Next week marks In The Taratory’s fifth birthday.
It’s a fitting time for the blog to officially take a hiatus.
Next week marks In The Taratory’s fifth birthday.
It’s a fitting time for the blog to officially take a hiatus.
* I attended The Slip Lane as a guest of the Aspen Island Theatre Company.
It’s a rare occasion that I leave the theatre knowing less about the play I’ve just seen than before I walked in. But that’s the case with locally-based The Slip Lane by Julian Hobba.
Divorcee Matthew (Dene Kermond) lives in four-bedroom house Palmerston – yep, this play is set in Gungahlin. And Matthew has been mulling over a suggestion for a road improvement – a slip lane at Gundaroo Drive and Gungahlin Drive (Extension).
Matthew is so enthused with his suggestion, he heads to Access Canberra – the Service Centre in Gungahlin, no less – to wait to provide his suggestion which falls on deaf ears. While he waits, he meets Missy (Clare Moss) who lives near Percival Hill (a walk I’ve reviewed!) (I presume she’s in Crace). She’s there to complain about a creature she’s seen at night that has bulging red eyes and three heads (and she gets excellent service, with rangers continually visiting but finding nothing). Matthew is happy to come check out what’s going on and allay her concerns – and perhaps romance is on the cards, too.
Matthew ventures out into the nature park armed with Missy’s child’s toy sword. I’m convinced that this creature is going to turn out to be Chris the Sheep and I can continue to relate and enjoy what initially feels like a very Canberran play.
Alas, it’s not Chris the Sheep. It’s a demon and it really does have three heads and bulging red eyes.
Mind you – this all happens in the first 20 minutes of the 90 minute play. What follows next is the demon’s attempt for Gungahlin to secede, Hutt River Province-style; a campaign to make the slip lane reality; an approach to make Matthew a successful Senate candidate in what’s a nod to preference whisperer Glenn Druery; a murder; onesies; and garden gnomes crying blood.
The play swings from light humour to very dark themes; sincere moments to comedic violence. Sure, it’s absurdist – but it’s also overwhelming. The four actors fill the space and the themes, and on top of all their lines in the 90 minute, no-interval play, each delivers at least one solid soliloquy for reasons which I can’t quite grasp.
I’m really impressed with the use of digital backdrops to enhance each scene. Access Canberra really does look like Access Canberra; I can imagine the dripping blue light feature wall in any home built in the last 5 years; and Percival Hill is, I think, a grainy image of Percival Hill which makes it feel quite immersive. It, together with the clever use of lighting, helps centre a play which otherwise tries to do too much.
Date: Thursday, 28 July 2016
Cost: I attended as a guest; tickets are $32-38
Want more? Purchase tickets at thestreet.org.au. It’s on until Sunday evening.
* I attended Next to Normal by Phoenix Players at the ANU Arts Centre as a guest
It’s a normal day in the Goodman household and it’s starting before dawn.
Diana Goodman (Janelle McMenamin) can’t sleep so she’s awake when her cheeky teenage son Gabe (Will Huang) arrives home well past curfew; she distracts ‘boring’ husband Dan (Grant Pegg) – woken by their voices – with the promise of sex; and she offers pathetic comfort to studies-stricken overachieving daughter Natalie (Kaitlin Nihill). As the sun rises and the day officially starts, Diana begins making sandwiches for her family but it’s obsessive and repetitive and obsessive and repetitive and obsessive and repetitive until she finds herself on the kitchen floor, still making the sandwiches. The family collectively recoils before Dan organises a trip to the psychopharmacologist (Joel Hutchings). Diana is bipolar depressive with delusional episodes, and so it has been for 16 years.
It’s been a normal day in the Goodman household.
And while this is how we’ve been introduced to Di’s feelings about her family, soon it’s revealed how her family is feeling and behaving. Daughter Natalie craves attention from her mother yet finds no sympathy for her and feels that Dan has equally abandoned her; she finds warmth in stoner music student Henry (Daniel Steer). Gabe is the golden child who supports his mother’s choices and desires to feel something; to not have her life dulled by medicine. Dan is depressed and tired; Dan knows he controls as much as he can without controlling anything important.
