• 25 Aug 2013 /  News, THEATRE

     

    There is a meta-narrative under-pinning (over-riding) many theatre blogs which is the wailing and gnashing of teeth about not getting to enough shows, worse still trying to find the time to write about them meaningfully.  The diva, Alison Croggon, who tried the hardest most often suffered the most. Me, to get around the problem, I have mainly just skipped a  lot of shows, ushering in disappointment from fans, and privately great waves of guilt (more so given the generous support I get from all of the main theatre company publicists). We are in a situation now in our city/society where the print media contribution has become so minimal it is almost not worth mentioning. So it is left to the mostly unwaged bloggers, giving of their time to an often take-it-for-granted readership and a feeling-neglected theatre profession who desperately yearn for their work to be acknowledged. We bloggers are a troubled lot and I don’t think even the broader theatre industry quite realises what is currently at stake.

    The New Prince Alfred Park Pool

     I HAVE TAKEN UP AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHY – A FEW IN THIS POST FROM MY LOCAL AREA

    Exhibit A! I  have said it in the past: paintings and novels can lie around for years unacknowledged before being ‘discovered’. But in theatre-land, while an old script may be lying around somewhere, the actual artistic event which this script serves – the production – is gone. Long gone – lost in the mists of time and irretrievable. Without criticism (especially good quality criticism) no meaningful record survives.

    Yuppie breakfast at the new pool – poached eggs and smoked trout!

    Alison Croggon, tearing out her hair on a pre-dawn basis under the weight of demand did her superhuman best for many years before giving up. Lucky for her, her readers, and for those looking back to this time in the future, Ms Croggon got hired pretty much the next day by ABC online. In Sydney we have a group of on-liners (a nicer word for blogger?) who together (as a mob) make a contribution that approaches Croggon’s Melbourne-based achievement. But it mostly comes without financial reward and, in a city as expensive as Sydney, the current arrangement cannot last. What we are seeing at the moment is the publication of a bunch of newbies  (admittedly some very bright newbies) submitting reviews to online publications for no more than a couple of freebie tix. But once they have cut their teeth, are moving on to greener (aka ‘waged’) writing pastures. Employed by a big theatre company or industry body to run its own blog –  basically PR, hardly a balanced view. Or getting into ‘PR’ itself, or ‘marketing’ or ‘philanthropy’. No single reviewer born of the current circumstances is likely to hang around long enough to offer quality product and/or attain a merit-worthy following born of years of experience and a thousand mistakes.

    Pasta Bros birthday party – run by two French guys – Devonshire Street

    As one of the more experienced ‘not-for-profit’ reviewers based in Sydney, I am currently facing my ‘Alison’ moment. The way I have set up my site, I simply cannot sustain it for much longer. In fact it’s kinda over. It’s not just because the pieces themselves take so much time: one of my bigger pieces might take three days. My slow rate of delivery also does not work for the blog reader. When they click on my site after yesterday’s curious reading, they want more. An impossible task for the sole trader. This one anyway.

    Puppy dog sun-baking on the pavement in Crown Street. Not long after this was taken he got hit by a car. A heap of floral tributes were left at his spot. Clearly he had a sizeable fan base – including me.

    Okay I am particularly slow. But that’s because I like to try and get to the ‘bottom of things’. On a good morning after a good show the night before perhaps the ‘top of things’!

    Back lane – even the Quakers make rubbish.

    Here’s my situation and what I plan to do about it. I said a little while back I  had to take some time out to get overdue National Library work done. I haven’t got very far – there’s still a backlog. So this time-problem remains for at least a couple more months. I’ve still got a pile of ‘Timed Summaries’ to type up. And then there’s the backlog of interviews to get stuck into. I am not complaining: I LOVE this work. But I can’t do both  jobs well at the same time, and only one pays the rent.

    I recently put in some window boxes to my 3rd-floor flat – the weather has got them booming.

    Here it is straight up. Writing lengthy, closely argued, time and brain-devouring reviews for free is not how I wish to spend the rest of my writing life. For charity, I’d rather throw a blanket over someone sleeping rough or toss them a few bucks. Yes I do like the intellectual challenge of writing these long pieces, and I wont stop. But I am going to redesign this site so it can carry other forms of writing – exactly what shape that writing takes is still in its foetal stage. No doubt I will draw on the best suppositories of knowledge I can access: including my famously unreliable memory. Some circumstances have changed which suggest I can make better use of  this web-site. Plus these photos are a bit of a hint. Also the ones I have put up on Facebook about growing up in New Guinea.

