Openings, Drinkings and Other Festival Related Madness

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since I’ve landed … so here are the last three weeks for you.

The day after I arrived I was off to the opening of Te Karakia (production by NZ company Taki Rua). Great ending, but it meandered and took far too long to get there. We were locked out of the after party so cool kids that we were (this being Lou, Erin and me, obviously), we headed to the Festival Club and were later joined by those who were let into the after party (once they had run out of the free booze) … Thursday was spent recovering (which was, of course, all about the jet lag and nothing to do with having got home at 4.30am. Nothing).

On Friday I went into the Festival office to be briefed on my job as tour tech for Lifeboat (with Scottish company, Catherine Wheels) and receive the news that the van I would be driving home that evening would be manual transmission (I hadn’t driven a manual in almost 10 years, well there was one time, it was a bit of a disaster). With that to look forward to I headed off to see Black Watch. After the show I sat at the Festival Club psyching myself up to driving the van home. A couple of beers, several soft drinks and at around 2.30 in the morning, I felt ready to take on the challenge. The first thing I did was to smack my knee into the steering wheel shaft as I jumped into the cabin (that was on the second try, it was very high up and I couldn’t find a way to scramble in with any grace. I never got the hang of it. Even on the last day, I chose to climb over the gear stick from the passenger side into the driver’s seat when it came to take over). I only bunny hopped once, stalled the van twice and crunch gears a couple of times for the journey home. The next day I met the company at Te Papa, the boys (Lifeboat production and tech managers Craig and Liam) took the van home, Jeremy and I went to the Club before I joined Lou in town. Sunday morning, I meet the boys at the van, Liam tells me he’s driving (I’m not sure if it’s because they know I’m not confident with a stick or because I’m the smallest and can sit in the middle of the cabin thus giving everyone a bit more room in the seats for travelling or a bit of both) and it’s off over the Rimutaka ranges to Greytown where I have one of the worst first days on a job ever and I end up convinced that the guys hate me and miss Jeremy (who was doing my job before taking over as the Festival’s venue manager at Te Papa). I miss Jeremy too (hell, we haven’t been in the same country for 6 years) so on our arrival back to Wellington that evening, he and I go for a drink (to the Festival Club) and compare bad days … apparently, of all the get ins happening that day, I win.

Up in Greytown, I bump into my English teacher from 4th Form (when I was 14/15) Ms Webster. She’s the music teacher at our host school. She’s the one teacher who didn’t look at me strangely and didn’t write in my school report “has potential, could do better”. She’s the teacher who played Monty Python’s The Life of Brian in class and encouraged my crazy, sarcastic personality. She brought it out and is part of the reason I am who I am today. I finally got the opportunity to thank her, she recognised me almost instantly (including which school I went to) and gave me a big hug. I walk into her classroom and playing in the corner of the room is Star Wars, A New Hope no less, she’s been showing her senior music students the originals … they seem to adore her, like I did back in the day …

The rest of the week goes much better (including the get in to Lower Hutt Little Theatre), the boys warm to me and I get so comfortable with them that I go into my silent mode … that’s what happens when I’m at ease, I don’t talk or rather I don’t feel like the silence needs to be broken with chatter. Well, except for the days when they gave me homework like why is Upper Hutt and Lower Hutt named Upper Hutt and Lower Hutt “and no looking up Wikipedia” or Where’s the first place in the world to see the sun?*

On the evenings that I do have off I managed to tottle along to bro’Town Live – hilarious, but then the Naked Samoans (a NZ comedy troupe, not actually naked and only partly Samoan) are always hilarious, how funny? Go rent Sione’s Wedding (it was released as Samoan Wedding overseas). I’m not so sure it should have been a Festival show but that said, the audience had a large number of teenagers there who wouldn’t normally be considered Festival audience. I also manage to get into Sacred Monsters which with Branwen. It was freakin’ amazing, beautiful and a bunch of other superlatives, definitely the highlight of the Festival for me (it blew Black Watch out of the water and we all know how much I liked that) – if you ever get the chance to see it, then GO, it wasn’t even on my Festival radar, I just went at Branwen’s suggestion – girl knows a good show! In between, Jeremy and I get six years worth of hanging out done at the Festival Club (and find ourselves explaining to folks (again) that yes, boys and girls can just be friends).