And the catch? (Potential spoiler so this is in white text – highlight over if you really want to read it.) One of these characters isn’t alive.
Next to Normal is powerful, relatable theatre. With a rock – and occasionally comedic – score there’s real risk that it could descend into the absurd or glib. It never does.
This is a musical that’s about competition for presence. Gabe and Natalie compete, unequally, to be noticed; to have their presence acknowledged. Dan seeks validation without ever asking for it. His desire for his presence to anchor Diana is palpable, yet it occurs, achingly, just once when she is in a particularly vulnerable position; he simply doesn’t have the strength of presence to help her. Doctors Fine and Madden use every trick in the book to help make Diana fulfill her presence – to make her present in the here and now, to not drag the past with her. And it’s about what can happen – to anyone, any demographic, any background – when someone is no longer present in our lives.
Each actor is genuinely strong in their roles but Pegg and McMenamin – Dan and Diana Goodman – is the duo that matters and they convince me. Together, the ensemble is musically extraordinary – the last song is perfect – but individually inconsistent. Consistently excellent Will Huang (High Fidelity) seems to be exercising restraint until his final songs in Act II which are powerful and aggressive. Grant Pegg (great in last year’s production of Evita) and Kaitlin Nihill (this year’s Beauty and the Beast) are strong throughout, while I would have liked to hear some stronger voices from Joel Hutchings and Daniel Steer who each appear to be solid but quiet.
Most perplexing of all is McMenamin. While her acting is utterly brilliant and she is a superb casting choice, I dismiss her musical voice early as weak, before being thrown (in a very good way) by powerful ballads – and so this rollercoaster continues throughout the night. I genuinely believe she is excellent – and I hear every few songs just how good she is – but I just don’t hear it throughout and it’s distracting.
For the dark themes it delicately explores, this isn’t a musical that preaches but one that is matter-of-fact throughout. Supporting this is a bare-bones set, which seems purposely designed for the skilled actors to help jumpstart what the scene calls for – a simple, slightly raised platform is easily Natalie’s bedroom in one scene and a pulsing nightclub in the next.
It’s 20 minutes too long – like West Side Story, all the action and the best songs are in Act I (that’s where the similarities end, I promise) – so I recommend a glass of wine in intermission.
But I’m nitpicking, of course. This is one of the best pieces of theatre I’ve experienced in at least 18 months. Sure, it’s Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning, and that helps. But it’s the fact that – yet again – a local company has pulled off theatre like this with such aplomb that makes it unmissable.
Date: Friday, 8 July 2016
Where: ANU Arts Centre, Union Court
When: On until Saturday 23 July
Cost: An adult ticket is $35; see here for full price details
Worthwhile factor: Highly worthwhile
* I attended the Buvette Petit Feast as a guest.
It’s a dreary Canberra morning – one that it’s easy to despite but photographers love. The light casts just right. There’s no glare or overshadowing and the pale grey backdrop is just perfect for that picture.
While it’s too cold to sit outside, we’re offered a table near gorgeous lengthy windows at the new Buvette Wine Bar and Bistro at the bottom of Hotel Realm. It’s in the space of the old Mavi (kebab-loving public servants will know what I’m talking about) and another restaurant space where seemed to be to go through a few hands. The result is a dining area which reaches, stretches out; as we walk in it’s not clear where it ends and the numerous doorways remain – closed today (and a tad confusing to know where is the actual entrance), but potentially thrown open in warmer weather.
Our view outside is Autumn’s last echo – sparks of green against burnt orange and roar-red – and we drink it in while we’re served the complimentary glass of Mt Majura rose to start our petit feast.
* I attended Movenpick as a guest
For the uneducated (like I was), Movenpick is an international ice cream brand. It’s one of those franchises people are obsessed with: queuing up outside for hours, sampling all the flavours, and coming back the very next day to try it all again.
And that’s the story of Siddharth Mahabal and Aneeta Singh. While living in New Zealand they didn’t just eat Movenpick but they lived it, and on moving to Canberra figured if there wasn’t a store here already then they had to work hard to bring one here – including opening it themselves.
They did just that. At the launch of Movenpick we heard from the head office how the husband and wife team would regularly contact Movenpick to ask them to consider opening a store in Canberra. They were nothing if not persistent! The good news – for Siddharth and Aneeta, as well as for all of Canberra – is that it worked.
