Monday, July 24, 2017

July 24. Day 205. Keep it in the family

Jimi with Mum Agnes and Grandmother Petharie (Photo David Kelly)
Photo David Kelly
Who would you want to play you should your story ever be turned into a movie or a play? It's the sort of question that might arise at a dinner party or in one of those annoying Facebook quizzes but is rarely a real life problem. Except when you are the Bani family of the remote Torres Strait Island of Mabuiag. They decided that if you want a job done properly do it yourself. It's a brave move. Jimi Bani is an accomplished actor having played Eddie Mabo in Mabo as well as starring in Redfern Now and The Straits. His grandmother Petharie, mother Agnes, brothers Richard and Conwell and son Dmitri lack either professional training or experience and yet the whole family perform together in Queensland Theatre's My Name is Jimi which officially opens at the Bille Brown studio this week. 
Jimi says his family feels a responsibility to perform their own story.
"The amazing thing about them playing themselves and me playing myself on stage is that you as an audience member you relate to us not as a character but as real people.. It becomes more real."
Director and co-creator of My Name is Jimi Jason Klarwein agrees. "It does have an immediacy and an authenticity that you can't get otherwise. When you watch this family interact, it's like watching your family so you sit there saying 'oh it's exactly like my grandma'. I think the story is so personal to the Bani family, the only way to do it was to have as many Bani members on stage as possible."
But convincing the four generations to take part in the ambitious project wasn't easy and may not have happened without the proding of Jimi's late father Ahdi Dimple Banu the 8th Chief of Wagadagam who died during the play's creation process. In fact Jimi admits he was too scared to ask his family himself "I said 'Dad, you ask them".
Working with the family hasn't been totally smooth sailing.
"It's tough," Jimi admits. "You need self discipline. You have to be really careful about not offending. It taught me how to communicate properly with respect. It takes so much energy."
Jason, however, jokes that having performers who are not trained actors has it's advantages. "Actors can be pretty difficult," he laughs.  While programming a show with a cast almost exclusively made up of amateurs may have been a huge risk for the State's major theatre company, early indications are really positive. The run was sold out in the play's world premiere in Cairns earlier this month. And previews in the past week suggest Brisbane audiences are also warming to the Bani family.
The whole clan: Jimi, Agnes, Conwell, Dmitri Ahwang-Bani,
  Richard and Petharie (Photo David Kelly) 
Jason says that's not surprising.
"The show is a real positive, hopeful, hilarious piece of theatre."
What may surprise audiences more is the unique, modern approach to telling the story of one of the oldest cultures on earth.
 "We use a lot of different mediums to tell the story. We are using lots of different technology. We are using AV, we are using cameras, we are using miniature models that get filmed, we use a special pop-up book, here's dancing, there's cultural  dancing, there's modern dancing, there's all sorts of different things that are happening in the show."
We'll see Jimi joke in three languages with his grandmother and torture his son with his spontaneous break-dancing.
"There's nothing dry about the piece," Jason says. 
Jimi agrees. "It’s funny and challenging, it’s inclusive and it’s honest, most of all, it’s hopeful."
My Name is Jimi plays at the Bille Brown Theatre until August 13.
You can hear our full interview with Jason Klarwein and Jimi Bani here



Sunday, July 23, 2017

July 23. Day 204. To make you feel my love

I could make you happy, make your dreams come true. Nothing that I wouldn't do. Go to the ends of the Earth for you, To make you feel my love. To make you feel my love. Glorious lyrics penned by Bob Dylan, first recorded commercially by Billy Joel and today attributed to Adele. Yep, Adele. She may have recorded a wonderful version of it but I'm sorry kids, the song wasn't hers. I smirked in much the same way as I did at a school concert when a little one said I'm a Believer was a song from Shrek. Does it matter? For the record only. What I love is that really great songs stand the test of time and resonate across the generations. Today the "Adele" song was one of a number performed by members of the Fame Theatre Company for guests at senior citizens afternoon tea . The looks on the faces of those in the audience and on stage said it all. And while Dylan/Joel/Adele may have been singing about romantic love, there are other ways to make you happy. Music is a great start.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

