Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Please Explain: AC/DC Wine


Grumpy is freelance wine-maker Lee Bemrose ( Grumpy's Grenache is a mighty fine drop.

In the local bottle shop the other day I was a bit bemused to see the newly released AC/DC range of fine wines. It's... I mean, I like AC/DC and I like wine, but they just don't have anything to do with each other. Seeing images of Angus Young in Dan Murphy's was as bizarre seeing Kim Kardashian at a Mensa meeting. Or the Murdochs at the International Meeting of People With Integrity. Or Adam Sandler in a funny movie.

“What's going on here, Brain?” I asked my brain.

“I don't know, Grumpy. It's just not computing. It's as bizarre as seeing Kim Kardashian at a Mensa meeting. Or the Murdochs at the International Meeting -”

“Hey – that's what I was just thinking.”

“Great minds...”

Nobody was going near the AC/DC point of sale area. I guess everyone was having bemused conversations with their bemused brains. But I guessed a lot of shoppers, like me, were taking surreptitious sideways glances at this oddity of merchandising. Think Oz rock, you think black T-shirts, tatts, muscle cars and shouting. Think Oz rock and booze and you think beer or Jack.

And yet there it was – Hells Bells Sauvignon Blanc.


“I know. I saw it too.”

There's also Back In Black Shiraz, You Shook Me All Night Long Moscato and getting away from the Back In Black album, even a Bon Scott reference in the Highway To Hell Cabernet Sauvignon.

“Erm – Brain?”

“Yes Grumpy? I probably know what you're going to say, but go ahead.”

“Didn't the original singer of AC/DC die from an alcohol induced incident?”

“He most certainly did.”

“So as well as pretty damned weird, it's not really in the best taste, is it.”

No. I agree. It's a bit like... a bit like...”

“Releasing a Jeff Buckley range of swimwear?”

“Exactly what I was thinking.”

But it's not really the bad taste aspect that has stayed with me (others have suggested a Marc Bolan model Mini-Cooper to celebrate the vehicle in which he died, or a Mama Cass chain of sandwich shops), it's just the weirdness of the whole thing. Who, exactly, is going to buy this stuff? Certainly not cardigan-clad and knowledgeable wine buffs. Certainly not me or my bon vivant brain. Are AC/DC fans really going to buy it?

And rather than go down the bad taste road of releasing a celebration of the thing that killed a loved rock star, I'm a far more practical thinker. “Isn't that right, Brain.”

“You said it, big feller.”

What I'm wondering is, what do I eat with my Hells Bells Sauvignon Blanc?

“I'm thinking,” Brain tells me, “a well-ripened cheese. Maybe the Led Zeppelin Black Dog brie.”

“Sensational. Accompanied by a Black Sabbath Paranoid quince paste.”


The Grumpy-Brain Advertising Corp next plans to release the Pauline Hanson range of Please Explain lingerie.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Maids Review

The Maids

Review by Lee Bemrose

(Photo by Joe Calleri)

This was one of the oddest plays I've seen in a while – not the least because I went in pretty blind as to what I was about to see. I don't really remember what initially interested me. It was on at La Mama. It looked like a bit of a dark comedy. The promo shots hinted at something a bit strange; might be worth checking out.

Basically, The Maids by Frenchman Jean Genet follows the story of a couple of maids playing naughty power games in their mistress' absence. They dress up in her clothes, wear her make-up, mimic and tease, both her and each other. Their game escalates until they dare themselves to murder her. She returns, almost discovers what the mice have been up to while the cat's away and... well I've already given away too much.

Although this is a one act play, it is constructed of three parts. There is the opening revelation of the curious nature of the maids followed by the return of the mistress, followed by what happens next when the mistress leaves again.

There is something strange about this production right from the start. The two maids, Solange and Claire, are played by male actors Matt Crosby and Ben Rogan. There's nothing wrong with seeing gender played by opposites, but in this case it was strange because... well because it was all very obvious. Matt and Ben are very masculine men playing very feminine roles, but in a very over-the-top way; women cast in these same roles would have played the parts very differently, I feel. There's a self-consciousness about it which adds to the feeling that all is not as it seems.

