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Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Curse of Opening Night in the Theatre!

We all hovered around the backstage mirror last night. 

It was the opening night of our play. 

Stomachs churned, hearts palpitated and eyeliner pencils were brandished with such rapid dexterity, they were literally smoking.

“We must remember not to say the name of that Scottish play,” I quipped into the mirror as I squinted, attempting to pick a clump of mascara off my cheek without leaving a big, black, indelible smear.

My fellow thespians stopped abruptly, contouring brushes in hand, and stared at me.

“What are you talking about, Pinky?” asked Jess our ingenue, the youngest cast member.

“You know! The Shakespearean play! The Scottish one that starts with ‘M’. The one where you aren’t supposed to EVER say the name in a theatre.”

She stared at me as uninterested as … you know, whatever.

“Do you mean Midsummer Night’s Dream?” queried another actress who was checking her teeth for errant lipstick.

“No!” I exclaimed. “And DON’T say the name of it!”

“Much Ado About Nothing?” called out another.

“For God’s sake, no! It's not Much Ado About Nothing!” I shuddered like someone just walked over my future grave. 

“Don’t say the bloody name of the play! Do you want to be cursed? Do you want the theatre to fall to rubble around us? Do you want that dodgy, antediluvian lighting box to explode and for poor old Brian to die a horrible fiery death and have his eyeballs melt in a puddle?”

“Measure for Measure,” declared Alison. “That’s my favourite of Shakespeare’s plays!”

“How about the Merry Wives of Windsor?” added Emily. “I like that one.”

“Is the Merry Wives of Windsor a play about a Scottish king?” I asked, exasperated beyond belief.

“Oh, I know which one you mean,” Jodie declared, phoofing up her golden mane. “You mean the play with the witches and the 'Bubble bubble, toil and trouble' stuff.”

“Finally!” I sighed. “We can’t say the name of it… okay everyone??? Don’t ever say it out loud. EVER!!!”

They gazed at me with a look that said, who the bloody hell was ever going to randomly say it anyway, you idiot?

“Why can’t we say it?” Jess piped up after the silence.

“Because it’s cursed. It’s an old theatre tradition that you NEVER say the name of the play out loud. It's something to do with black magic and spells.”

“Cursed?” her eyes went like saucers. 

I love young people. I can teach them so much. 

"Now, I'm scared!" her voice quavered.

“Yes!” I said. “You should be damn well scared. In fact, I can tell you a real-life story!” I paused for dramatic effect. I love a captive audience. 

“One time, a few years ago," I began in a Vincent Price impersonation, "a struggling theatre group in North Queensland were performing the play, Macbeth, in a derelict old quarry and…”

I slapped my hand over my mouth in alarm.

The cast collectively turned their heads in horror, 
mascara wands held aloft, their faces stricken in dread. 

“Thanks a lot, Pinky!” shouted Jess, as she stomped out of the dressing room. “Now we’re all going to bloody die.”

We didn’t die though. And neither did the play. It went very well. 

But I do worry about Brian in the lighting box. It is a very old theatre.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

My Experiment with Method Acting

Backstage rehearsal

It’s less than a week until the opening night of the play I’m in.

Did I tell you I’m playing a school counsellor? I’m really getting into the role. I’ve even found myself counselling people in real life. I know I’m not officially qualified, but I’ve started to think of myself as a ‘Mother Earth’ type of counsellor; you know, wears kaftans, drinks kombucha tea and smells like lentils.

In true Stanislavski fashion, I’ve taken to dressing the part and wearing a batik headband on stage.

It’s called ‘method acting’ in case you didn’t know.

“You mean like Daniel Day Lewis?” asked Scotto after I explained to him why I was holding a serious mediation session with the cat and our new sausage dog over territorial rights involving the scratching post. 

“EXACTLY like Daniel Day Lewis!” I replied. “I won’t be eschewing a shower for the next three weeks, learning to speak Czechoslovakian or wheeling around the IGA in a wheelchair, BUT, I am going to start wearing batik headbands and telling people how to run their lives.”

The other day at school is a perfect example. 

One particular little boy, Puck, displayed a distinct lack of enthusiasm when we were trying to get the kids to form committees.

“Puck,” I called him over to my desk. “I’ve noticed you haven’t nominated yourself for a committee.”

“Yeah,” he blinked at me, his lip curled indifferently.

“Yeah, Mrs Poinker!” I corrected him brightly, smiling in my most counsellorish manner.

“Now Puck, what seems to be the problem? Why don’t you want to be in one of our lovely committees?”

Puck stared into the distance. His expression seemed to communicate a certain ennui, almost as if he wished a plague of locusts would descend on his annoying teacher devouring her down to the bones until all that was left was a pile of white powder and a wedding ring.

“But Puck, my dear boy, research shows that children who learn to work in a team grow up to be more productive adults. We want to help you on your journey of self-realisation.”
Puck's eyes rolled to the ceiling.

“Now look Puck, what about nominating for the Environment Committee. You could help save the planet! You could stop climate change in its tracks! You could be an eco-warrior!” I enthused.

“You mean, I’d get to empty the classroom bins on Thursday,” he replied glumly. “No thanks.”

“Listen, Puck,” I smiled again, “My door is open on this issue but we need to move forward together. What about the Assembly Committee then?”

“I hate all the committees,” he rocked back on his chair in revulsion. “I’m not a committee person.”

