Monday, 20 December 2010

Equality & a Nutcracker

In the midst of a socially exhausting calendar and the sensory overload of that treasured season, I was taken to two very contrasting, culture-sating events. The first was at a wonderfully interesting outdoor theatre called Bamboo, the other half of a well-renowned cocktail bar. The stage alone is a terrific, ingenious idea, and one that must be wonderfully good fun to perform on. It mingles the classical Greek amphitheatre with a rather gentle, Balinese-esque place of worship. Although the oriental vibe may come down to the purveyance of bamboo; the name must of course have purpose. Frankly, just being able to see that kind of facility made the night worthwhile. I had been worried about the theme of the performance(s). I tend to shy away from the self-aggrandising, self-interested and self-important performances for which many actors and similar nights are famed. For me the term rather rhymes with bank. (Apologies for hinting at anything untoward.)

And in many respects I was not disappointed on that front. The premise of the evening was an Amnesty International Arts evening. A group of actors, musicians, directors, producers, dancers, choreographers and sound technicians (amongst others no doubt) were given twenty four hours to develop fifteen minute pieces based on the subject of Equality. In all we had six pieces performed before us. With minimal rehearsal time on top of composing a whole piece, the results were impressive. Some a little bankery of course. The problem with collecting a group of very middle-class people and have them try to demonstrate their understanding of and relation to issues such as domestic violence will never work seamlessly. But it was a noble effort. One in particular I thoroughly enjoyed. It was the soliloquy of a university tutor, railing against his apathetic students. He was desperate for debate, passion, life, and it was very funny. I can relate, being the annoyingly vocal member of most of my tutorials as most sit idly by. But perhaps that's how I like it, competition grows dull. I say that as a staunch free-market advocate, mind.
After the thought-provocation at Bamboo, it was to the transporting world of a wealthy German family Christmas in the form of the Nutcracker. I have been incredibly lucky this last year. From Giselle with the ENB to Don Quixote with the WA Ballet. Nothing beats the Nutcracker for pure festive joy. Tchaikovsky composed such lovely music and this production was so charming. By the Graduate College of Dance, the sets belonged to the Australian Ballet at one stage and the costumes were splendid. Having friends perform always adds to the enjoyment of a spectacle. And they cast students of all ages, the miniature gingerbread men were particularly endearing. My favourite fell over as she took a bow, with such grace and poise, such promise! She absolutely made the second act. She looked barely two feet tall on the stage, it was wonderful. We left the elegantly parochial Regal Theatre feeling very much uplifted and full of the spirit of Christmas. In a city where Christmas day currently has a forecast of 38 degrees, I verily need all the help I can get.

To everybody floating about the ether, be you a visitor past or new, admirer or critic, a very happy Christmas to you and yours.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


"Secret Santa is a Western Christmas tradition in which members of a group are randomly assigned other members to whom they anonymously give a gift. Often practised in workplaces, or amongst large families, participation in it is usually voluntary. It offers a way for many people to give and receive a gift at low cost to those involved." Wikipedia.

One need not scroll far down to see my unbridled enthusiasm for Christmas. Reading Mrs Trefusis's latest post brought on a wave of nostalgia for the simple joy of baking Christmas cakes with my grandmother, running through her garden with my cousins and being frequently stung by bees hiding amongst the fallen jacaranda flowers (forget not that I grew up in the southern hemisphere). It often took several days before the swelling in my feet went down. But now that I have returned to the heat (and gosh it has been hot lately, hottest November on record) I am also nostalgic for peacefully white, wintry landscapes of my spiritual northern home. The pictures of Britain in a cold snap have left me in fits of envy. Though I remember fully the chaos of London snow last year, the memories I take from those days are of strangers playing together in the snow, reveling in a Dickensian world of white. Billions of pounds may have been lost, but after all, it's only money.

Which brings me to Christmas. I feel a miserly scrooge-type character, but I am entirely unhappy about a recent spate of Secret Santas pervading my nice quiet world. I am entirely opposed to the idea. I am a poor student and I object to being forced to buy complete strangers tat. Instead, I am baking gingerbread biscuits, and to hell with people's reactions. You will get what you are given and be happy I am bothering at all! I have long been of the opinion that gift-buying is a most inefficient function of money. We waste money on things people invariably do not, have never, and never will want. It is an inefficiency at both ends. And we all have to behave so politely about being bought such things as wallets. Now, I already have a wallet. I have had for many years. What on earth possessed you? Did you suddenly have an epiphany, Oh! The very thing. A Wallet. I'm almost certain that he will need one. Well, how do you think I have managed to carry around the various cards and monies I have done the past 10 years?

That said, I am always incredibly touched that people would think to get me anything, and feel incredibly guilty if I don't like something. But, I'm sorry. I am an increasingly old and bitter man. I want for nothing and need for little. If you want to show your affection, or to wish me a happy Christmas, write me a card (home-made), bake something, create something. Write me a poem. I want a piece of you, not of your wallet.

I worry this attitude will increasingly alienate me from friends and family. Mr London Street recently wrote of peer pressure. The same side of the family with whom I would always make Christmas Cakes at the onset of Advent has now moved away from the simple joys of Christmas, to a highly organised Secret Santa operation. All family members have strict instructions as to whom they buy for, how much they spend, and frankly, what they buy. I have ordered my mother (who is a reluctant member of the board) to opt our branch of the family tree out of the nonsense. I have told her if she doesn't insist on it, I shall. And of the two of us, she is the more likely to be tactful. Christmas should not be about brutally commercial organisation. It should be fun, spontaneous, well-fed amongst good company. It should be a celebration of life and family (and food). I think when children are involved, there should absolutely be plenty of beautifully wrapped gifts under a Christmas tree. The latest thing simply must be in a stocking, so long as children are giving a thorough appreciation for how lucky they are, considering so many other children have so little.

Am I hugely out of step with the rest of the world? Have I any right to impose my will on the rest of the family? Should I keep calm and carry on? Am I fundamentally wrong? Any thoughts welcome and appreciated.