    Dude with coffee and laptop at Ampersand – the cafe adjacent to the Clover’s Surry Hills library

    Between 1983 and the launch of this site a few years back, I wrote a lot for various high-life and low-life print media outlets: theatre reviews, other features and interviews, and think-pieces relating to theatre and theatre practice. And on other topics ranging from travel to architecture, to the latest fashion in eyewear. I have edited parts of, and whole magazines. I have lectured at a couple of universities. My flat contains mostly a collection of boxes stuffed with cuttings and publications begging to be put into some form  of order. A reason to bother has recently come my way. 

    My bachelor pad with flowers.

    Some of you know, as of July 2013, my website has been included in the National Library’s online cyber collection – called Pandora  - and will be updated once or twice a year. In a lightbulb moment, after such flattering news, I realised this presents me a reason to bother sorting through my clippings. And posting them in an archive folder linked this site. So, if I am not posting something new, I can put up something from the past. Possibly with some notes added now on how I think the piece reads now, however many years later. 

    ‘Skipping Girl’ – Wilson Street Redfern. On the way to Carriageworks.

    How am I going to do it? Probably start a whole new site, differently formatted and designed – to hold more than one single thread. I have got as far as purchasing the domain name – jameswaites.com.au. To do this I need help. And that is available to me in November when my ex Brett (who helped in setting up this site from his base in faraway Milan) has some time to help out. I will move across the content on this site – jameswaites.com – and start all over again. It should be lot easier than redesigning this site, especially since it’s so intertwined with ilatech.org (the ‘patch’ this site after being ‘Trojan-Horsed’ by a video-store in China a couple of years back). It was a life-saving measure at the time, thank  you Larry; but it also adds an unnecessary layer of complexity.Especially for people searching.

    Nitro on the left and the white one is Amos – my flatmates. They look after me as well as each other. It’s a happy household!

    I hope to spread my wings a bit on the new site – meaning not just stick to big theatre items or even gross und klein theatre items. There is other stuff I want to write about. It’s like this, I have got to a point in my own personal time-line where there are more years gone than yet to come. I promised myself I would try to live an interesting life, even if that meant never earning much money. Admittedly, I was from an early age drawn to the life and characters inhabiting the ‘other side of the tracks’. But then how many other people can say they have dined alone, on more than one occasion, with reclusive novelist Patrick White and his boyfriend Emanuel Lascaris.

    Redfern Station – returning from Carriageworks

    The deal with the devil was that this might give me something interesting to write about . ‘So where is that writing?’ the devil laughs.

    Busker outside State Theatre – 2013 Sydney Film Festival

    And now another nudge. If you are still with me (lolling half-asleep in James’s very own Garden of Olives/Eden), you may well prefer to know (as opposed to not know) the latest. And it is to put to rest any unnecessary concern or confusion down the track that I want you to know. I would keep it quiet, but it’s going to get out and so I want to make my situation clear. Everyone knows I have a thick medical file. So much so I have for a long time expected that if I wrote about some of what I have encountered in my years on this planet, it would be difficult to get around saying something about illness and injury, about recovery and well-being.

    Wilson Street – also on the way to Carriageworks.

    After a several year-long battle to get over what I got to call ‘the incident on the train’ (which took a lot longer than  expected), I enjoyed last summer almost daily at Coogee Beach, in the water, in  union with my million-year-old chromosomal origins. Well into autumn, it just got more beautiful and more healing as the early days of global warming kicked in. I was so delighted with my progress I made the mistake of declaring on the Facebook (aka ‘the Illustrated Buble‘) that I was  healed. At last I’d got my life back! We had a warm winter. Then, at some point a few weeks, a bout of cold windy wet weather set in. And, to my utter shock and dismay, the straw-man that is little me got blown down – again. Back to the chronic pain – but more of it and worse. How was I going to rebuild the mental detachment I had previously discovered the hard way was vital to cope now I had brought the defences down. Pain and suffering you learn are two very different things.

    Victoria Park – adjacent to Sydney University

    So what a smack  across the face with God’s handbag it was when I was this time diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Don’t freak out just yet – there is quite a bit of  silver lining.