On Saturday, a week after I’ve joined them, Lifeboat is over, we share a few drinks at the Club and say our farewells (with the adage, if you’re in Edinburgh and you think you see me, it’s probably me). After several beers and Tequila and decide that I can walk home. For those Wellingtonians out there, I choose to go around the bays. About an hour into the journey, I decide that this is a really dumb idea (and an even worse one to be walking in docs with fishnet tights), but it’s a little too late to turn back so I turn up the MP3 player have a little boogie now and then and when I get home (two hours after leaving Jeremy in town) I decide to lie out on the lawn for a while and admire the stars in the clear night sky.

Miraculously, I don’t get a hangover as on Sunday afternoon I get a call to come in that evening and work as front of house on another show. It’s another haywire and flustered evening with a passing hello to Nick whom I haven’t seen in well over 10 years but get too inundated with punters to actually arrange a proper catch up with him.

On Monday I sneak over to Playmarket to hear English playwright Tanika Gupta talk about her work and some preposterous rubbish from some NZ playwright in attendance who thinks that there is no political theatre in NZ writing … rest assured the rest of the room balked very loudly at that suggestion. I drag Whiti over to Once Upon a Deadline, where 6 writers have a day to write a short piece of fiction based on whatever location their dropped in. The playwrights (David Geary, Jo Randerson and Briar Grace-Smith) all have the stronger narratives and the best endings … the next day I cut myself off from the interweb world, take laptop from the far reaches of wifi and work on dirty creatures … that evening it’s off to The Dentist’s Chair with Kat, but not before we stuff our bellies full with the delicious fare of Le Metropolitan, it may have taken over 20 minutes for the crème brûlée to appear making us run late for the show (Jeremy howling with laughter as we scamper past him to be the last ones in before the show starts) but, good lord, it was worth it! The Dentist’s Chair (by New Zealand company, Indian Ink) was a bit disappointing, I felt that one of the major plot points should have been set up a lot earlier (perhaps just before the interval to carry the play through) and that the masks and some pieces of set were somewhat unnecessary. It’s certainly felt like a very early draft version of the show. Not satisfied with one show that evening, I join Jeremy and his dad at the Festival Club’s late show of La Vie (French Canadian company, Les 7 Doigts de la Main) which is perfect for the space, very funny and another highly recommended show if you ever get the chance to see it.

My Festival isn’t quite over with another call to do front of house like duties on Wednesday and join in on The Dentist’s Chair get out on Sunday. In between I hide from the Festival (and even don’t go into the Festival club for a couple of days), squeezing in a catch up or two while panicking over the realisation that in three weeks I’ll be on tour with James and I’ve done fuck all on my own show.

Finally we wrap up on Sunday, I go to the Festival closing party with the intention of only having a drink and then going home early … I don’t leave until it’s almost 3am, after saying my farewells to various crew (with the adage, if you’re in Singapore and you think you see me, it’s probably me) …

And then on this Monday passed, it’s all go. James has sent through all of my tech stuff for the tour which kicks off in Dunedin in three weeks; Miria and I meet up to talk about our show in the morning, by evening we’ve got most of the cast assembled and have planned the rest of the week in meetings and scripting sessions; this weekend I become a trustee of another performing arts organisation, Baggage, and today my microphone arrived.

In three months time, I’ll be in Edinburgh.

I have the feeling that the time between now and then, will be going very fast indeed.

*Upper and Lower Hutt were named after an English MP, William Hutt, who was also Director/Founder of the New Zealand Company, the folks that did the land grabbing in this part of the world. The first place in the world to see the sun (and by first, I mean 1 January) is Antartica (duh), the first inhabited place is the Chatham Islands (NZ) (even though Kiribati is closer to the international date line), the first city is Gisbourne (NZ).

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