, obviously more familiar with the dark art of migraines, asked me a number of questions. Did I have nausea? visual disturbance? light sensitivity? Aphasia (word salad she explained)? Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes. Classic migraine, she said. Well yes.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

October 5. Day 277. An interesting Segway

My mother, bless her, once claimed that I must have been dropped on my head as a baby as no-one is naturally this unco-ordinated. Well, mum. Nice try. It's genetic.
Today we rode Segways around the Rock. It was fascinating. Ten kilometres at the base which revealed itself to be far more intriguing and detailed than pictures would have suggested. Segways are easy to ride. They are the perfect vehicle for a ride around the rock; unless you are me. I fell off. But it gets worse. Oliver fell off not once but twice. Yay us. But a few bruises and a couple of scrapes are a small price to pay for an awesome experience. And, of course, we can't help it. Our genes are deficient. Anyway, that night we went to the Field of Lights, the most extraordinary light installation in the desert. It has to be seen to be believed. It was dark (despite 50,000  solar-powered lights). And yet we didn't trip. winning at life.

Friday, October 4, 2019

October 4. Day 276. Rock on

 So my mum said "let's do a family holiday". Seems simple enough. Not with our family. Nothing is simple.
I've been dying all week. Coughing up not one lung but both. My GP said "stay home and rest". I considered that but decided against it. I could rest in a fancy pants hotel room as well as I could in my own bed, right?
So I decided f*** it, I'm going. My sister Lisa wasn't so lucky. She couldn't move so she was out. Don had to stay home and look after her. Mum's friend Laurel was too ill to travel. We were falling like flies. But 10 of us made it to the airport (three only just). Ten of use boarded that flight.
And 10 of us reached the rock. Yay us. First impression. My God, it's huge. Far bigger and with far more character than I had imagined from the pictures.
You have to be there, right?

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

October 2. Day 274. Somewhere over the rainbow

Start writing that acceptance speech, Renee.
It worked for Rami Malek,  Gary Oldman, Eddie Redmayne, Daniel Day-Lewis and Colin Firth not to mention Meryl Streep and Olivia Colman. Yep, the Academy has given a lot of love to performers in biopics in the 2010s.
So standing out in that crowd means doing something special and you are that special something.
I mean a bio pic is a bio pic. It's a colour by numbers approach to story telling which gives the film-maker only so much wiggle room. Flashbacks are inevitable, because we don't want to wait through all those formative years until the star in the titular role appears on screen.
But Judy was a star and so is Renee. She doesn't try to be Judy but she sure captures her essence. And this film looks beautiful. You want to watch. I cried in spite of myself even though we all knew how it was going to end.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

September 19. Day 261. All About Yve

Yve Blake is a born story teller. The playwright and star of the Queensland Theatre’s smash hit Fangirls showed the ability to spin a yarn capable of luring people into her web while still in kindy.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

September 5. Day 247. Festival fun

For the next three weeks it's Brisbane that's the city that never sleeps (or more precisely it's the city in which I get no sleep).Welcome to Brisbane Festival 2019. I feel the joy.  So much joy.
Tonight was our first night of living the festival dream... and oh what a night.
SS Mendi was quite extraordinary. In 80 minutes we were treated to a tale so powerful it moved me to tears. For a start, it is absolutely outrageous that this story is largely unknown. How is it that 600 South Africans can be enlisted to the Imperial War effort (only to dig tenches because blacks can't be given guns) and then drown at sea in a collision with another British craft before getting to the front? How is it that this largest maritime tragedy in UK waters is pretty much invisible. And how the bloody hell can men be so horrible to other men. As is the violence of war isn't enough. But this story is more than that. It's funny, sad and oh so beautifully told. This music will warm your soul. And then we walked out into the festival where the River of Light tech run was happening - actually it had just finished but the tech team was still in the booth so we took a chance on the fact that is we hung around they would have another go ... and they did ... to pretty much no-one but us which was special. Winning. Listen to the review of SS Mendi here

Friday, August 16, 2019

August 16. Day 227. Night rider

Back again. Ekka Day 2.
Would you believe the reason I returned for a dagwood dog? Well, if you did you are crazy. But it did have to do with dogs. Random fact.
One of the main reasons I go to the Ekka every year is to buy new outfits for my dogs.
The ones I bought yesterday were exceptional but Rumple's one didn't fit.
I could exchange it at a shop but why not just go back ... and take Oliver with me.
So off we went
And today's visit was at twilight which was kind of awesome.
And an opportunity to eat dagwood dogs.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

August 11. Day 222. Birds of a feather

Bird brained - an insult.
But really, can you fly?
Birds can make annual navigations across the globe. Can you (without the assistance of a jumbo jet).
Well of course you can't. So who's the smart one now?
But it's the little things too.
Little things such as the water bubbler.
I love that the birds know that it is a water source although that would seem far from obvious.
I see them land on them.
I see them press their beaks into the nozzle.
I'm pretty sure they are rewarded for their endeavours.
That is quite a leap in logic, if you ask me.
I can't imagine what things from the avian world I could learn to operate efficiently and effectively.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

August 10. Day 221. Game on

I was a netball legend, where legend is defined this is the only sport I vaguely tolerated and which vaguely tolerated me.
I played goal keeper, because it was the place that was easiest to hide a crap player and involved less running. Also less throwing tended to be involved. Mostly it was all about using your body as a shield. That I could do, well to a vaguely acceptable standard.
But with the right team it was okay. With the wrong team, it was torture. Eventually I retired, admitting defeat.
But the complete lack of netball ability prowess does not run in the family. My nieces seem to have embraced it well . Today it was Amelia's turn. She's a Blue Jay and he's fierce.
She was all over the court and all over the opposition. The only similarity with me was that she was playing a defensive position - well for half of the game.
Clearly she is an all rounder. I was just all round. You get that.