    Now I know why so many things have been going wrong for me, and  hitherto not made sense – even the difficulty of getting over the train thing. A person can live with this neural disease for quite some time before it starts to manifest in  the more obvious symtoms of trembling hands and/or a stutter and/or a stooped walk and/or forgetfulness. Where was I? Oh yes – this is my message and why I am outing myself. It’s like coming out Gay or left-handed to one’s folks. What I want you all to know, medical advances being what they are these days, is  that the medication I am on makes me feel great. Certainly better than I have for a long time. I can’t use chopsticks, my handwriting is akin to that of a five-year-olds, I clap with one hand while the left one just waits to be smacked (so no I don’t hate your show). But also I feel good in myself. The pain disorder has retreated once again. And as of this last week I am back to doing a few, very modest, yoga postures, and as of yesterday back in the water. This time, at last, Clover’s Piece de Resistance – the Prince Alfred Park swimming pool (see top photo). Just a bit of walking in the deep water and then a few modest laps. But gosh given the early spring weather we are currently and as a Piscean – how truly aqueous and astrological. And a fresh opportunity closer to home to stay as fit and mobile as I can for as long as I can.

    Homeless man – Taylor Square. I found him lying lost in his dream in the sun on a very hot day. I managed to wake him up and help him relocate to this shadier spot. He even trusted me with holding his bottle.

    Meanwhile I am grateful for the diagnosis, and the forewarning it brings. Thus I can sort out my priorities and get on with them (hence much of the above). One of two things is going to happen. 1. Medical science is advancing at such a rate, by the time I would otherwise be getting into trouble, a magic bullet may exist. That’s the medical gossip anyway. They are already inserting mirror-balls and even Priscilla buses into the brains of some sufferers further down the track than me. If not, well we all have to end our time on this planet one way or the other – and  the way is rarely of our own choosing.

    Busker – Devonshire Street tunnel

    My main point is this (said KRudd poking his finger through the TV and into my face): what I want you all to know is that my well-being is going to improve for a period of time before it’s starts getting worse. How long – who knows. No one can answer that – not even Godot. It is way too soon for anyone, even me, to start getting upset. I am outing myself here also because, having informed a few intimates, most of them confessed they had noticed odd signs but did not know how to ask or what to say, and were ‘very worried’ about me. So if you’ve seen me bent and slow struggling in the street against the wind (like some drag Miss Docker), no I am not jazzed-up to the hilt on methadone or absinthe or gone quietly mad or gripped by Abbott-fever. I am fine and right now, a month into the right medication, getting better everyday. Want to know more? Google Michael J Fox Foundation.

    Bachelor cooking – inspired by watching too many episodes of My Kitchen Rules!

    Meanwhile from me: here’s a bunch of haiku-sized responses to some of the shows I have recently seen. Eamon Flack did a great job with the massive Angels in America - with the help of a perfect cast including a super-spectacular Robyn Nevin in several Meryl Streep roles. Persona also at Belvoir was very interesting – certainly a refreshing change in terms of tone and timbre to what’s currently fashionable. At STC, a truly fun-filled brain-fracked Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead with an all-star cast, niftily directed by Simon Phillips (welcome to Sydney – do come back). And Storm Boy- my apologies I took my new medication at the wrong time and I pretty much woke up at the curtain call. There was kid hanging onto a dead bird? What prefaced that situation I am not sure. But it must have been good since one of my besties – who collects children’s books – was sobbing as she exited the theatre.

    My latest bit of ‘found’ furniture – off the street!

    See you soon in a foyer near you. If not here sooner – then definitely around November sometime. I may not be able to resist commenting on the Simon Stone Hamlet starring Mr Toby Schmitz up the street from me at Belvoir! It’s being promoted as a ‘cure-all’!! Could be just what I am looking for!! ‘Let’s keep on dancing and playing the tune.’

     

  • 24 Mar 2013 /  FESTIVALS, News

     

    I love this image

    The photograph above is significant and to many provocative. Why? Because the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras – its best-known name – has had other titles over its thirty-five years. This is the brand image for 2013 and it does not include either the word ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian” – not even in small print. Argument has broken out within the community about dropping those key words without proper consultation with members. The full name is used in official correspondence at the moment and in anything that involves the law. But not in public – ie anything likely to put off retired Miami tourists whose ‘cruise’ ship happens to be town that day. Too complicated to explain here. But it’s just one of many kerfuffles this special Sydney event has endured and survived over its 35 years. And there will be an EGM soon to sort this out.

