Friday, 30 May 2014

Friday Five: Lip Colours

I don't really wear make-up. Occasionally I'll chuck some on, but most of the time I make do with tinted moisturiser. When we were younger, however, my friend (Our Gracious Hostess) and I used to read Seventeen magazine and look at all the pictures for hours. 

I was more interested in the music section while she liked the fashion. What she liked most of all was the names given to the cosmetics, and she thought that making up names for make-up would be her dream job. On Saturdays we went down to Boots the Chemist and she would look at the lipsticks and eye-shadows thinking up poetic descriptions for them, which were nearly always better than the ones they actually had. It was an exciting town.

Anyway, I realise that now I buy lipsticks for shows and apply different shades depending on my character on stage. You can invent a whole new character with these colouring tools, which is why it's called make up I guess.

5 Shades of Lipstick I Own:
  1. Cherubic
  2. Whirl
  3. Bella Donna Mauve
  4. Velvet Rose
  5. Plumage (this one's dark grey/purple)

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Bullant Brewery

Several months ago, while driving back to Canberra from Melbourne, we found a fantastic little stopover. We had considered going home via Lakes Entrance until a kind lady at the Bairnsdale Tourism Information place told us that it would be heaving and horrible on that particular weekend, and suggested we make a start up the Great Alpine Road to Bruthen and stop for lunch at the Bullant Brewery. Those are the type of suggestions we are happy to heed, and so we did.

Bullant Brewery offers tasting paddles of any four beers, so between us we sampled the seven that they had on, plus a cider. The first four - pale ale; wheat beer; pilsner and kolsch - were all pretty similar in colour but distinctly different in taste. The folk at the brewery like to claim their beers are full-flavoured yet highly drinkable and their slogan is 'beer with bite'. 

The Mossiface Pale Ale (all their beers are named after locations on the Great Alpine Road) at 4.8% is an interesting blend of hop (American Cascade and Pride of Ringwood), malt (Pilsner and Munich) and yeast flavours. The result is a great balanced beer as each element adds up to more than the sum of its parts.
Him Outdoors with a Mossiface
The Bark Sheds Wheat Beer (5%) is a pretty good example of this style with the expected clove and banana aromas complementing the zesty tang of the hops to create a satisfying summer drink. The Tambo River Pilsner (5%) is a decent drop, although nothing special, you could happily knock back a couple at a party without feeling disappointed.

Kolsh is not usually my favourite style, and yet their Summer Kolsch (4.7%) was one of my beers of choice from their brewery with subtle fruit flavours, and Pearl and Hellertaur hops to provide a crisp finish. This is a seasonal brew so will only be available during summer, which is when you most want the dry, refreshing style.

Moving to the dark side, the Double Bridges IPA (5.8%) was also splendid, with an intense hop aroma to match the zesty hop flavour and the dry hop finish. Did I mention it was hoppy? I was not as impressed with the Pig and Whistle Brown Ale (4,7%), although I'm not generally a huge fan of this style anyway. It is deep copper in hue with a mere hint of hops against the mass of malt. The accompanying notes state it is a 'typical English style' and I'm sure they know what they're talking about, but I don't remember tasting beers like this back home. 

The Piano Bridge Stout (6.7%) is delightfully chewy and malty with all the liquorice, caramel, chocolatey goodness associated with this variety. The name is taken from an old bridge that crossed the creek 27km north of Bruthen. When a coach passed across it, the panels apparently bounced up and down like the keys on a piano, or like Him Outdoors did when he tasted this stout. The tasting platter was rounded out with Kelly Brothers Cider, of which I can't really say much except it tasted alright and is apparently gluten-free.

The food menu is extensive and we chose wisely, with beef fajitas for him, and a Moroccan chicken stack for me. The menu is seasonal and alters along with the beers, so it is constantly changing and I'm sure always worth sampling. 

The setting out on the deck was very pleasant, and it is covered so even though we experienced rare summer rain, we were comfortably sheltered. It was a very busy public holiday, but the service was still relaxed, we weren't made to feel rushed or like an inconvenience (despite turning up without a booking) and there was no surcharge. I would definitely recommend this as a place to visit, and they have live music sessions on Sundays in summer; there could be few better ways to spend a sunny summer Sunday afternoon. 