Friday, August 9, 2019

August 9. Day 220. Cock fight

Paddy Farrelly, Julian Curtis, Derek Draper and Ashlee lollback  in action
There's no-where to hide in the script. The stage directions are as follows "There is no scenery, no props, no furniture and no mine. Instead the focus is entirely on the drama of the scene." In fact, only one of the four characters, John, even gets a name. The others are M, F and W. Playwright Mike Bartlett puts all the work on the actors and director. Cock is very much a play about people and relationships and nothing will stand in the way of that. It's noon in the Gaelic Football Association Grounds at Willawong. Here the fields are home to intense football battles but today the action is in the clubhouse where rehearsals for Cock are well underway. Director Helen Howard says she is excited to bring "this amazing play" to life. The title, she admits is deliberately provocative saying Bartlett is an extraordinary wordsmith.  "It's in the punctuation and the pauses and the gaps and the silences,'" she says of the writing. The taunts and the rhythms of words - at time sparse and at times poetic - have intense power, Helen says. Cock is the story of a young man torn between his long-term male partner and a new female love interest. The father of one of the men completes the cast.  Cock is about the fight between the characters. "It's a bit like throwing a drop of acid into some lives to take away all the shit .. and reveal the bones of the relationships underneath," says Helen. Derek Draper, a co-producer of Cock who also plays M, agrees while the title of the play may be an euphemism. But he says he believes Bartlett was fascinated with the fight for futures and emotions are played out in an arena.  This is not about winners or losers because any victory will be pyrrhic. "He goes quite literally into the cock ring," says Derek. "People can assume anything whatever they like about that term but it basically means there is a ring of drama which Bartlett has drawn our attention to and I think he was thinking as much about cock fights as any part of the male anatomy." Helen adds that it is refined rather than in-your-face or vulgar. "It is refined. It is shocking in tis emotional story rather than any references to sex. Though, I must tell you it's got the best sex scene I've ever read." Both agree that it is the job of the independent sector - such as Bosco productions to present works like Cock. Audiences who give it a go will not be disappointed, says Helen. "When you get a play written by a writer like Bartlett, do you dare stay away?" Helen asks. "Because you will be changed by it."
Cock will be performed at Metro Arts August 21-31. The full interview with Helen and Derek can be heard here.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

August 8. Day 219. Let them eat cake

It may be that there really is no such thing as a free lunch. That is probably true. There's always a pay back.  But there are many meals in a day (for most people three but you can't have too much of a good thing. So just because lunch isn't free ....  Today it was afternoon tea that was on the house, literally. Margaret threw half of her cake out on to the deck so the noisy miners "Tweety, Tweeties" could have their fill. The larger birds prefer protein such as mince, apparently. That's where the mince comes in. Although, I will eat most things I have not yet reduced myself to eating cake off a wooden deck. My free feed came later that night. It was Opening Night of L'Appartement at QPAC and that means we are fed and watered. I like that, rather a lot as it happens.
And it's free. So there you have it.
Free, as a bird.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

August 7. Day 218. Cloudy night

Rain. I remember that thing. I think. It's when wet stuff falls from the sky. Clouds are part of the deal. Rain clouds. Today, we we got the clouds, low hanging clouds. When you looked up to the mountains they were engulfed in clouds creating quite the mood. It should have meant proper rain but it didn't - but all it gave us was a reminder of what we've been missing. I guess something is better than nothing. It's not like you get a choice.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

August 6. Day 217. New directions

Joanna Murray-Smith
Joanna Murray-Smith is looking remarkably calm considering what she's got on this month. The screen writer's new Australian flick Palm Beach opened on cinema screens across the country the same day as she made her directorial debut at the Queensland Performing Arts with Queensland Theatre's L'Appartement. It's probably just as well she survives on very little sleep. "Because I'm an insomniac, I sort of have about four hours of unconsciousness and otherwise I'm thinking and immersed in the play."
Although L'Appartement is Murray-Smith's 23rd play, this is the first time she has donned the director's hat at the "slightly audacious" invitation of Queensland Theatre's Artistic Director Sam Strong.
"I've been kind of motivated since my mother died a few years ago to sort of seize the moment," she confesses.
Andrew and Liz Buchanan
And seize it she did. L'Appartement is smart, slick and captivating from start to finish.
It's set in a swanky, perfect Paris AirBnB , an aspirational house just like the beach-front mansion in Palm Beach.  With just a touch of irritation, Murray Smith observes she is often pilliaried for writing privileged, urban educated people while others such as Edward Albee is celebrated.
But while the houses and the people may appear picture perfect, Murray-Smith is interested in scratching to see what is under the surface - the fracturing relationships of people staying within. She found inspiration in a recent Paris holiday with her daughter.
Pacharo Mzembe and Melanie Zanetti Andrew and Liz Buchanan and 
"I began to think about the interaction between aesthetics and comfort and people who live their life according to the structure of beauty and those who are more inclined to the mess of human life."
In L'Appartement, this is explored in the interplay between the Australian parents of three-year-old twins (played by real life couple Andrew and Liz Buchanan) and their French hosts (played by Pacharo Mzembe and Melanie Zanetti).