    Nowadays it’s called ‘branding’.

    All that behind-the-scenes stuff aside, the 2013 poster is composed of several references alluding to concerns and interests of Sydney’s ‘homosexuals’ today. That’s not the right word either because nowadays the inclusive philosophy of Mardi Gras has now spread to embrace anyone who identifies GLQBT and/or I (meaning: Gay, Lesbian, Queer, Bisexual, Transexual/Transgender/Transvestite and/or Intersex). Don’t laugh this is serious business – and feelings run very deep and very high over the pro’s and cons of this alphabet soup. Never mentioned is that there are likely also to be as many ways to be straight  (recently popularly known as ‘breeders’ – until non-straight couples started  appropriating the word – having their own kids by way of various advanced medical technologies (and a hopefully whole lot of love). Gone are the days when straying from the heterosexual norm  could be umbrellaed under the provoctive and usefully elusive term ‘Polymorphous Perversity’. Technically my preferred option, but I can’t see Events NSW (now a sponsor) finding that one easy to swallow. Blaring along Sydney streets in rows of big banners. If only…’POLYMORPHOUS PERVERSITY’ repetitively – like a visual mantra.

    Mattthew Toomey’s cheeky contribution to the current ‘name change’ debate.

    Despite the missing words of ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’, this year’s poster image suggests multiple topical references including the right to marriage and parenthood, challenges faced growing up not straight; and the baby blanket is composed of posters from the last 35 years of Sydney’s G&L Mardi Gras. The blanket also happens to reference a segment of the AIDS Quilt (officially the Names Project). The AIDS Quilt started out as a community project in San Francisco designed to help people grieve. It is composed of small hand-made quilted segments made by a loved one or loved ones, each honouring a single person lost to AIDS. In my view, the AIDS Quilt is one of the is one of  most important works of art ever – what with its powerful content, sheer tragic beauty, and the involvement of so many hands. Many countries took up the idea of a Names Project  including grieving Australians. Here’s a link to more about the  USA Quilt and its origins. And another one – even more interesting with a recent  engagement with the latest digital wizbangery.

    AIDS Quilt display Washington

    Aids Quilt Project – Australia

    The Sydney’s Mardi Gras story begins with a rather dinky night-time ‘street party’ held on 24 June 1978 in Oxford Street after a day of traditional protest for homosexual rights. It didn’t have an official name. Though when Ron Austin put his idea to Margie McMahon, another member of the Glebe-based community support group CAMP (Campaign Against Moral Persecution), she said: ‘Oh you mean a Mardi Gras”. It was a very simple idea and the name stuck. This above is the confirmed undeniable origin – so don’t let other claimants fool you. The protest movement at the time  - post-Vietnam War  - was a passion, almost a way of life for many back then. But support for Gay Liberation was inhibited by the fact that in joining a march in daylight you were possibly coming out ‘gay’ (to your family and employer) and, at that time, homosexual acts between consenting males of any age was illegal. Without going into to much detail, Ron Austin suggested an extra event to follow a day-time city street protest. The idea was to dress up a bit, play some loud music from speakers on the back of a truck – and  travel down Oxford Street (the Gay Mile already established) calling for gays in the bars to come  out and join in the fun – safe in the dark! They did and by the time that lead truck got to Hyde Park there were many hundreds more involved.

    Conflict with police at that point escalated and the participants defied police by heading up William Street. In the main street of Kings Cross they were blocked off at both ends by a new shift of police and the party, having already turned into a protest, now escalated to a riot. There were arrests and the whole event blew up in the faces of both the revellers and police. Many were thrown into jail for the night. And thrown out the next day by a magistrate. Meanwhile the Sydney Morning Herald’s Monday edition printed the names and addresses of all arrested. Their cover blown, families ripped up and indeed jobs were lost. Ironically, if conflict had not happened there would probably have never been another Mardi Gras Parade/Protest – which did occur around the same time the next year. And  interestingly, Ron Austin’s ‘non-political’ event turned out to be the most political in Australia’s gay and lesbian history.

    Just so you know a few of the photos in this post I have collected  randomly over the month or emailed a few requests during MGras 2013. Others I dug out of Google. Everyone involved at whaever position they hold from CEO to roadside Parade viewer has a different experience. So this is basically the story of MY Mardi Gras 2013 – below is a photo Cindy Pastel (aka Richie Finger) probably my personal favourite Sydney alphabet soup persona. Whose life story was turned into Priscilla the film and the musical. With virtually no money from the pocketsful of cash going to her/him.