Monday, 26 May 2014

Plagued Performance

One Flea Spare
ANU Arts Centre, May 14-17

If this play doesn’t win awards and accolades for the fabulous set (designed by Gowrie Varma and Ellie Greenwood), there is no justice in this world. The jumble of furniture and picture frames hanging from the ceiling and hammered to the walls screams chaos. This is a world where social, sexual, political and cultural mores are turned upside down and we are immediately plunged into this moral morass.

If, however, there is no justice; that would also be fitting, as inequality is one of the major themes the play examines. In 1665 when the plague stalks the streets of London, the wealthy couple William and Darcy Snelgrave (Andrew Eddey and Sarah Heywood) are quarantined in their house for four weeks. On the last day of their confinement, the house is broken into by Bunce (Lewis McDonald), a sailor, and Morse (Cheski Walker), a strange adolescent who turns out to be the serving girl of their neighbours. Once the guard, Kabe (George Mitton) detects their presence, the house is sealed up for another 28 days, forcing the unlikely foursome to live together in less than perfect harmony.

The isolation is stifling and the silences are admirably awkward as the unwelcome house-guests begin to learn about each other. The members of the confined quartet all give solid performances as they tease out information and back-stories from their characters. As in previous NUTS productions, the age of the available actors limits the possible range of expression, but the actors playing the fifty-something Snelgraves gave pretty fine performances considering. Darcy Snelgrave has been physically, sexually and emotionally repressed for over thirty years, and although Heywood plays this as more grumpy irritation than subdued longing, her thawing is persuasive as she rediscovers the pleasure of touch and intimacy.

Her husband is caught between trying to be the boss and wanting to explore the worlds that Bunce has seen. Eddey portrays this dichotomy with sincerity and his interrogation scenes are a masterpiece of cautious curiosity. McDonald, meanwhile, imbues Bunce with authority and awareness, whether instructing William and Darcy on physical intimacy or regaling the company with tales of wanderlust. He adds just the right hint of intimidation when he dresses in another man’s clothes and literally assumes the mantle of power.

As Morse, Cheski Walker luxuriates in a childlike limpidity and her movements around the stage are fluid and compelling. She might benefit from more variety of tone, however, as the depiction of fey spirit child becomes a little tiresome, and renders the screaming passion unconvincing. Similarly, Mitton could bring more menace to the role of Kabe. His jovial cheek adds a light comic touch, but a man who has been handed control over his past masters would surely take a more spiteful advantage of his new-found promotion.

There are some pacing issues in the play, which may be due to the co-direction of Gowrie Varma and Ellie Greenwood. Perhaps having two directors rather than one muddles the focus and prevents continuity. At times it feels as though everyone thought someone else was providing the vision and it all gets a little lost. At the interval, I heard several people wondering if it was actually the end, and only the fact that they hadn’t seen the actors bow persuaded them to return to the auditorium. Parts of the second half also flagged as though the actors were unsure how to combine the separate movements into a cohesive symphony.

Naomi Wallace took the title of her play from a John Donne poem in which a man exalts in the thought of a flea mingling the blood of a pair of lovers. Of course the flea’s ability to cross borders of sanguinity has darker consequences in terms of disease. In the enforced isolation the characters are simultaneously saved and damned by proximity and contact. The important moments all come through physical transfer: transmitting gin from one mouth to another; the caress of a body that has not been touched for 37 years; the placing of a finger into an open wound; the angel’s breath of a child or death; the strangely seductive handling of an orange; the thrilling fetish of toe-sucking.

This plague affects all – the rich and poor alike – and has no respect of place, persons nor time. Donne was a metaphysical poet; a term coined by Samuel Johnson to describe a loose bunch of poets concerned with conceits and speculation on themes such as politics and religion. The play’s treatment of class disparity is apt in this context and the poetic surface belies a blunt sub-text of growing concern over inequality as exemplified by recent riots and Occupy movements.

Of course, as every English school-child knows, the 1665 epidemic of the Bubonic Plague in London was swept away by the Great Fire of 1666. The notion of purity is strong on this stage; from the white outfits the characters wear, all the better to show up the blood and the dirt, to the constant washing of the floorboards with vinegar to prevent infection. The compulsory propinquity may lead not only to epidemic outbreaks of disease, but social revolution. Wallace seems to suggest that our contemporary plague is greed and individualism, and only through sharing and collectivism will we recover healthy community.