Thursday, July 30, 2015

Feeling Smuggly

I love walking home from the cafe - even in this biting cold. All rugged up in my warm things and scarf and beanie and big jacket, I'm all "Fuck you, Cold, you can't make me cold with your pathetic cold, not when I'm all rugged up against you like this. Your feeble attempts to make me cold merely make me laugh."

It makes me feel kind of smuggly.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Squirting Rainbows

Sunday lunch. It makes me so happy I squirt rainbows out of my head.

Friday, July 24, 2015


Sometimes when I say I like a thing, it's because I like a thing. Sometimes when I say I think a thing is funny, it's because I think a thing is funny. Sometimes when I say I've disengaged from a thing, it's because I've disengaged from a thing.

Sometimes things are just things.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I Am A Miracle, Malthouse Theatre, Review

                                               Photo by Pia Johnson

I Am A Miracle

Reviewed by Lee Bemrose

I Am A Miracle is the latest work from Melbourne writer Declan Greene. My short review? Wow. Epic. Dreamlike. Nightmarish. Disturbing. Confronting. Thrilling. Biblical. Poetic. Perfect theatre. Go see it.

Oh how I'd like to leave it at that. However I suspect a few more words and thoughts are expected, probably with some of that syntax stuff involved. Oh well, here goes...

There are three stories being told here. There's the story of an 18th century Dutch boy who grows up, joins the armed forces and sails away to the colonies to help quash a slave rebellion. There is the story of a contemporary city dweller and his clash with his carer as his mental deterioration worsens. Both of these stories are book-ended, in a way, by the true story of Marvin Lee Wilson who spent 18 years on death row before being executed for his life of crime. It was revealed that his low IQ should have seen him avoid the death penalty; alas, it did not.

This very ambitious production draws you in from the start with its powerful story-telling and at times glitteringly poetic text. The acting is masterful. The set design and sound production are nothing short of stunning. There's a kind of harrowing beauty going on here – especially towards the end - coming at you from all directions.

Bert LaBonte opens the show with a kind of countdown to the hour of execution of Marvin, as he offers a futile list of unfinished promises to do something, of futile hope that some last minute thing will happen to prevent this imminent death. There is an argument, of sorts, between the three figures on stage, and the situation does indeed seem futile; there is a reason these Angels Of Justice are wearing prisoner overalls.

This gives way to Milita Jurisic's wonderful monologue of the life story of our Dutch soldier. Surprisingly funny on occasion, it grips and manages to be incredibly evocative of the bloody hardship suffered by the invading Westerners and the slaves alike. The whimsical intro of our hero's journey gives way to brutal reality, ending on a note of yearning. Jirisic takes on several characters, and armed with such excellent text she drags us through the gamut of emotions with aplomb. It's a bit of a bravo performance.

LaBonte takes centre stage in the next story, a very modern, domestic drama. Again, there are unexpected laughs, but the mood here quickly darkens. Nothing whimsical here. This is confronting and raw and so sadly real. LaBonte and Jirisic as the combatants make you feel for both of them and the situation they are so tragically locked into.

There is a third cast member, Hannah Le Crisp. She frequently adds to the ethereal feel of the production with her soaring operatic vocals. Gorgeous stuff. A lot of thought has been given to the sound production, and it works like the best soundtrack of your favourite movie.

The play closes, back to that countdown, back to the futility, back to those prisoner angels and talk of God and justice, back further and further... can't remember the last time I felt (you don't just see it, you feel it) such an epic and thought-provoking close to a play.

It takes a while to unravel just exactly what you've seen here, just what connects these three stories. It stays with you, this play.

At Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne. Season Ends August 9th

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I Am A Miracle, Malthouse Theatre, Short Review

                                                              Image by Pia Johnson.

Just got back from seeing a play called I Am A Miracle at The Malthouse Theatre. Wow. Epic. Dreamlike. Nightmarish. Disturbing. Thrilling. Biblical. Poetic. Just perfect theatre. Review with more words and improved syntax for Australian Stage coming tomorrow. Or read the longer review here.

Actually, this is the perfect review for this play. I'm guaranteed to fuck it up by adding words and syntax. Can't wait to do that.

Saturday, July 18, 2015


Some moments in life stay with you.

There's a local street guy I see around, in various states of psychosis or inebriation. Sometimes he's well behaved, just clearly insane, but somehow aware of how correct behaviour should be. I've seen him rage on the streets. I've seen him cry. I've seen him plead for a sandwich or a piece of toast, because I am homeless and please help me.

He came into the cafe recently and asked if we could spare a couple of pieces of vegemite toast. He was expecting to be brushed off, waved away. He's jittery and twitchy and knows how the world is. No one has any time for him. Life is miserable, for him. There is no food and no shelter for him. Love and affection? When was the last time he felt love and affection?

You can't encourage these people, you understand. We have a business to run. Every day right now is a struggle. And the guy has been in before. He got his sandwich that time too, that time bought by a kind-hearted doctor.


