Saturday, September 30, 2017

September 30. Day 273. My Cross to Bear

I'm in Kings Cross. This is crazy stuff for a girl too sick to get out of bed any morning this week. It is true that in the afternoons and evenings I've been far more productive and girls of the night are drawn to the lights of the Cross but .... The fact is, I made these bookings an eons ago and this being Grand Final Weekend, prices were at a premium. Also I promised. A visit to the doctor and blood tests yesterday will hopefully get to the bottom of what's going on. In the meantime, he prescribed awesome anti nausea wafers. They were enough to get me through the hours from bed in Brisbane to bed in Sydney. Drama Teen met his mate and I slept before walking the streets of the Cross. You can count on a lot of colourful characters in the Cross. The main game, however, is Sondheim's musical Assassins at Hayes Theatre tonight. I have more drugs .... I am staying in Kings Cross after all.

Friday, September 29, 2017

September 29.Day 272. Glittering performance

And now the end is near and we've faced the final curtain. And what a glittering final show it was.
Last night we saw off the more fringe section of the Brisbane Festival at Kelvin Grove's Theatre Republic and tonight it was bye, bye to the main game at QPAC. Trevor Ashley's Diamonds are for Trevor was a sparkling send off. I mean Shirley Bassey, glitter, gowns, sequins and sparkles all held together by the ultimate showman Trevor Ashley. We knew what Ashley was capable of and he delivered it wrapped in a 20-metre feather boa. And just before launching into the last of his five - yes five - encores, the wig and make-up came off. The real Trevor Ashley stood up and gave an impassioned speech about the impact of the marriage equality debate on people in his community. Let's hope that he had opened the eyes, hearts and mouths of any undecided in the audience and then managed to shove his message in when they weren't looking.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

September 28. Day 271. Vive la Republique

I'll be very sad when the teams of construction workers turn up on Tuesday and the Republic is brought down. There is a certain sadness when any republic falls but a Theatre Republic? That's tragic. I have enjoyed a whole world of awesome performance in this space since the Brisbane Festival began. Tonight was the Two Men in a Box, our last Theatre Republic performance for 2017. This was absurd, in the theatrical and real world sense of the world. It was also very funny. But what made me laugh most was the look on Drama Teen's face. He seemed very confused in a way that said he was missing the joke. This is because he was totally missing the joke poor young and innocent thing. Anyone my age will have clear memories of the Roneo machine and the purple spirit copies it produced. Decades later the experience of sniffing those purple sheets remains fresh in my mind. My boy knows nothing of this, having been born into a world of photocopiers, laser printing and emails. This means a comedy where two men are in a cult devoted to the instructions of a manual to one of these machines made no sense at all. People of a certain age laughed out loud as the instructions about The Master and The Spirits and the fading reproductions were misinterpreted as a guide for life. Digital Natives saw the humour in the incredible clowning and physicality but had this confused and bemused looks. This is actually what I like about the Theatre Republic. It's a very mixed bag but there's something for everyone - even members of weird replication cults.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

September 27. Day 270. Sweet treat

The cast after today's show. From left Irena Lysiuk as Gretel, Tim Carroll as the dad and Jessica Low as Hansel.

Production photos by Stephanie Do Rozario. 
Irena Lysiuk as Gretel (right) and Jessica Low as Hansel 

I can not truthfully claim to be intimately aware of all the details of the 1821 Brothers Grimm tale of Hansel and Gretel nor the Engelbert Humperdinck opera unveiled 80 years later.
I can, however, pretty confidently say that neither contained the phrase "hashtag YOLO". I'm equally confident that Hansel and Gretel were not starving because their mean old mother allowed no sugar-filled treats insisting on only fat-free, additive free, gluten-free, free range, organic foods. It could be that Shake&Stir and Opera Queensland have taken some liberties in translating one of the world's most popular operas for Queensland primary school students. Does it matter? Of course it does. If you want to engage today's students with a 200-year-old story and an operatic score you have to do it in their language. This version does just that and from a performance at Opera Queensland's studio at South Bank today, its clear the kids took to it with all the enthusiasm Hansel and Gretel applied to the Gingerbread cottage. Featuring soprano Irena Lysiuk as Gretel, mezzo-soprano Jessica Low as Hansel and Tim Carroll as the dad and the witch, this version is a very new twist on an age-old story. Humperdinck's music remains but in a re-imaged work set in a fantasy world of mobile phones, fad diets and mums who have facials instead of looking after their kids. It's charming, funny and accessible, while still reminding kids that it's not a great idea to trust strangers or steal food from their house. And all that colour and silliness ensures the tale is nowhere near as likely to traumatise kids as the Grimm original. The production is touring Queensland schools but Brisbane kids can still catch it at South Bank until Saturday.