Looking around at the faces in the intimate space of La Mama, I did see a few staring on occasion into the middle distance rather than the actors on stage who frequently rubbed shoulders with the audience. There were jokes which occasionally raised quiet laughs, and there was this constant, unsettling feel about the thing. Why have male actors playing female roles? Why this campness? And what, exactly, was going on here?

In what is basically the second act, the limelight is stolen by Butoh and burlesque star Yumi Umiumare. This is also over-the-top camp, but somehow, suddenly, there is electricity. Yumi's Mistress is a loud Japanese pop-punk drama queen who struts, demands respect (the maids have become suddenly subservient in her presence after being so bold in her absence), and she also demands answers. What has been going on in her absence? Why these misplaced objects? Why traces of her make-up in unexpected places? Much of her barked sentences trail dismissively into Japanese, making her dominance even more comical.

The plot to undo the mistress is thwarted and as she leaves for what is basically the third act, the maids resume their power games, but with added edge.

Unfortunately, once Yumi left the stage, a bit of that middle-distance gazing came over again, and this third section felt a little too long. I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one present who thought okay, I've seen the fun bit, let's get this over and done with.

Discussion afterwards between plus one and myself was along the lines of the opening line of this review. It is an odd, unsettling play. It's a play from a bygone time. I don't think it's timeless or even relevant to our times. I do thinking acting from all three cast members was very good. I am curious to see another production of this play because I'm not sure why gender came into this... although it was certainly about power and dominance, both of which often dance with gender and the roles we have to play. (Note – in reading about The Maids after writing this review it seems the playwright himself wanted male actors, so this production is being true to the spirit of the thing).

Like I said, one of the oddest plays I've seen in a while. Not entirely a bad thing.

Season Over.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Grumpy, Captain Jack And The Peacock Juice


Grumpy is freelance pirate Jack Sparrow. He can be Shanghaied for writing at

The Dreaded One walks into the bathroom and asks where I left her eye-liner.

Back in the other room. Near where you were sitting.”

She leaves to look for her eye-liner, and I ponder what a strange exchange this was. First time we've ever had such a conversation; I am not in the habit of wearing my girlfriend's make-up. However, we are going to a fancy dress party and I am going as a pirate. Weirdly, I have managed to fashion an entire, impressively piratey outfit from found items in my wardrobe. I have a scarf (which has for some long-forgotten reason been referred to as my terrorist scarf) which, when folded correctly, makes a splendid bandanna. I have a white linen shirt with French cuffs which when left un-cuffed looks like one of those billowy jobs pirates wear. Throw a vest over that, a sash around my waist and my leather Swear boots on my feet and hey presto! I'm Jack Sparrow!

Only I need some eye-liner. A quick lesson on how to apply eye-liner and I look fabulous. I become Jack Sparrow. I sway and swagger like an inebriated feline as I make my way into the living room and say things to The Dreaded One like, “You need to find yourself a girl mate. Or perhaps the reason you practice three hours a day is that you already found one, and are otherwise incapable of wooing said strumpet. You're not a eunuch are you?”


I'm Jack Sparrow. Captain Jack Sparrow, at your service.” I may not look exactly like Johnny Depp, but the accent is totally spot on. I am the whole package of swashbuckling sexiness.

Somehow The Dreaded One rolls her eyes whilst staring levelly at me. “You don't have to be Jack Sparrow. You can just be a regular pirate.”

Will you please shut it?” I slur ever so slightly in the manor of Captain Jack Sparrow. “Listen to me. Yes, I lied to you. No, I don't love you. Of course it makes you look fat. I've never been to Brussels. It is pronounced "egregious". By the way, no, I've never met Pizzaro but I love his pies. And all of this pales to utter insignificance in light of the fact that my ship is once again gone. Savvy?”

Oh God. This isn't going to be a repeat of Turkey, is it?”