I gave him his vegemite toast. His state was calm that day. He said thank you. He said “I'm good like that, I'm good when I'm good.” And he left. I watched him walk down the street, tearing open the bag to tuck into his warm vegemite toast on this chilly winter day.

Next day, on my walk home from my cosy cafe to my warm home, I saw him again. He was in the worst state I've seen him. Carrying his half loaf of bread, he stumbled in circles, didn't know what the hell was going on. He dropped his bread, picked it up again. Staggered and stumbled. He bumped into me, said he was sorry.

I kept going but had to wait at the intersection. Behind me now, the guy stumbled forward and hit his head on the traffic light pole. He exploded. “CUNTS! YOU ARE ALL SUCH FUCKING CUNTS AND I FUCKING HATE YOU!” His voice was raw. There was a raw gash under one eye, but it was not a fresh wound. He hurled his bread into the busy intersection of traffic, people in their cosy cars going to their warm homes.

“I fucking hate you. I really do.”

He crumpled to the footpath.

The traffic light changed, and I looked away. I looked ahead and crossed the road and kept walking towards my cosy and warm home.

And I didn't feel happy or blessed and the moral of the story isn't that we should all appreciate what precious things we have, I just felt like shit.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Gertrude Street Projection Festival 2015: Whoa!

The cafe is part of the quite wonderful Gertrude Street Projection Festival. We checked it out last night. Much wonder and fun. And a bit of unexpected hilarity.

We checked out the projection being shown from our cafe. It initially looks static, like a projection of a classic oil landscape. But it is moving footage, it's just that the motion is very minute. After watching the projection for several minutes, a slowly dramatic change takes place. A shadow from the left starts to take over the rusted orange hues more and more until the whole thing goes up in a lovely puff of smoke. And starts all over again.

There was a group of friends watching at the same time we were. Some of them noticed the tiny changes and ooh-ed and ah-ed. One of them got bored and wandered a short way down the alley, and triggered an overhead light to come on and artfully illuminate a doorway.

Whoa! Check this one out! It doesn't start projecting until you walk across this part!”
“Whoa! How cool is that? And it goes back off after you move over here. So cool!”
“Oh wow!”

These probable stoners continued to marvel at the wonders of the movement detector switch that allows the tenants in the building above the cafe to find their keys in the dark as the climax of the actual projection took place.

“Whoa! Check it! Move back over here and... Amazing!”

Grumpy & The Dreaded One giggled their arses off as they made their way down Gertrude Street.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Cuckoo By Jane Miller, Review

45 Downstairs
45 Flinders Lane,

Reviewed by Lee Bemrose

Strange one, this one. It suffers from what I'm going to think of in the future as The Cuckoo Effect. You're dying to know what The Cuckoo Effect is, aren't you. Well, I really enjoyed this play as it was unfolding whilst ignoring a few of the questions and quibbles The Little Voice was whispering in my ear. After all, it's an intriguing story, creatively told by a small cast of good actors. The intriguing bits are intriguing, the dramatic bits are dramatic and the funny bits are (mostly) funny, so shut-up, quibbly little voice and let me enjoy this thing.

And I did enjoy it. But the more distance there was between me being there seeing the play, and being away and looking back and thinking about the play, the more The Little Voice seemed to have a few valid quibbles. That's The Cuckoo Effect.

The story follows the lives of Mel (Natalie Carr) and Leo (Matthew Molony) and what happens to their lives when their apparently long-lost son J (Samuel Russo in a twitchy and unsettlingly quirky performance) turns up 17 years or so after he mysteriously vanished. The young adult claims to have been injured in a bicycle accident and in need of help. Mel is keen to help, but Leo is suspicious of this intruder with whom something is clearly not right. What follows is a story of love (and the dying of), desire, yearning, memory, regret, rejection and loyalty. All the ingredients are in place for some really good theatre, and it mostly delivers.

J's unexpected arrival opens up, for the married couple, new possibilities and a whole can of worms. If he is who he says he is, what happened? Where has he been? What went wrong? Who is to blame for his disappearance?

If he is not who he claims to be, who is he? What does he want? And how does he know how to manipulate them so easily?

The play is billed as a black comedy, and that's not an inaccurate description. There's a lot of psychological drama going on, as you'd expect with such a scenario, and there are plenty of laughs to be had. Indeed, this kind of story could be played as a straight and powerful drama. But the writer (Jane Miller) has chosen to infuse this quite serious story with humour.

And this is in part the source of some of The Little Voice's whispered quibbles. While the different and quite separate moods mostly work in isolation, they kind of jar at times. There isn't really a smooth transition between them, mainly because the drama and psychological tension is done so well, and some of the humour (not all) borders on farcical or the absurd, so much so that it clashes and jangles. The human frailty stuff is genuinely moving and natural. Some of the humour, while funny, just seems out of place or unnecessary. The character Dan (David Kambouris) - possibly the cop who delivered the news of the son's disappearance all those years ago and who is now a friend of Mel and Leo's – felt at times like a character from an awful sitcom like Hey Dad. Well played, but a frequently annoying character with frequently annoying “funny” lines.

