I might be heading for an overdose. After nine weeks in the bush where I ended up addicted to Dance Academy (for lack of anything else and because it’s awesome), I arrived in Sydney starved for a bit of artsy-fartsy company.

 

With volunteering for the Arts Festival and as a workshop assistant at the Australian Theatre for Young People, I had my fill of theatre all day, every day, in one way or another. I haven’t had a moment to make it to Bondi beach yet (and I might skip it, actually, to go see some Shakespeare in the Blue Mountains).

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Handing out flyers promoting the festival outside the train station. I met some interesting people, including the righteous king of Northern Ireland.

Walking from my swish hostel to my volunteer job on the wharf every day, I walk past Cate Blanchett’s theatre and rub shoulders with Sydney Dance Company ballerinas on their coffee breaks.

The Sydney Dance Company cafe.

The Sydney Dance Company cafe.

I spend the day playing zip zap zop and telling kids to zip it. Evenings are spent checking out shows at the festival (when I’m not totally worn out). A wonderful perk of volunteering for the festival (or knowing generous artists- thanks Dan and Clare!) is getting free tickets to shows you wouldn’t normally rush out and spend $70 on when you’re a non-gambler on a backpacker’s (or artist’s) budget.

The first show I went to see was a on a sweltering 43 degree day. In the Eruptive Mode from Kuwait didn’t quite have me erupting into uncontrolled applause, but it did make me think about how I don’t know enough about the revolutions in the middle east and how you really need to have extraodinary actors if you show is made up of monologues. I did meet a nice Swiss stats major who accepted my extra comp ticket in exchange for a glass of wine that made me sleepy.

As I waited for the bus after the play, I considered how ridiculous it was that, at 10pm, I was sweating just sitting there in a wind that felt like car exhaust.

The next night, I went to Eraritjaritjaka with Patrick, a guy I met my first days in New Zealand (he took me to a bar that rotates where only tall European ladies are allowed to work and where I had a fancy drink with lychee and elderflower and basil- I like these free tickets in exchange for a drink things I’ve got going on).

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View from the fancy rotating bar.

It was a lovely piece that I decided was about poetry to stop me from trying to figure it out and just enjoy the sound of Goebbels’ music and André Wilms’ mesmerizing voice, the fun lighting, inventive use of technology, and the bending of the audience’s expectations. I didn’t get it, but I was transported.

I got to end the week with a fantastic show at the Carriageworks (awesome venue!) by Die Roten Punkte and their hilarious and irreverent punk/comedy/clown/theatre concert. If ever these guys show up at a festival in your ‘hood, check them out and say hi for me. Rock bang!

I realised I hadn’t seen any theatre for Sydney yet, though I tried to get the cheap day-of tickets for The Secret River several times and even tried to book very not-cheap tickets, but it was always sold out.  It’s apparently the new Australian classic- important in scope, production, and cultural/historical/political significance. I guess I’ll just have to read about it for now…

But I did manage to see Rust and Bone at Griffin Theatre. I felt at home instantly in the Monday rush-ticket line- unlike at the festival shows where I felt underdressed, no matter how clean my t-shirt was. The new Australian play was intimate, stark, horrifying, and hilarious all at once (and part of it was set in Red Deer). And at 70 minutes, it is my favourite kind of theatre (short and cut to the bone).

The Griffin Theatre lobby. My new favourite theatre.

The Griffin Theatre lobby. My new favourite theatre.

Weirdly, in the lobby, I met a couple who had stayed at the retreat I’d worked at (I’d served them dinner and I remembered them because it was the first time I’d heard the term “amaze” to mean “amazing”). If that wasn’t coincidence enough, one of them is a theatre director and they are thinking of moving to Canada.

Sometimes you meet people whose paths your meant to cross and plays you were meant to see. Others, not so much.

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