I got off the plane from Thailand, dropped my bags and headed down to the the STC Wharf – for what I thought was a performance of Phil Spencer’s Bluey - and indeed it was. But more! It turned out to be Glitter and Fluffy’s open day, where you could soak in the eco-friendly atmosphere and get doused in glitter if you were a kid.
I wanted to see Master Spencer’s play because I had seen one of his shorter works as part of the 2010 Brand Spanking New season a couple of month’s back at the New Theatre. I thought that play as funny and showed talent. A little time later, myself, Spencer and a gifted female playwright, Emily Calder found ourselves seeking out further alcohol in the Kings Cross precinct after a show at the Old Fitzroy. The show was Calder’s Flightfall. Being a good piece of writing for the stage, it was well worth the extra drinking/talking time. All this ties up with the fact that Spencer has recently been appointed Associate Artistic Director for Tamarama Rock Surfers – the company which runs the venue at the Old Fitzroy in East Sydney. Working alongside Artistic Director Leland Kean.
Back to Phil’s play, Bluey. A Bluey is an official form of a letter you can send to someone in the British Army posted to some exotically dangerous locale like Iraq during the war there. Like Spencer’s Dad. But Bluey is more than a piece of paper in this play – it is a metaphor for the relationship, the special communication if you like that Spencer enjoys with his father. An army chef by trade, he is sent over to the war to keep an eye on the locals who had been hired to do the bulk of the feeding of the British troupes. In a gesture that perhaps best identifies his special brand of humour, Spencer’s Dad is played by a chimpanzee – a rather large puppet which the writer/actor handles adroitly. And the fact that, as a student during the time of this war, Phil is not exactly behind the war effort his Dad has been dragged into, leads to some lovely revelations about just how well the pair of them – father and son – get on.
I wouldn’t call Bluey a major work, but it it’s good and true. And it has a lovely ending, a tiny twist in the tail/tale, which reminds you that, jokes aside, you can’t have war without dying. Bluey, which has made a couple of previous appearances is directed by Scarlet McGlynn. On our drunken night out I asked what brought this lively English lad to our shores.
Clearly Johannson isn’t the only Scarlet(t) beauty of our time – as it appears the McGlynn siren call had effected some stirring in Phil’s simple soul. Effecting in the purchase of a plane fare. That McGlynn can direct with such sensitivity to form adds a further bow to her string. Here is a review of Bluey from Australian Stage when it played at the Old Fitz earlier in the year. It explains a few features of the play better than I have here.
I have to be a bit honest here and say I have started to try to be nice 2 young people in the hope that one or two of them might bring me grapes in a few years when I am eventually put into a high insecurity nursing home. This has nothing to do with how much I enjoy the ‘life force’ of the under 20s/30/40s! Or that I am quietly excited that a rather wonderful bunch appear to rising up through the ranks of the Sydney theatre–making world. So it was fun to discover some of my best friends of this new generation were also seeing Phil’s show. I normally keep this quiet, but I spent the odd semester some years back teaching a course called ‘Nothing at Nepean’ – a very special syllabus that basically set forth the careers of the likes of the Umblical Brothers, Steve Rodgers, Joel Edgerton – and specific to this story, Vashti Hughes and classmate Sean Barker, who is married to Vashti’s talented sister the blues singer Christa Hughes.
Christa did me the honour of singing at a party I tossed last year for a couple of hundred of my closest friends – yes it was a good night! And since then we have all become a bundle of buddies. I am not sure how to take being known as ‘Auntie Jim’, though I do enjoy the many laughs and hugs. Anyways, Sean and Christa were there. Sean and Phil Spencer had been in a play together (BTW) at TRS called Rock Paper Scissors, I dunno about a year ago? At the show also was Craig Menaud, another ex-Nepeanite. With someone rather smart and sweet on his arm!
Anyways – such was the jolliness of the occasion, we bypassed the rest of Open Day and the bunch of us went over the road to an Italian restaurant for a noisy feed. I am not going to name the restaurant, coz i don’t know what it is. But it’s fantastic. I’ve been there a few times now. Not cheap cheap – but for the price amazing value. The place was clogged with wannabe’s and wannatable’s, yet we were very well looked after by the hugely busy staff and the food was great.
There was more to this day, all within hours of landing in Sydney after my month in Thailand – it finished off with further wine women and siren song at a yuppie pizza place near my place in Surry Hills. That was with Jana Perkovic, bright young Melbourne person visiting, and my dearest friend Maggie Blinco – but that’s different story to tell another day. As I hoped, Maggie liked the silk scarf I brought back for her from Thailand. I trust this humble gift will make a foyer appearance in the not to distant future.
Next story: Diary of a Madman. Yes – it is Very Good!