Canberra’s very first Movenpick store is located on the still-expanding Kingston foreshore, down the end where you’ll find Molto Italian. It’s a corner store, luxuriously fitted out with leather couches in the traditional Movenpick colours of black, red and white and curved edges everywhere I look. It’s classy and homely.
One of the best parts of Kingston foreshore is being close to the lake. Movenpick’s taken the bold step of having an outdoor eating area. Given Canberra winters average about eight months, I was skeptical whether this would be successful but Movenpick has been able to stretch out the awning to provide a covered area and they also have these beauties:
They work a treat and have me shrugging off my jacket.
But we’re here for the ice cream! So what’s on offer?
The first thing you need to know is that Movenpick offers free tasting of all its flavours. And there are a lot. And some of the flavours you can’t quite properly grasp until you taste them, so don’t be shy. I try blueberry cheesecake, cinnamon, raspberry sorbet doubled with Swiss chocolate to make a Cherry Ripe-style duo, caramelita, espresso (as a non-coffee drinker this almost blew my head off – the flavour is strong), maple walnut, mint chocolate, chocolate brownie… you get the idea.
The process of creating Movenpick ice cream is something of a feat. Ingredients are sourced from all of the world – Madagascan vanilla pods, cocoa beans from Venezuela – and brought to Switzerland where the ice cream is prepared centrally, before being shipped to its stores around the world. You can’t doubt the Swiss for wanting to achieve consistency in quality product, even if I do wonder a bit about overall efficiency.
Movenpick ice creams are creamy. Really creamy. And the flavours come through strongly – they use natural ingredients and there are no artificial additives, colours or flavours – just like our own local Frugii. My favourite flavours are cinnamon and blueberry cheesecake (these are two separate flavours), but the tasting helps me uncover flavours I was convinced I wouldn’t really like and love: caramelita (with both caramel ripple and caramel bits) and the white chocolate, too.
I start with a double serve of cinnamon and blueberry cheesecake in a cone. But it turns out to be that my only love is sprung from my only hate. Or, to be less dramatic, the delicious blueberry cheesecake (which I love) is slated to replace the cinnamon ice cream (which is beyond devastating!). If you are reading this, Movenpick head honchos, you are making a mistake. The cinnamon is so, so good. (If you think you might like even kind of like the cinnamon I urge you to get in quick before it’s gone forever!)
While I’ve been on my Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-esque taste of everything on site, Boyfriend has gone ahead and ordered a plate of the Movenpick macarons: macaron shells filled with ice cream and served with cream and a dash of chocolate sauce. It’s pretty darn decadent with chocolate, salted caramel and pistachio ($12.95).
I think this is one of the best value for money offerings that Movenpick has: the macaron shells are high quality and the servings of ice cream sandwiched in each is essentially three different scoops. I’m not sure what it is about the pistachio but I’m not a fan and neither is Boyfriend – but otherwise the tastes are very, very good.
(Do you like the plates? They’re by Robert Gordon Australia.)
Siddharth insists we try the chocolate waffles. These, along with the apple strudel, are items which obviously have a particular appeal during winter. The waffles are prepared on site according to the Movenpick recipe and they’re made to order so they come out hot and fresh with another two big serves of ice cream and brilliantly-red, sweet strawberries with lashings of chocolate sauce.
This is another very decadent dessert. The waffles are crisp on the edge and overall very cakey in texture. Noting most of my waffle experience has been with frozen ones that you microwave that are essentially hollow inside, this takes me by surprise. Keeping the ice cream and waffles separate keeps the ice cream from melting and lets you choose how you want to eat them, but my recommendation is to pile the ice cream on the waffle so you get the cakey bits, the crunchy bits, the cold bits and hot bits all in one mouthful. Yum! (Save the strawberries until last so you can end feeling healthy.)
While Frugii will always be #1 for me, I’m impressed with what Movenpick has to offer, especially given it’s a franchise. The personal effort from Siddharth and Aneeta can be felt throughout the store and the ice cream flavours are spot on.
(Please keep the cinnamon ice cream, Movenpick. It really is very, very good.)
