Nov 2, 2007

A Weekend in Melbourne

Part 1: Flight of Girl Clumsy

I had been aware that the installation of traffic lights on Brisbane's Airport Drive roundabout had turned it into a sphere of hell that wouldn't be out of place in Dante's Inferno. But until last Friday, I had yet to fully experience the fire and brimstone myself. The chock-a-block traffic along the Toombul Road/Nudgee Road intersection - combined with rain - conspired to have me arrive at the Virgin Blue check-in counter just nine minutes before my scheduled flight. My relief at actually checking in was short-lived, as it transpired I had been placed on a broken seat, and for safety reasons would have to be bumped to the 4pm flight. Thankfully it was at no additional cost - but that didn't stop me breaking down in tears and exclaiming, "But I can't be late, someone is picking me up!". With dignity lost and mascara smudged, I consoled myself with some overpriced airport chips until it was time to board.

The flight was relatively uneventful, except for the fact I somehow managed to get a sunburn down my right arm. No wonder I never choose a window seat. I arrived at Melbourne Airport just after 6:30pm, and grabbed a cab from outside. It was a dreary, cold afternoon in Melbourne, and the drive through the city's outskirts, past the industrial and port areas, wasn't the best first impression. The $60 cab fare also unsurprisingly failed to make me smile. But that situation was remedied when I was met by Sean from Impro Melbourne, and rushed into the backstage area of Theatreworks on Acland Street in St Kilda to meet my fellow players.

A quick retouch of the aforementioned runny mascara, and I was thrust onstage to perform in an impro jam, the first part of a three-part night of improvised comedy stylings. After all the emotion of the afternoon, it was probably best that I didn't have time to be nervous before the show, thus freeing me from self-doubt and second-guessing.

After the second half "Gorilla" show, and then the marvellous "Mr Fish and His Spooky Library of Improv Macabre" climax, the players - including those from interstate locations such as Sydney and Canberra as well as Alex, my fellow Briz Vegan - headed out to Crown Casino to play laser tag in the complex's large video game arcade. I declined, having spent most of my cash on the cab ride in, and needing the rest of the cash for a cab ride out to Kew, to the home of my dear friend Carol, who had graciously agreed to put me up for the weekend. Upon arrival, I desparately asked for a sandwich, having eaten lollies and Maltesers for dinner. Carol and I chatted until 3am, before finally agreeing bed was probably a good idea.

Part 2: Girl Clumsy - Art Collector

A sleep in was much appreciated, by but lunch time Carol and I were on the number 16 tram, enjoying the fine warm weather, and heading for Armadale and an art gallery featuring an exhibition of work from and inspired by the cartoon Family Guy, paired with works from The Simpsons and Futurama. The Wah had put me onto the exhibition, but I don't think he expected me to fall in love with an art-deco style print of the New New York Municipal Spaceport, and shell out close to $700 for the limited edition (number 72 of 100 in the world) work. I certainly surprised myself, especially considering my "Scrooge"-ness and current parlous state of my credit card. But I absolutely adore it, and am sure it will look fabulous on my living room wall. I got to choose the frame, and arranged for it to be freighted up.

After a delicious gourmet sausage roll, Carol and I headed home. I ended up going for a nap due to a persistent headache that had refused to go away despite being hit with ibuprofen and paracetamol. Of course, my life being what it is, the nanna nap turned out to be more of a sleep of the dead, and I woke at 7pm sharp, thinking "oh, crap". Carol had been napping on the couch, dso the pair of us scrambled to get ready, and hailed a cab to take us back to St Kilda. After realising we would already have missed most of the first half jam, we decided to grab some pizza on Fitzroy Street instead. We got to the theatre, and I made it in with time to spare before the second half "Smells Like a Song" extended improvised musical. With ten people scheduled to perform, and not wanting to be an interstate usurper, I decided to hang back and play supporting characters. This resulted in me playing an optimistic yet somewhat murderous orphan, and a hippie couples counsellor (the story being about a recently-orphaned girl's struggle against the orphanage's terrifying head nun, Sister Bloody Mary, and the search by her barren relatives to find her). I didn't really know how well I played, and felt a bit weird asking for feedback amongst all the madness. If anybody reading this did see the show, please tell me I didn't suck!

Carol and I opted out of post-show drinkies, and stook on the windy St Kilda boulevard for over 20 minutes waiting for a tram. I like Melbourne, I really do, but I do have a chip on my shoulder about the city - mainly because I get sick of Brisbane people moving there then telling all and sundry how much more cultured and refined it is than Briz Vegas. Just shut up about it, all right? I mean, for crying out loud, Brisbane isn't THAT bad. Sure, we don't have as many cute cafes, the film and TV production or enthusiasm for theatre. But we also don't have the bone-chilling cold, the fricking poor driving, or as many Collingwood supporters. So fuck you.

