Thursday, December 14, 2006

Babes In The Wood

A long time ago, in a schoolyard far, far away... I arrived at school with a couple of platters of cakes. I thought it was cake day, a day when we sold cakes instead of doing school work. For some noble reason.

I was the only kid with cakes that day. I was the only kid not laughing at me. I was the kid who got the date wrong.

Cut to much later in life and I'm a masquerader of chefdom who has been assigned my job. I am catering for canapes for 20 people at intermission at Raymonda at the Sydney Opera House. A baby job. I arrive and there is something distantly familiar about it all... only this time my job sheet is correct, I am correct but still I have that feeling that everyone is going to be laughing at me again...

Luckily I've grown up a lot since that fateful Not Cake Day. Tonight I found a trestle table. I dragged the fucker in. I got those canapes in order. I sorted shit out and I did NOT fucking cry this time... and there were happy ballet VIPs at intermission who have no idea that the canapes had been canceled without the catering company's knowledge.

Below is my Drum Media review of a show seen last week. Fun stuff.


This version of Babes In The Wood, the original of which dates back to around 1600, follows the plight of two kids left in the care of their outback aunt. The kids will inherit the deceased father’s estate when they come of age – unless Auntie Avaricious has her way. She pays a couple of henchmen to take the children into the bush and murder them. It’s quite remarkable how faithful to the story this modern rendition is, at the same time as being another creature altogether.

The story is told by a traveling troupe of panto crazies with Max Gillies heading the troupe as the all singing, all drinking (mis)representation of Australian womanhood. The ensuing hour and a half or so is a sometimes hilarious drunken stumble through a vaudevillian interpretation of what it means to be ‘strayin’. Not much is held sacred here... in fact nothing is, except the right to rip the piss out of whatever needs the piss ripped out of it. And that’s bloody everything.

The dark story of the abandoned children is told with all the hammy overacting you’d expect of a real traveling family sideshow, but we also see the cracks in the troupe itself as personal politics break into the performance, as well as the actors breaking out of character. At one point Aunty Avaricious cops a hit to the groin and doubles over and the other actor says in concern, “Shit Max – are you all right?”

Random events throughout Australia’s cultural and political history are presented as defining moments with the whole show peppered with surreal and unexpected vignettes (here’s six words I bet you never thought you’d see together: Amanda Vanstone & Nutbush City Limits). References include: the children overboard fiasco; the Australian Wheat Board debacle; terrorism hysteria; David Hicks; neglected Aboriginal history... the list goes on, and it’s mostly very funny. It’s all very silly – yes, including the brief scene where St Steve, Patron Saint Of Crikey, dies doing what he loves doing and Germaine Greer sings over his corpse. However she doesn’t get the last laugh; we do.

Imaginative set design, fine physical buffoonery, silly songs (and some not so silly), Babes In The Wood takes some serious issues... and has them sit on whoopee cushions.

Until 23 December, Playhouse, Sydney Opera House



guyana-gyal said...

Lee, there's lots 'n' lots of goodies for me to read here, I'm just waiting for the day I can sit and just dig in!!!

Oh no, you too have beta. It's been a problem for a few days now.

gin said...

i remember being the only one that turned up to school in uniform on mufti-day. boy, was I hassled...

Quick said...

Sit and dig in, GG.

And Gin? Aaaaaahahahaha... loo-ser. Cake Boy would have hassled the shit out of you :)

Damian said...


They might have been laughing at you at 9am, but I bet they were crowding around, asking for a piece of cake at lunchtime.

*turns around*

G'day Guyana - fancy seeing you here.