Date: Saturday, 7 May 2016
Where: Kingston Foreshore, 43 Eastlake Parade
Cost: I attended Movenpick Kingston as a guest; we paid for the ice cream sandwich macarons
Worthwhile factor: Highly worthwhile
Value for money: Reasonable: as you might expect from a product with ingredients sourced from around the world and centrally prepared in Switzerland, a single scoop is on the upper end for cost – but it is very high quality.
Want more? Check out their Facebook page for more.
Forty minutes from Canberra, Gundaroo is an historic village where there’s a lot to see, eat and drink along its main street – Cork Street. Along the street is the Gundaroo Pub and further up is Grazing and Capital Wines.
Today we’re at the the Cork Street Cafe, an institution on the site of the old police station across the road from the pub. The cafe proper is in the horse tables; a barn of stones and bricks.
In 2015 I was one of 10,500 Australians and New Zealanders who were lucky enough to be successful in the ballot to attend the Gallipoli 2015 commemorations. I had always planned to write about it, but life quite literally got in the way. Here are a few reflections of what it was like to be there, to step on that land.
My best friend and her father have plans to go to Gallipoli in 2015 for the 100th anniversary commemorations. For me, it’s something I’ve never thought about. Her beautiful father passes away in 2013 and her trip to Gallipoli remains just as important, but for different reasons. She explains it better than I ever could in this poem here.
We hear about the ballot in 2013; a few thousand double passes for Aussies and Kiwis. We apply separately to increase our chances, and in early 2014 learn we’ve both missed out. We’re on a waitlist. Of the 40,000 who’ve applied we’re high up the list, but far enough from the top that it still seems impossible.
In early November she gets the news: she’s got the double pass and we’re going. A few weeks later I get the same news, but return my double pass into the pool: I’m going with my friend. The next few weeks are a frenzy of booking flights, accommodation and a tour (we can’t get in the site without it) and providing all the details to the Government so that we can get our passes and be confirmed.
We arrive in Turkey on April 22 without incident. Istanbul is teeming with Australians (and a few New Zealanders) – 10,500 is a lot of people. Our tour pre-briefs us in the evening of April 23 and advises we bring plenty of snacks and drinks; it’s not clear what will be available onsite. We get a hoodie – it’s going to be cold – and wake up near dawn to depart for Gelibolu.
It’s just before midday when we arrive at holding site of Kabatepe. We walk through numerous checkpoints – maybe three – and our bags go through machines like you see at airports. My pass states my full name and my passport number and the barcode gives me access to the Dawn Service and Lone Pine. It needs to be worn at all times. While standing in line we’re surprised to see Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Michael Ronaldson greeting us as we arrive for a good half hour.
The holding site is just that: a holding site. Security is paramount and everything is followed in a methodical way. We’re one of the first few buses to arrive and the expectation is that we wait until almost every bus has arrived. Some food is available as well as plenty of memorabilia. Friends of mine who I met on Young Endeavour back in 2004 arrive and become fast friends with my friend.
The area around us is flat and the shore isn’t steep; I find it hard to imagine how hard it might have been for the ANZACs in such calm and smooth surroundings, but later learn that this is essentially the site that they had planned to arrive at – not the site that became ANZAC Cove.
The wait is close to five hours – and even then we are released in stages, groups of bus numbers. We’re called comparative early and begin the trek down the long road to ANZAC Cove.
The mood has been a warm one but sombre, and our walk is quiet. The landscape to our right gets steeper and more hilly. Every so often we spot a movement in the trees or behind a hill. They are Turkish soldiers with weapons. We remark that the few we’re seeing gives way to just how many we’re not seeing. Quite honestly, I’ve never felt more protected.
At the commemorative site there are more security checks and then we’re in. The site has been enormously expanded on previous years to fit the maximum safe number of persons. It’s late afternoon but we’re advised that people will be arriving at the site up until 3am. There is large stadium seating around the site and also a grassy hill where plenty of people are already lying down in their sleeping bags. We make a quick decision to sit in the front row of the front left stadium seating in the corner: restricting our view in some ways, but placing us next to the dignitaries’ entrance, the side of the stage and, movingly, the shore.