Anyway, sorry, I got distracted. I get a little heated by all the inter-city rivalry, and the insuiation by some people that they're better than me because they live in Melbourne. As I said, chip, firmly in place on shoulder. But it was because of this attitude that, while standing on St Kilda boulevard, I was delighted to see large roving packs of drunken teenagers, many of the girls wearing outfits that while probably very fashionable, did suggest they were on the game. Young men scratching their balls, and creepy old dudes trying to make friends with the young 'uns (yes, I am suggesting sleazy drug dealers) were also on display. It's so good to know that Melbourne, as much as any city, has its bogans and its embarrassments.

Part 3: Time Travels, Picnics and a Spiegeltent

In another example of chronic forgetfulness, I failed to remember to change my clocks for daylight saving time - something that as a "backward" Queenslander I should be forgiven as a matter of course. Hence another rushed shower, and another cab fare to St Kilda for a workshop. As it turned out I should have just gotten the tram, as everyone was so hung over from the previous night, the workshop started an hour late, and only ran for an hour before the group energy failed.

We decided to head for Flagstaff Gardens, where the improvisers who had bypassed the workshop had set up a lovely barbeque for us. After two days of no proper meals, a few sausages in bread was as more wondrous to the taste buds than a fatted calf would have been to Henry VIII. Keira from Sydney and I wandered across the street to have a look around the Victoria Markets. I didn't buy anything - there wasn't much on offer and my pockets and wallet were empty after art splurging and numerous cab fares.

After the picnic packed up, I grabbed a lift back to the theatre, where preparations for that night's final show were beginning. There wasn't a lot for me to do, so I headed off on a wander of Acland Street. The clothing stores caught the eye, and the succulent cakes featured in the windows of the many fine cake shops along the street captivated my greedy stomach. I indulged in a creamy French Vanilla, but sadly I left the slice choc mint cake at the theatre and never got to sample its minty goodness.

To be honest, I would have to describe Sunday night's Theatresports show as the weakest of the three nights I saw, chiefly because of Impro Melbourne's obvious good intentions in wanting as many people as possible to play. But it lead to a somewhat confusing first half, with three different formats led by different people. I still enjoyed playing, but I think the show would have benefited from some streamlining, even if that meant cutting participants (including me!). The second half Theatreports challenge also suffered a bit from over-stuffing, but it was fun nonetheless.

After a post-show debrief, we all headed in to the Arts Centre, next to which was set up a "Speigeltent", otherwise known as a tent of mirrors. Before heading in, a few of the other players and I took off for a walk to Chinatown and some late night nosh. Back to the tent, and I was bewitched by the interior. I believe there's been a Spiegeltent set up in Brisbane in recent years, but by gosh it would be great to have a permanent venue like that. A round space with a stage at one end, a dance floor and tables in the middle, and booths along the outer rim, it's perfect for music, improv, cabaret or burlesque, or just generally chilling out. Sadly I didn't stay long, for after saying my goodbyes and thank yous to all the rocking Impro Melbourne people (and guests from Sydney and Canberra), I accepted a lift home to Kew from Sean.

Part 4: Homeward, Girl Clumsy

I woke early to say goodbye to Carol, who had to go to work and wouldn't finish until after I left for the airport. It was wonderful to see her again; she is honestly one of the smartest women I know, if not the smartest. I promised The Wah and I would come down for a proper visit again soon. Then I went back to bed, to be woken some hours later by Carol's daughter Amanda, whose job it was to keep me entertained all day. She had brought her nifty little HP laptop with her, which set us off on a mission to examine potential laptops for me all day. We also managed a stop in her favourite cafe, Bimbo on Brunswick Street, for $4 pizzas. Yummy. It had a lovely rooftop courtyard, and I could see why it would be popular, especially in pleasant weather like it was on Monday.

After getting thouroughly confused by the range of laptops and notebooks on offer, not to mention the increasinly bizarre "Cult of Apple", members of which seemed to come out of the woodwork to try to seduce me to the side of MacBook, we headed home so I could pick up my bag. Jenny from Impro Melbourne had very kindly offered to give me a lift to the airport, which I very much appreciated being fairly broke after the weekend. We had a great chat about all things improv on the way, then it off to the plane for me. I had the great pleasure of being on what I dubbed the "Stork Flight" - I had a baby next to me, a toddler in front of me and a baby across the aisle. I've never been so happy to own an mp3 player, I can tell you.

So that was my weekend in Melbourne. I'm sure I've left things out, but overall it was crazy fun. Thanks to everyone at Impro Melbourne for having me, Impro Mafia for sending me down, and to Carol and Amanda for being wonderful hosts. I'll be back soon...

1 comment:

  1. Natalie

    Great to see the pure Brisbanite in you to stick it up those Collingwood Supporters..Melbourne is a great place, but Brisbane has its own charm, plus you can enjoy the cafes more because of our balmy weather!