September 26. Day 269. Dive in

Forget global warming. It's local warming I'm worried about. Actually it's really local warming that's the main concern particularly in the APC regions (note, nothing to do with armoured personnel carriers). It's hot and by week's end it's only going to be hotter. They are taking about temps in the high 30s by week's end. And we are still only in the first month of spring. How bad is summer going to be? Anyway, today was the official launch of the 2017/2018 swim season. To be clear, the water temperature is going to have to climb quite a bit before you see me dive in but Drama Teen called it today. If the forecasts are anything to go by, I'll be joining him soon enough.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

September 25. Day 268. The Italian Job

It's rare for a politician, even a former one, to talk openly about wanting to be booted out. Santo Santoro, however, is ready to take one for the team. The former Howard Government minister is a now lobbyist and president of the
 Festitalia Committee. It's the latter he'd be happy to hand on. At a sumptuous launch of the festival at the Treasury Hotel this evening, Mr Santoro said Brisbane needed the festival but the festival didn't need him.
"One of my biggest challenges at the moment is to find a successor.
"When you come to the festival, you'll see it's full of young people and I would hope half a dozen of them, hopefully 20 of them get the bug and say 'we're Italian, we're going to perpetuate this. When the oldies move out we're going to move in'. I'll ask for a bit of warning and pad my backside and they can boot me out."
Mr Santoro said Brisbane's Italian community had always held large community celebrations gathering on mass in places such as New Farm park to mark saints' days. But a more secular and outward celebration of all things Italian was a more recent invention. Festilalia, with the backing of the Italian Consul, began its life in Spencer Park at Newmarket last year. This year its back, bigger and better on October 8. Mr Santaro said Brisbane was more than ready to celebrate the influence of its Italian migrants.
"It's not just ready. It's overdue," he said pointing to the fact that just about every suburb has its Italian restaurant.
This festival IS about food but much more
"It's basically a manifestation of culture, food, dance, singing and historical spectacle like flag throwing," he said.
Tickets to the festival are available from the Festitalia website. As someone who never met a pasta variety I didn't like, I might just see you there.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

September 24. Day 267. Striking a chord

Next weekend is that one weekend in September, the big one we all wait for. Anyone who knows the slightest thing about me will know I'm not talking about the footie finals. Care factor zero. It's the grand finale of the Brisbane Festival when we send the festival off with a bang. For me, who has spent night after night out at one festival event or another this will mean a chance to see my home again. But for most people the Riverfire finale is the Brisbane Festival. It's the ultimate party AND it's free. What family doesn't need something free by the time the school holidays come to an end. Well here's another possibility for the hoards of families heading to South Bank on Saturday. How about getting your groove on at Spruke? Brisbane's Ukulele Festival is a two-day celebration of all things uke and what will be music to the ears of parents are the large number of free workshops for kids. While filling in the hours at South Bank waiting for the fireworks, why not take the kids to the Beginners Ukulele Bootcamp or or novice songs where in half an hour you can learn a two or three chord songs. These activities are being organised by perhaps Brisbane's best-named group BUMS (Brisbane Ukulele Musical Society). The BUMS believe in the societal, emotional, physical and cognitive benefits of music. Music builds relationships and community spirit. You can't argue with that. If this strikes a chord with you but the idea of the crowds at South Bank on Riverfire day freaks you out, fear not. The activities will be repeated on Sunday. There are also plenty of free and paid events for big people. Make sure you book via the festival website. You'd see me there but I will be in Sydney for a musical adventure of another type. Watch this space.

September 23. Day 266. Play time

Children's theatre is something special. As a grown up (yes I am a grown up despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary) it's not just what happens on stage that amuses me. There is as much amusement in what is happening in the seats of the auditorium. Take today. It was the final show of Fame Theatre Company's Cinderella. The Ugly Stepmother and the Ugly Stepsisters had launched into the Bananarama song Venus. A young man innocently asked "why are they singing about a penis?" The plot point was that the Ugly Family were trying to attract the attention of the Prince. If that's your plan, a penis song would do that. Funnily enough, that was my second penis encounter of the afternoon. As I walked down the street to theatre, a stretch limo pulled up and out piled a hen's party. Under one arm was a balloon with an inflatable penis inside. We had a quick chat and the girls said "we have a lot of penises on us", adding "not literally obviously". Well we all have to find out own ways of having fun.