Settled in, it’s the first opportunity we have to look around and I feel foolish for my earlier thoughts about the landscape. The cliffs are steep and rocky and loom over us, lit by the setting sun.
The sun glows red as it slips into the ocean and the warmth is gone, together with music that kept spirits bright into the night. There’s little wind but it’s a cold night and we’re soon ensconced in our sleeping bags, with our Gallipoli beanies (issued in a pack at an earlier checkpoint, together with commemorative booklets, a biodegradable rubbish bag and ponchos) on and the garish hoodies issued by our tour companies on.
Documentaries play through the night and I learn things I’ve never really understood or appreciated. The waves lap against the shore and the tranquility, the lack of distracting chatter, actually makes it easier to imagine the sound of gunfire and scrabbling around the shore. People arrive steadily right through the night, and those who were sleeping on the grass are all now standing tightly.
Before dawn we’re treated to clips of the ceremonies around the world, including every Australian city except Canberra (I know!). And then the waves become louder, as if there were landing boats within them, and William Barton pierces the silence with a didgeridoo performance followed by a Maori call to gathering.
The Chief of the Australian Defence Force tells us that it was here that the ANZAC legend was born at great cost and the reality of war was revealed, followed by an address by NZ Prime Minister John Key and a quotation shared from Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – who commanded critical forces during the Gallipoli campaign and was later President of the Republic of Turkey – that those sons who lost their lives lie in a friendly country, and have become Turkey’s sons as well. Tony Abbott and Prince Charles read addresses before prayers are read and wreaths are laid.
In the lead up to ANZAC Day, a friend of mine has been sharing the Facebook posts of a mate of his, Mick Crowther. Mick is a tour guide at the War Memorial. Mick shares this before ANZAC Day:
“This is Trooper Norman Bethune. Norman and his brother Alex (known as Douglas) were orphans from Tasmania. Douglas joined up and fought in the Boer War, getting together enough money to retrieve his little brother and buy a small farm in Swan Hill Victoria. The brothers worked the farm together until 1915 when they locked the gate and joined the 8th Light Horse regiment together. Big brother Doug was killed in Gallipoli at Lone Pine in August 1915. Norman was killed in Palestine in 1917. Orphan brothers who never married. There is no one to remember these men today, other than their own countrymen.”
And so on this trip, in this land, I remember those who have no one to remember them except their own countrymen – people like Norman and Douglas. The Last Post, the minute silence, and Reveille are the most moving I’ve heard and seem to soak into earth.
We are stirred from our thoughts and memories as the dignitaries begin to depart. The sun has risen and the formalities stop for a few moment. In my vantage point I get a smile from Prince Charles.
As the ceremony ends, we make our way, slowly, to Lone Pine, including past the Beach Cemetery where we pause across the many graves, including John Simpson’s. It’s not lost on us that the many graves are just a fraction of the people who died here, and many did not get buried; their bodies lie among us.
The walk to Lone Pine is long, steep, and dusty. Soon we have views right out across the ocean, but the trees surround us and it’s difficult to see where the path will take us. Despite being given four hours to get from ANZAC Cove to Lone Pine, time becomes increasingly short because of the security check hold up at the gates to Lone Pine and we arrive with 10 minutes to spare. Our Kiwi mates head on past us to their own service at Chunuk Bair.
I duck to the bathroom before heading into the site and am surrounded by no seats left in my designated division as well as a crush of people trying to meet Prince Harry, who’s standing in the middle of the cemetery. Eventually I find a seat seconds before the service begins. It’s as equally moving as the Dawn Service. I’m not alone in shedding tears.
Doug Bethune remains present in my mind and at the conclusion of the ceremony, I try to find him. I’m not sure where to start and circle the graves to see if anything sticks out, before using precious mobile data to visit the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to learn more.
It directs me away from the graves and towards the Lone Pine Memorial. And it’s there I find him.
Lest we forget.
The wait after is just as long as the wait to get in. New Zealand holds their ceremony after ours, and the buses do not begin to leave until an hour after it finishes. Clouds set in, it’s cold and blustery, and there is no food or drink. Some have been awake for more than 36 hours. Some complain. And yet we have just a few hours of these conditions, compared to months and years. And we get to leave, when so many did not.
I will take the experience with me forever.
Lest we forget.