July 22. Day 203. A formal affair

Last night I had a dream about my first lecture of the semester which will take place on Monday morning. When I arrived in the lecture room, the computer I am supposed to use to project the lecture slides had been replaced by an X-Box. A fat lot of good that would be. Not that it mattered. I'd actually forgotten to write the lecture. Watching all this was one of my first section editors who happened to be a tutor in the unit. He was giving me the same disapproving scowl he always used to give cadet reporters. A nightmare really. It's common in dreams and it's common in popular culture - the storyline of forgetting something really important. It's a variation on the best man forgetting the wedding rings or the family that left the kid Home Alone when they went on holidays. It's scary because we all know it could happen, it does happen. Today at the hairdresser it was chaos. The place was packed with young people preparing for formals or balls. I struck up a conversation with Laura who was having her hair and make-up done. Turns out she is in the same English class as my niece Cleo. I watched an amazing transformation take place  ... And then it happened. Mum arrived without the dress. The bus to the pre-formal function was to leave in 15 minutes and our Cinderella was still in shorts and a T Shirt. An emergency phone call summonsed dad back from the dog park to grab the dress and shoot across town to the rescue. Just like a fairy godmother he arrived and Cinder-Laura got to go to the ball. Because that's something else popular culture teaches us. It normally works out okay. And I have written that lecture for Monday.

Friday, July 21, 2017

July 21. Day 202. Turkish delight

 My love affair with Turkey began just after my 25th birthday on my first big solo overseas adventure. It was the most beautiful, exotic, mystical place I had ever encountered. From the Grand Bizarre to the Blue Mosque  to the thermal terraces at Pamukkale, it was an Aussie tourist's dreams come true. On that trip I drank my weight in Turkish apple and orange tea and raki, a potent anise-flavoured liquid capable of giving you a hangover just by sniffing it. And then there was the food. These days we'd say hashtag yum but back then we spoke in sentences ...mostly ... at least before the raki. Unfortunately, I've never returned to Turkey but I do like to visit a Turkish restaurant as frequently as possible. Tonight was one such night, this time courtesy of a my dear friend Alison.
We devoured a banquet and washed it down with Turkish apple tea ...  and wine.  My appetite for Turkish food has not diminished at all in the intervening years but the older, wiser me now avoids raki. Some things improve with age ... at least a bit.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

July 20. Day 201. Top dog

When Winkle joined our household, the plan was that she and Rumple would live relatively separate lives. If they were siblings, they would be estranged. Winkle decided she didn't like that plan. She was going to join Rumple's pack. In fact, she was going to lead that pack. She has followed that plan through every day since. They are rarely any distance apart and even have a double lead so they trot along side by side. I call them D1 and D2 or Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dumber. So much for distance. So today was always going to be a test. Rumple needed a day at the vet for dental work. Winkle stayed at home. She knew he wasn't there but would frequently get up and go looking for him. She was little girl lost. She may be top dog most of the time but today she was the hero without the sidekick or more accurately the funny one without her straight guy. The only time she looked comfortable was when we went to visit Margaret. There she seemed to revel in all the one-on-one attention. But as soon as we were back at home she was back to sulking. And then we went to pick up Rumple and the world order was good again.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

July 19. Day 200. Bricking it

I rather like it when life takes me out of my crazy routine and into places not on the normal route. The road less travelled, if you like. It actually gives you time to "see" things. So I was dropping off the photos as discussed in yesterday's blog. In my naivety, I thought that a parking spot would be available somewhere in the same suburb. Not so much. So I walked with a great big folio of photos under my arm which I had to try not to crush. But it did allow me to have a look. A real look. I love the old museum. It felt so sad when it stopped being the museum but small things such as fire risks and complete inadequacy to safely and appropriately display things apparently ruled it out. Anyway we now have a wonderful new museum and a beautiful old space. And my photos are in. Winning.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

July 18. Day 199. Photographic memory

It was a case of deja vu, all over again (yes, yes I know).  This will be the third year in a row  I have entered photographs in the Ekka fine art competition. Let's just say, I'd better be more accomplished with a camera than I am at entering competitions. Third time lucky? Not for me. Practice is not making perfect. It goes like this. You have to enter and pay in May but the actual exhibits are not due until now. Actually they were due at the end of last week. Did I remember? No, I did not. I received a courtesy call today asking about my entries. Audible expletive. Had, I delivered the entries? No, I had not? Had I actually chosen my entries, or printed them, or mounted them? No, I had not. I was given until tomorrow. So bring on super thrust mode. I selected some shots, submitted them online for printing and went off shopping for such things as mounting boards.Then I did what any sensible person would do. I delegated. My lovely niece Scarlett was recruited to carry out the mounting. Against all odds, the whole process was completed in a matter of hours. Am I a happy with them? Honestly, not entirely. Some of the prints are not awesome. If I had more time I would have either chosen different photos or had a couple reprinted. But you can only do what you can do and at the end of the day you have to be in it to win it.