    I Love Cindy Pastel! – backstage at Bob Downe’s Celebrity Roast

    Here she is again below with Bobe Downe (aka Mark Trevorrow) – my next other favourite (in gay world you can a have more than one) – trading identities. Not just a hilarious shot, but also a very good example of why we need a single word (or very short phrase) to encompass the many variations of non-straight gender and sexual identity.

    Cindy as Bob & Bob as Cindy!

    I was close enough to Sydney  Gay world in 1978 to hear about the party/riot the next day, though I was not personally involved. In the past decade I hnbve been barely involved in any way. However, just over a year ago I was invited by the National Library to undertake an Oral History of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. It is proving to be a much more interesting project than I imagined (me thinking all the main players are dead – and indeed many are). But there are others still with us and they can tell their stories and speak up for the those who are lost. For example Ron Smith spoke about not only his time in the MGras Workshop but also his dear friend Doris Fish, an original Synthetic. She had relocated to San Francisco  - but came back once a year to help in the workshop. And prepare her own special once-in-a year outfit

    Doris Fish in San Francisco Gay Pride march – still carrying the Aussie flag

    The journey of Mardi Gras over 35 years is a fabulous story which cuts open the history Sydney like a watermelon. And I will post more stories down the track as my Library project evolves. But just to make just one point: if it were not for the experience gained  in being involved in running the Mardi GrasParade, over so many years, there would never  have been such a well organised Sydney 2000 Olympics. And to this very day, mega-event managements frpm all over the world look to employ people with G&L MGras experience.

    Despite having lived in Sydney for the past 35 years and more, I haven’t been close to the organisation for quite sometime. I was a personal friend of  Peter Tully and David McDiarmid who were among the group who pushed for the date to be moved from winter to summer (less clothing and thus a chance for more flesh and more fun); and, moreover, set up a decent workshop where big ideas could come to life; also with Workshop staff help available for community troupes to go bigger and better if they wanted to. Tully and McDiarmid – sometime partners and life-long pals – were greatly influenced by trips to the uptown New York nightclub – the Paradise Garage. One of the first places to put together party drugs, dressing up  and dancing to dawn. Peter’s art work named Urban Tribalwear was also influenced by trips to big parades in the Caribbean and even PNG. David, more overtly political, darker sensibility, and outliving Peter by several years was hugely drawn to Festivals of the Day of the Dead in Mexico – and drew on some of that imagery in his Parade float creations.

     

    Peter Tully (far right)  with his Tribe

    The Tully look.

    The Mardi Gras Parade was solid gold content for photographer William Yang. Here (below) are three classic W Yang shots from the height of  the  Tully/McDiarmid era. 

    Disempowering the enemy: taking back ownership of derogatory terms.

    Peter Tully (centre) with friends – Australian wild-life costume

    Revd Fred Nile’s Head on aPlate – a la Salome – carried by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Probably the most significant float ever.

    The decision to move from winter to summer escalated involvement and a more celebratory atmosphere. But there was also a loss. It caused a few of the ‘protest’ hardliners to pull way, especially almost all the lesbians who re-hitched their wagon to the burgeoning Woman’s Liberation movement. Hitherto homosexual rights protests had been a remarkable example of coalition politics.

    Mardi Gras, including management, and Parade & Parade participants remained almost exclusively male until the late 1980s, when a female member of the workshop, Cath Phillips, eventually found herself on the Board and a year later successfully ran for President. Over the next few years women were drawn back into the event at all levels. And it has remained a ‘coalition’partnership ever since. The highlight to this very day in terms of the Parade  has been the participation of Dykes on Bikes. Who now annually start or are near the start of every Parade. What a throbbing, powerfully sexual kick start: I don’t know, this year it felt like about at least a hundred. Usually with girlfriend or best friend sharing the ride. The noise of the bikes and then the roar of the crowd has to be heard to be believed.