“I sense some hostility, Puck,” I said in a sweet tone. “We are workshopping this together. No one is the boss here. We are on an equal footing, you know. 

By the way, stop rocking in your chair or you’ll stay in at lunch time.”

“I don’t want to be on a committee. I think committees are dumb,” he said, resting his chair back on the carpet reluctantly. He picked up a paperclip and began shaping it into a dagger with his fingers.

“Puck, Puck, Puck,” I warbled gently. “Let’s talk about why you hate committees. Have you had a bad experience with committees before this? Let’s dialogue this, Puck. I’m here to listen. Let’s get in touch with your inner child.”

“I am a child,” Puck glared at me.

“And how’s that working for you?” I asked compassionately. 

“Listen Puck, you have to apply your oxygen mask first! You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs! There are plenty more fish in the sea! It doesn’t matter If you win or lose. It only matters that you tried!”

Puck squinted at me warily over his glasses and wriggled anxiously in his seat.

“What doesn’t kill us only makes us sad and afraid it will happen again, Puck,” I said, leaning forward and gazing at him with what I thought was an empathetic glint in my eye. 

I stayed silent because I know what a powerful counselling tool silence can be. I stared and stared and waited and waited.

Puck stood up suddenly, “Okay, okay, Mrs Poinker. Whatever you want. I’ll be in the Assembly Committee if you want. I’ll be in any committee you want!” 

He placed the pointy paperclip carefully on my desk, inching backwards and glancing behind him in search of an escape route.

“Great!” I grinned. “I knew you’d see the light.”

My first success as a counsellor.

I have this method acting nailed.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

How to Cure Empty Nest Syndrome

“So… I guess I’ll see you in 12 months,” I sniffed into my airport cappuccino, smiling courageously through a frothy moustache and fogged up glasses.

“Why do you keep saying twelve months, mother?” my only daughter replied, sipping her caramel latte and tossing her long blonde hair with nonchalance. “I plan on staying in London for at least two years.”

Oh, the cruelty that slips so easily from those twenty-two-year-old lips, I thought.

Then, suddenly, she was gone.

I gloomily watched the back of her head on the escalator descending towards the security stations and waited for her to turn back with a tear-filled face and final wave of farewell.


She was laughing and chatting… with her friend.

As we drove home from the airport, I sat in a dismal cloud of despair. It was a Sunday which made it ten times worse because let’s face it, Sunday afternoons are as depressing as dog shit anyway. Just knowing that all I have to look forward to is ironing next week's work clothes can throw me into dark paroxysms of misery even without motherhood abandonment issues thrown in as well.

“Is it too soon to call her?” I pestered Scotto.

“The plane’s probably taxiing for take-off, Pinky. Her phone will be turned off.”

I sobbed in empty-nest agony and rang my father instead.

The feelings of desolation evaporated somewhat during the week.

My friend and colleague, Catherine-Mary, also had a son who was about to fly off to South America on a non-return ticket, so we commiserated.

"At least Lulu isn’t going to live in a country with soaring crime rates, over-zealous bandits and murderous mosquitoes that carry a disease causing women to have babies with extra small heads, like your son is!" I cheerily said to Catherine-Mary in order to reassure myself.

Besides, I had a plan.

I was going to London.


I’d go in September. A mere 6 months away! I could bear to wait six months to see my daughter again, couldn’t I?

Scotto and I, headed down the mountain to the closest travel agency the following Saturday to book airline tickets. I was on a mission and NOTHING could stop me.

As we scurried into the shopping mall in search of Flight Centre, something unusual caught my eye.

It was a pet shop.

In the window of the pet shop squirmed a litter of brown, mouse-like creatures.

Oxytocin oozed through my arteries like a snake. My womb ached. I almost lactated.

I dragged Scotto through the door.

“How much are those mouse-like creatures in the window?” I officiously queried of the pet shop person.

“Are you referring to the miniature dash-hounds?” she blinked.

“No, I'm referring to the miniature DACHSHUNDS,” I corrected.

“They’re 580 million dollars,” she replied, sniffing indifferently at the rude woman.

I hesitated. “Each?” I managed to ask in a falsetto, choked up voice.

She nodded wisely (quite wisely actually for someone who works in a pet shop and still doesn’t know how to pronounce ‘dachshund’).

“Oh,” I said, swallowing a piece of my tongue which I’d bitten off in shock. “Well, we can’t afford that because we have to buy plane tickets to go to London to see my daughter. Thanks anyway. Bye.”

Even I, am not stupid enough to pay that much for a dog. 

Besides, we were going to be overseas in London for three weeks in September and I couldn’t leave a puppy that young in the kennels, could I?

After we’d walked a dozen paces, I suddenly stopped, struck with the most brilliant, dazzlingly clever idea I’ve ever had in my life.

“Scotto!” I shouted in divine enlightenment. “Why don’t we go to London in December and have a white Christmas instead of going in September? Lulu will be more settled in then. She won’t be wanting her boring old mother rocking up to London as early as September, will she? I wouldn't want to be a helicopter mother! ” 

...    ...     ...      ...      ...      ...       ....        ...      ...        ...

The plane tickets turned out to cost much more in December than September… but that’s okay. And I like freezing cold weather. It's bracing and stimulating. Good for the pores.

And of course, Polly Pocket will be 11 months old in December so she’ll be fine to go in the boarding kennels by then.