Ah. Turkey. Yes. A dance festival with a total solar eclipse in the middle of it. A party in the pine forest populated by people of all persuasions; no pirates. Everyone, it seemed, had an accent, and after someone put a drop of something on the back of my hand and the pine trees turned to peacock feathers, I developed an accent of my very own. It was the accent of a swarthy European, a seasoned world traveller who is deep of voice, thick of accent and wise of head. It may or may not have been inspired wholly or in part by Sasha Baron Coen's Borat.

And because of the stuff that turned the pine trees into peacock feathers, my accent would not go away.

Stop it please,”The Dreaded One kept asking.

But I cannot. I am veddy solly, but it has... how you Eengleesh say... it is part of me. It is simply the way I communicate in your Western... tongway? Tong? Tung! If I must communicate to you in you preferred langoo-wage, I must speak in, eh, these accent. You must forgeeve. Ooh – look at the peacock trees.”

It's a strong relationship that can survive three solid days of this. I simply could not shut it off.

And this was what The Dreaded One was getting at with this Jack Sparrow thing. I had taken to being Jack Sparrow perhaps a little too naturally.

No problem. I just have to stay away from people offering peacock juice and everything should be fine.

Monday, August 01, 2011

A Grumpy Love Song

This story will be familiar to some of you. I needed a Grumpy column and came across my one and only attemps at song-writing and the circumstances around it and thought I'd recycle a bit. It really is a coincidence that I've moved to this city and that I am currently working in this particular theatre.


Grumpy is freelance writer Lee Bemrose ( His new venture as a love balladeer extraordinaire may be shorter lived than he hoped.

When it comes to writing, I've tried most forms with varying degrees of success... or varying degrees of failure, depending on how you view these things. I've been lucky enough to win an award for a sad love story, have had sad and funny love stories published in a variety of mags and lit journals and even the odd crime story has found an audience. I just think what the hell, you have to give things a go.

Rummaging through old files recently I discovered that I have also tried a bit of song writing. It all came about after I reviewed an internationally famous cabaret diva and in my review (which, I guess, did turn into a bit of a declaration of love) I mentioned that by the end of her show I “was comatose with desire.”

Bugger me, I thought, wouldn't Comatose With Desire make a good song title. Sounded like something The Smiths would come up with. Next time I interviewed the internationally famous cabaret diva I told her about my idea for a song for her. Her response? “Stop stalking me.”

Encouraged by her enthusiasm, I set about writing my first love song:

Comatose With Desire

I would walk the desert sands for you,
Move mountains and part seas for you,
I would hold my breath and turn blue for you,
You make me comatose with desire.

Comatose with desire,
Comatose with desire,
You make me
Comatose with desire.

Your presence penetrates me,
It envelopes and smothers me,
You choke the very life out of me,
And make me comatose with desire.


Your beauty intoxicates,
It makes my pupils dilate,
And my heart fibrillate,
I’m so comatose with desire.


To know you is to know humility,
You degrade and humiliate me,
And leave me snivelly and whimpery,
And comatose with desire.


My unrequited lust for you,
Has crushed my heart, it’s true,
And another vital organ or two,
And left me comatose with desire.


I am a peaceful village,
That you rape and pillage,
My heart buuuurns for yoooo... because you set it on fire,
I am comatose with desire.


Your indifference to me
Has made me quite loony,
I am drugged...
And bound...
And dribbling...
In the... mental... asylum... of love...

(Chorus, with sad echoey effects and maybe one of those eerie theremin things).

I sent the song to my diva. Her response? “Really, darling, if you don't stop stalking me...” She also pointed out that the song made no sense because if she sang it, who was she singing it to? Who was the 'You' in the song. Me, I ventured? “I don't sing love songs to stalkers.”

I interviewed her for another mag twice after that (“Stop stalking me! Stop stalking me!”), but it's gone quiet between us since then.

By complete coincidence, the new city I've recently moved to is also the hometown of our internationally famous cabaret diva. And by an even bigger coincidence I've scored a job at the very same theatre she performs her new show at in a few short weeks.

It's going to be so lovely to catch up with her again.