    Dykes on Bikes 2013

    The is much more to the story of the first decade, including the impact of the AIDS pandemic. For the National Library I am basically working in chronological order and currently up to around the mid-late 1980s. There have been some fantastic stories told – and now safely stored. A couple of years ago I interviewed Rose Jackson (born Barry) for the National Library – she got sacked from the Old Tote theatre com[any when her sex-change hormones started to kick in. But she went on and made a great career for herself as a costumier and performer at The Purple Onion in Kensington and later Capriccios on Oxford Street. I think hers is  my favourite Library interview ever. I was asked to speak at her funeral and wrote the  SMH obituary.

    The photo of Rose we chose for her SMH obituary – what a lady!

    While we are at it, another big loss this year was Carmen Rupe. She lived near me in her last years and would travel around on one of these medical scooters – flowing with coloured ribbons and banners (a touch of Isadora) and always flowers in her hair. A one woman year-round Mardi Gras. I took Carmen as my date to Richard Wherrett’s funeral (another story altogether). Half way through the ceremony she passed out, her head fell into her huge breasts and  she started to snore. She turned a few rather severely disapproving heads, but I thought Richard looking down from above would have found her ‘performance’ amusing.

    Celebrated New Zealand emigre hooker/role model Carmen Rupe also passed way this year. She was honoured in this year’s Parade.

    One last comment before I sign off.  I noticed that Mardi Gras’ current CEO, Michael Rolik, was going to resign about a year ago and so I sought an interview with him before he disappeared into the wilderness. As it turns out, Rolik has stayed on. But meanwhile I have been given a brief insight into how Mardi Gras is run today. This year, after more than a decade of non-active involvement I took in as much as could of Festival, Parade and Party. There was much I was sorry to miss especially the conference day - Queer Thinking – which had some very interesting material and people involved. From past experiences 0f Mardi Gras Festivals, the events I attended this year  rose well above my expectations. But all that for another post. I think this is enough for one reading (and it’s been sitting around two weeks unfinished). I promise you more to come. I just have to  change horse in mid-stream and write about opera. Let me tell you – got the money go see Carmen on the water – FABULOUS!!

     

  • 28 Feb 2013 /  News

    Dear Children,

    I am  putting this up to show you my age. And to suggest you look at this document with your diaries open. Here is a once-in-a-life-time chance to get some major insights into the alternative art/performance culture of the Sydney that raged big time in the late 1960s and through the 1970s. I was just a tiny bit younger, so these are the people who had a lot to do with shaping who I am and the way I think today. They were truly heady days and Roger Foley (Ellis D Fogg) is creating a fun and very rare opportunity to revisit this wonderful Alice-In-Wonderland world.

    This is only a let-you-know in advance. Once MGras is over I will write more about some the people who are contributing to this very special event. I am not going to miss a single session. But in that next post, I will try and help you pick and choose depending on your interests, curiosities and taste.

     

  • 12 Jan 2013 /  News, OPERA, THEATRE

     

    Okay so there are Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover – and I’ve tried most of ‘em. Ten Green Bottles, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Seven Shades of Gray and there’s even A Hole in the Bucket. Well and good. But how many ways are there to see-in the New Year – say if you’re a Sydneysider. Whether it’s luxury-viewing from a Woseley Road mansion avec staffed/stuffed canapes, an apartment rooftop in Potts Point, a boat on the harbour, Barry Humphries’ private party, Clover Moore’s Mayoral gig on the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House, or with your head under the doona. That’s just a sprinkle of options.

    The last few years I have been lucky. If you have been following my whereabouts this has included two Clover parties (the floor you are standing on actually shakes when the fireworks explode) and last year I was part of a rent-a-crowd for a wonderful man who lives in an apartment overlooking the city from Macleay St as it curves into Woolloomooloo. This fine 95-year-old retired architect/widower poured champagne into our glasses with the sturdy hand of a man 20 years his younger. And we were there because he wanted to throw a party and mathematically all his friends were dead. We mere 40 to 50-year-olds threw some youth into the room and from his balcony we got the full vista of five different fireworks exploding points. Our host told us that when he first moved into the apartment in 1955 there was only one high-rise building. From his ‘period’ lounge-room he had watched the city grow.

    In a world full of great old cities being bombed to smithereens, or overwhelmed by the homeless and rotting garbage, Sydney is an oasis. Signs of growth are everywhere. Let me segue to my job. Just looking at the plays I am going to see over the next seven days (all home-grown product even if linked to the Sydney Festival program). At Belvoir, there is J.M.Barrie’s Peter Pan adapted by Tommy Murphy, directed by Ralph Myers. The next night I’ve got School Dance at STC Wharf One, written for Adelaide’s youth company Windmill by Mathew Whittet, directed by Rosemary Myers, with a cast that includes the deliciously talented Amber McMahon.