Friday, September 22, 2017

September 22. Day 265. Life's a bitch

I talk to my dogs all the time. More worryingly they talk back. That is, I put words to what I think they are saying, or what I'd like them to say or an imaginary voice I give them. I'd love to know what they actually understand and what they are actually thinking. What I do know is that they are devoted to me, as I am to them. This is one of the reasons I was drawn Bitch, the Origin of the Female Species at the Theatre Republic as part of Brisbane Festival. In what wouldn't necessarily be considered natural partners, the show looked at dogs, dementia and sexual politics. It switched between the big picture to very intimate moments especially those between an old man and his dog. These moments made my eyes moist.  In the list of things that bring out the moisture, dementia and my dad and dogs will do it. This story ticked all those boxes. I'm pretty sure the internal dialogue of the dog at the centre of this tale isn't how my dogs think but it was an interesting portrayal just the same. I would have asked my dogs what they thought when I got home but they were too busy eating the toilet paper they managed to steal while I was out. We had a chat about that.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

September 21. Day 264. Secret ballot

I spent quite a bit of time after my lecture today just watching. I was watching noisy miners swooping on the ibis and student politicians swooping on students. It's guild election time and unlike most Australian elections, it is not compulsory to vote. So job one is to get students to actually give enough of a toss to cast a ballot. It is pretty hilarious watching our campaign teams chasing students as they go about their life. The best way to get the campaigners off your back is to vote and secure a wrist band signalling the fact to the world. If that isn't enough to get you to vote, there is an incentive. In exchange for a vote, each student receives a $5 voucher to spend at one of the shops run by the guild. You can't buy a vote but you can give incentives to vote. There would be documents outlining just what this costs but not that anyone can look at right now. During the election period they are unavailable, which kind of defeats the purpose if you ask me. But what would I know,  I'm not a student so I don't get to vote. All I got was a warning from a very polite security guard about not taking photos that identify students.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

September 20. Day 263. It takes a village

The concept of taking a village to raise a child is hardly new.  But the thing is there's a circle of life. The village that raises the child also needs to care for the child when she or he reaches old age. I talk a whole lot about my neighbour Margaret. She does rely on me a lot but she does have others in her village. The young bloke who lives in the house on the other side, pops up every morning to take her bag of rubbish out to the bin. His mum can be relied on to wash sheets. The apprentice at the hairdresser is frequently sent up the chemist to collect a prescription while Margaret's hair is setting. It's a true community effort. When Margaret was in hospital most recently there were three questions that came up every day. She wanted to know how my dogs were. She wanted to know how her birds were and she wanted to know if the flowers were blooming. A few weeks back, a neighbour had extra seedlings so planted them just outside the window where Margaret sits. When she fell they were growing well but had yet to bloom. In the last couple of days they have come alive. Margaret is delighted. It's the little things.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September 19. Day 262. Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Sorry scrolls

Director and co-creative Dan Evans
A few years back someone very close to me wanted to have "a talk". It was obvious it was about something serious. She came to say she was sorry. She was at Step 8 of the 12-Step Program "Make a list of all persons we had harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all". She said her piece. I looked blank. The fact is, I had no memory of the incident. This was not emotional baggage I'd been carrying around for decades. This was not even emotional baggage in the overhead locker, securely tucked away for the moment but always able to be pulled down. This was lost luggage. And the weird thing is I could list many, many other things that had happened between us I still hold in my carry-on emotional baggage. The whole business of forgiving, of saying sorry, of seeking forgiveness, of making amends is a complex and emotionally charged space. This was the subject of an extraordinary piece of theatre I witnessed as part of The Brisbane Festival tonight.  The Brisbane-based production company The Good Room took to the world wide web to ask people to submit something they would like forgiveness for or something where an apology or attempts to make amends might help them forgive. They wove the responses into a piece of verbatim physical theatre held together with the story of Vitaly Kaloyev and his battle to forgive the unforgivable. Kaloyev's family was killed when an air traffic controller's mistake led to the death of his family. Using dance, perhaps the longest choreographed theatrical fight ever, smoke, 70,000 pearls and bags and bags of emotional garbage, the audience was taken on an emotional journey into what it is to forgive and to be forgiven. It gave no answers but raised a lot of questions. It shook me from start to finish. Now I just want an apology from the makers of the piece for seriously disturbing me.
Hear our podcast review here

