Criss-crossing the continent the way we have done so far in a seemingly random manner, has made me wonder if our itinerary is following or based on the aboriginal songlines. These are “paths” that cross the country, which the ancient gods walked and sang everything they saw in to existence, and which aborigines still will set out on. But since the white man can’t really see them I then I got to think that maybe our presenter had merely employed a smaller size child with a crayon to draw connect-the dots on a map of Australia. At any rate we have now made it to the South part of Australia in the most round about way and are going to and fro.
Coming back to the East coast to the hotel in Melbourne was the closest we get to coming “home’. We stay at the same place every time we go through there, even if it is only for 6 or so hours.
If a 14hour bus ride seemed long, it was a mere moment compared to the 17 hour travel day from Kalgoorlie to Perth (wait in airport) to arrive completely drained at “home” around 1:30 am. I thought of taking a hot bath as most of the motels only have showers, but with about 6 hours to go before we were to head out for Warnambool and the southern part of Australia I opted for some sleep instead.
We seemed to have brought the rain with us from the west, for as we arrived in Warnambool with the rain pouring, they did not seem to be aware of it there. At least the radio kept forecasting a chance of showers in the area, leading me to believe that they might not have windows in the radio station there. Maybe kangaroos bounce through them at night on the way to the roadways?
Much to my surprise, I was given the show off here. Needless to say I was in two minds about it. It was, on the one hand, nice to be able to rest, but in the rain? And in a tiny town, where everything was closing down and our motel was not within walking distance of anything but a lot of big beautiful trees. I pondered for a moment about going by the radio’s weather forecast and take a walk or listen to my instincts, or rather the sound of the rain outside. In the end I went with the group to the venue and decided to watch the show. Taking advantage of a bit of clearing up in the sky, I took a brief look around town, all 4 round abouts of it. Though I am a sucker for theatre atmosphere I have ceased to spend too much time on the theatres; there’s only so much character you can cram into a community assembly hall and 400 folding chairs. This was a real theatre though but not much to speak of, so I went to look for a place that might still be open for dinner. So far everything closes during the day around the time we arrive into a town and open up as we are getting ready to do the show. Yet not 40 paces from the stage door was a very quaint restaurant, that seemed strangely out of place in this little town with its extensive wine list and the lack of deep-fried food on the menu. I missed the first part of the show as I was enjoying the most delicious meal I had had so far. It cost a bloody fortune too, but well worth it after a month of fried, greasy, or overcooked take-away food. Sometimes it’s actually easier to cut the plastic plate than the meat with the children’s safety plastic utensils we are given, so the sound of real flatware hitting real porcelain made this dinner even sweeter. I did make it back to watch Swan Lake and was surprised to see that quite a few of our jokes seem to require more of a background knowledge that many people in these small towns have. I doubt the Australian Ballet go to these places even. I also made a mental note to self to try to steer away from too many “insider” jokes, the kind where we are rolling with laughter in the wings, but the audience may not.
But as we all know, in this business you are never allowed to be too comfortable. Having enjoyed a glorious meal and a night off, we headed to Hamilton where we passed the South Sea (4th ocean) and where my neck went out of whack. This last bit was only exasperated further by the fact that the heating blanket in my bed only warmed down by the feet. Feeling the stiffness get worse I tried in the middle of the night to turn myself upside down, to get heat on my neck. I recently read that Giorgio Armani is a stickler for perfectly made beds; well he would have loved the maid who did mine. The sheets were tucked in so tight that I couldn’t loosen them with my feet and my arms were totally worthless because of the pain in my neck. I almost suffocated trying to maneuver myself, like a seal down to the foot end of the bed, ending up with my head lodged between the mattress and the sheets. But there was heat from the electric blanket!
So I did two shows on the tiniest stage the next day in Frankston with a bum neck, where I in my past life of luxurious treatment in a big company could have taken the night off and gotten massage. In the end, the neck’s fine and it is a wonderful feeling of going out there night after night. The pain lifts with the curtain every time.
I had read about Bendigo, our next stop, in the airline magazine and was looking forward to this town of art galleries, bookshops, and cafés, but our bus broke down in the morning before we had to leave, so we were delayed for a few hours in Melbourne and thus missed most of the sights in Bendigo. I did take a photo of a signpost directing visitors to the sights. It was a very cute town and one that I hope to re-visit one day, even though the wine bar across the street from the theatre ran out of limes after making Emanuel and myself an after show drink each…
The next stop was the Robert Helpmann theatre in Mt. Gambier, named after the city’s famous son. Here I did my first ever Prince in Swan Lake, not exactly how I in my early eager days of dancing had envisioned it to be, at least in choice of partner…but it fit me well to do it this way the first time. Again I play it straight, while Victor, my “queen” is the main comedic element, complete with foot-long eyelashes, ancient-looking wig and turns that make him look like a bent pencil, to quote his usual partner.
I have know come to a part in my notebook, where more notes are about the hellishness of busrides and the many last minute changes, that it reminds me of a similar tour I did to Russia many years ago, where every morning the first thing out of our director’s mouth was: [Imagine heavy Russian accent] “Guys, we hrhave small problem”. Not to say we have problems, except for the trunkloads we have all brought with us ourselves, but let’s just say that I have a book with our schedule that I choose not to refer to anymore.
On the road to our next stop (Renmark cancelled) Mildurah, it suddenly struck me what has been strangely missing when I look out of the windows of the bus. I was listening to Art Tatum’s fingers racing across his keyboard, not sure if we were trying to keep up with him or if he was trying to race us, whilst reading Patrick Leigh Fermors memoirs ‘The Wind and the Water” where he recounts meeting shepherds in the hills of Hungary. Where are the shepherds gone? There are plenty of sheep here, but the romantic, idyllic picture of a slightly musky smelling lonesome being who runs around keeping the sheep rounded up, while his master sits under a tree, telling stories to the traveling passer-by and offering him his jug of (insert: beverage of choice) or his pibe is sadly missing.
Mildurah, a hot town full of red dust and flies. The name comes from the aboriginals, and means, sore eyes. I heard two versions of the origin, one was due to the dust getting in the eyes, the other was that flies get in them. I only experienced the latter, so in my memory that’s the version that sticks. Having the show in Renmark cancelled (I suspect to give us all a bit of a rest, though the reason we were given were lack of ticket sales), we all found ourselves with almost an entire day to lounge by the pool in the sun, luxury I say though not so relaxing considering the number of times you have to wave flies away to not get that pock-marked looking tan. The locals are of course used to them and go about their lives as normal people do. We must have looked like a group of lunatics on a field trip, walking down the street waving our arms frantically in all directions. Maybe that’s why all the shops are closed when we come into town?