    Cast of Windmill’s School Dance

    Then it’s an adaption by Andrew Bovell for the Sydney Theatre Company of Kate Grenville’s fabulous novel, The Secret River, directed by Neil Armfield, playing at the Sydney Theatre with a cast of over twenty. There’s a new show at The Stables, Caleb Lewis’s Rust and Bone at the Stables. And apparently the new annual David  Williamson at the Ensemble is rather good.

     Who gives a toss if this year’s Sydney Festival management has decided to invite only a few reviewers to only a few things. I am happy with my lot of home-grown works. Which is my point. The work we can make by ourselves these days can come together and create a mini-festival without attending anything brought in from overseas. There will be hits and misses, as there always is to with the imported stuff too. But we have evolved so much in the past twenty years as a creative city (given the right support), missing out on some imported shows isn’t as as devastating as it was twenty years ago. Meanwhile pesky reviewers effectively banned. Unless every show is already sold out to the rafters, you would have to wonder what is achieved by keeping the media at bay. See this recent post by me - Alison Croggon Retires from Theatre Notes - about the future of reviewing.

    One of  highlights of the local works is  Opera Australia co-production of Verdi’s A Masked Ball  with probably my favourite company in the world, Barcelona’s La Fura dels Baus (‘The Rats of the Sewer’. I think I’ve survived four of their shows in different places around the world: my entire being hurled into another stratosphere each time.

    Here are some pictures of the production I found on Google. If you have ever thought of taking the leap from theatre into opera land, I don’t think I could more confidently recommend a production (in advance of seeing it myself). Wait for whatever reviews it gets if you like or throw yourself recklessly headlong. These pictures are enough of a draw-card for me. Along with Sydney, La Fura dels Baus is also creating versions of this Masked Ball  with Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires; La Monnaie, Brussels; and Norwegian National Opera & Ballet, Oslo. No doubt the Sydney Festival has helped finance and promote the gig – but given the number of local artists involved (musicians and singers) it is not what you would strictly-speaking call an import.

    I hope I am not giving too much away. To me these pictures serve as a draw-card. Who wouldn’t want to pull money out of their pocket to see what the image below is all about?

    Arriving at last at the main topic of this post: my New Year’s Eve 2012/13! I somehow found myself with two tickets to the OA’s gala night which includes a performance – this year of La Boheme - and then canapes and drinks after which we watch the fireworks from the glassed-in foyer above Clover’s party (or other vantage points). Actually 9pm fire-works at interval and then grog and tastings and idle chat from 10.30 till the bridge and the harbour exploded at midnight into a burst of noise, colour and lights.

    The evening hosted by Kylie Minogue!

  • 23 Dec 2012 /  News, OPERA

    I have been very lucky with my fireworks experiences. For two years recently I was Brian Thomson’s guest at Clover’s little party on the front bit of the Opera House forecourt – which shook when the fireworks went off. Though no aerial display could outdo the ‘Tribute to Broadway’ choreographed by one of the judges of  So You Think You Can Dance‘. The  same creative genius who once said to Meryl Tankard: ‘Okay so how many houses do you own? I have five!’

    Then last year at a very late moment I got a call from a couple of gay guys who live in a strange gaudy red block of flats on the corner of Macleay St where it curves into Woolloomooloo Bay. The 95-year-old widower architect who lived at the front with expansive views of harbour and city wanted to have a party. Unfortunately all his friends were dead. So the gay-boy neighbours rang around and hired an especially selected well-dressed crowd. It was an amazing night – the glamorous interior had not been touched since the 50s and the gentleman himself insisted on pouring the Champagne with the savoir faire and athleticism of a mere 80-year-old.

    We could see the fireworks going off from five different spots. Fireworks over – party over. Our superb host was ready for bed. I hope we kept him good company. This year I have struck gold again with an invite to Opera Australia’s performance and party. It’s Gale Edwards’ La Boheme, set in German Weimar, designed by Brian Thomson with costumes by Julie Lynch.. I’ve seen it  and its’ very good. Here we have new singers in the lead roles: Nicole Car in her Sydney debut as the seamstress Mimì and the tenor Gianluca Terranova as the poet Rodolfo.