Monday, September 18, 2017

September 18. Day 261. Strung up

We hear a lot about wildlife being injured by eating things or being tangled in things left behind by careless or uncaring humans. Indeed, one of the strong arguments for the banning of plastic bags in supermarkets from next year involved just that. I've seen the pictures. I think we all have. But I've never actually seen it first hand until today. I was taking a stroll through South Bank after my ABC slot.  The beach was pretty crowded given it's day one of the school holidays and it was picture perfect weather. I strolled to the water's edge vaguely considering putting my toe in to test the water but my eyes and my camera were drawn to the seagulls flapping about. I rather like photos of seagulls splashing about in the shallows. I've taken hundreds in my time often from almost exactly where I was standing. But today one was splashing and flapping more than the others. So that's the one I took most photos of. It was really bright so I
couldn't review the pics while I was on the beach. It was only later that I really understood what was going on. There was something, possibly an elastic band, around its beak. Perhaps it was from a sushi pack. Perhaps it was something else all together. And my response was to take photos. Well done me (not). The photos on my camera suggest it freed itself, although it may be I started focusing on another bird. At the risk of sounding like a bigot, all seagulls look kind of the same. But I feel bad, probably not as bad as the seagull.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

September 16. Day 259. The knives are out

While I might occasionally, sometimes, frequently whinge about my job, I don't really hate it. Education isn't actually about the 3Rs at all. It's the 3Ms I hate (marking, meetings and moderation). In all honesty, I know there are far worse things I could do. I don't build roads, I don't have to stand on my feet all day asking people how their day has been and I don't have to throw fire or knives at myself (even if it feels like it sometimes). Also, I get paid every fortnight without having to beg for it. In short I don't envy James Martin AKA Stuntman Jim. James was busking at South Bank when the dogs and I arrived late this afternoon. All the street performers I have seen at South Bank say pretty much the same thing at the end of their act. This is their job, they don't get paid for being there, they live on what audiences give them, please don't walk away. At least come and say thanks. And then the show finishes and most people run off without making eye contact. I went up and had a chat- and gave him the entire contents of my wallet which was $5 in gold coins. And then it occurred to me. There are lots of things that get harder in a largely cashless society and street performing has to be one of them. I don't carry cash. Swiping or tapping is my thing. As soon as my bank gets on board it will be my phone and that's it (until a chip is inserted in my arm). I'm not sure what the digital equivalent of passing the hat around is. Right now it seems like it's refusing to make eye contact and running away as soon as the show ends. This is a shame. The world would be a much duller place without the likes of Stuntman Jim.

Friday, September 15, 2017

September 15. Day 258. Home not so sweet, home

Margaret was discharged from hospital today. Again. She was so excited, happily telling everyone how much she was looking forward to sleeping in her own bed. I wish I could share her excitement. At least when she was in hospital she was unlikely to fall and end up in hospital. And as day turned to night my concern grew. I kept thinking I could hear her calling. Every car that came down the street I thought was an ambulance. Honestly, she is an accident waiting to happen. I'd take bets on how many days it will be before she is back in hospital if it wasn't so politically incorrect to do so. But sometimes you have to laugh or you'll cry. Today is one of those times.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

September 14. Day 257. Hands on

Talking with your hands is a thing. To be truthful it is often a thing that people see as a bit of a joke. As a hand talker I don't find that very funny. But here's the joke on the jokers. Hand talkers are charismatic and passionate leaders. As one study says "Hand gestures are really a powerful aspect of communication, from both the speaker's and the listener's end," Well isn't that a bit of good luck. I saw quite a bit in the name of hands-on communication today. Kate Jones, a former QUT Journalism student and now a Minister in the Palaszczuk government, was a special guest in an investigative journalism lecture this morning. She was good with her hands. Later there was a Fame concert. After 15 years of sitting in the audience of Fame concerts, I am very familiar with more than a few of Fame's signature hand moves. Message received loud and clear.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September 13. Day 256. Cruel to be kind

Whenever medical staff enter my neighbour Margaret's hospital room, I always get up to leave. She always says "you can stay" in a way that is clearly more instruction than invitation. So today I witnessed the wound being dressed again. There was a lot of scrubbing going on. The wound care nurse explained that healing was improved if blood supply could be increased to the site. You have to be cruel to be kind, he said. Okay then. Like everyone else entering Margaret's room at the moment he was wearing a mask, gloves and disposable gown. Margaret's room-mate until yesterday has been diagnosed with the flu and moved into a private room. Until the swabs taken on Margaret are returned, she is also treated as an infection risk. The last thing a hospital needs is more flu patients. The last thing an 89-year-old woman being treated for a leg wound needs is a dose of the flu to go with it. Hospitals really are the simultaneously the best and worst place to be when you are sick. I'm told the wound is healing nicely. I guess not weeping is an improvement. Managing not to weep while watching all this is also a big tick or Susan. Let's just hope it works