There's also the suspension of disbelief problem. With a really successful story, you just agree to its unspoken terms and conditions and accept whatever unlikely romance or tragedy or fantasy the story suggests. You just let yourself get drawn in. With slightly less successful stories, you find yourself saying yeah but... but why don't they... but if this really happened...

I guess what's stayed with me the most are the naturalistic parts of the play dealing with emotional struggle. So well done. This is a story about the hopes of a missing child returning and the challenges that go with that, but it's also a story about fading love and rejection.

The flashback scenes are effective in giving clues as to what Mel and Leo's life was like prior to their son's disappearance, as well as the circumstances leading up to the event itself. They may have gotten on with their lives and eventually accepted that their son simply vanished, but we see that even in the most ordinary of families, all is not necessarily what it seems and blame and self-recrimination are simply burdens that must be endured if we are to get on with life.

There is real drama and tension as the three main characters become locked in a psychological battle for what they want or need out of this situation, and there is an air of creepiness or menace as well. The mystery of what has actually taken place remains right up to the quite poignant closing scene.

Season ends July 26

Sweating Rainbows

Some days, things just don't feel right, like you've swallowed fistfuls of butterflies and peacock feathers, and  now you've got this fever going. You can't think straight, can't make out just what's going on right in front of jittering eyes, everything shape-shifting and morphing. And you get those damned sweats again, those damned rainbow sweats.

Some days, you've gotta just roll with it, no matter how weird it gets.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Standard Units Of Measurement Revisted: The Piano

Just watched a news report that described a NASA deep space probe as being "The size of a piano."
When the fuck did they change the standard measurement of size from football fields to musical instruments?

I don't know how big a piano is. Is it bigger than a harpsichord? Do 16 theremins = one piano? How many banjos = one piano?

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

The Faffing Song

My turn to cook tonight. The Dreaded One makes a slightly... no totally and completely snarky and unjustified comment about we'd better hurry up because no we don't have plenty of time because you are not factoring in the Lee Faff Factor. I was bit hurt. Me faff?

At home. In the kitchen. I get cracking because of this "Faffing" accusation.

At an unspecified time after I get cracking, I find myself gazing into the middle distance as my mind goes to work on a new project. The project is a song called The Faffing Song, sung to the tune of Nick Cave's The Weeping Song.
"Ann go into the kitchen,
And see Lee faffing there,
Then go into the lounge-room,
Lee is faaaaaff-ing there too...

This is The Faffing Song,
A song in which to faff..."

My creative flow is interrupted by The Dreaded One who has apparently, with her ninja like senses, detected that cooking activity has ceased.

What are you thinking about, Lee?

Best you don't know, I tell her as I get cracking on dinner again.

The Faffing Song though, I have to do this.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Sometimes I Wonder

Sometimes I wonder

Looking at old photos,
Walking down a street
Leaving loved ones behind,
I don't care,
I've dis-engaged,
I'm focused on the road ahead.

Until I look at those old photos.
Those old faded memories,
And I wonder what happened,
Were you happy?
Are you happy?

Sometimes I wonder.

Asking The Big Questions

Yesterday a Porsche drove by that was the exact colour of our new fondue pot. So the big question that looms in my mind (because I am a big, looming questiony kind of guy) is, is it a Porsche-coloured fondue pot or a fondue pot-coloured Porsche?

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Conversations With Our Customers - Mr Guatemala

A guy walks into the cafe oozing absurd amount of confidence. Says, "I'm after a pie. Yeah, I want a pie. You have?"

The daily pie special is a roasted vegetable, haloumi and tomato pie. This customer has too much confidence to eat a roasted vegetable, haloumi and tomato pie. This level of confidence requires something's flesh. He sees the house-made Moroccan lamb sausage roll. He announces that he will try a house-made Moroccan lamb sausage roll,  to takeaway.

Then he turns his confidence to me. I've been watching the guy deal with my helper and wondering just where in the fuck someone gets this kind of confidence. Is there a place you can go and swap some insecurity for some confidence? Why do I not know about this place? Why has no one told me? Perhaps I can trade a little paranoia for some sex appeal while I'm there.

"I might have a coffee while I'm waiting for my sausage roll," the guy tells me with a kind of nod and wink that is neither an actual nod or wink, his confidence a dazzling thing somehow magically just holding back from smarminess. How the fuck is he doing this?

"Um... okay," is my riposte.

"So what can you tell me about the beans?"

Oh God, I think. "They're not a brand you're going to recognise. They're not a 'label' brand. They're kind of our own blend."

"Your own blend?" His tone has turned its head ever so slightly to one side and raised one eyebrow as if to say prey do tell.

"Well it's our supplier's blend. I think she supplies a few select cafes around Melbourne. Like I say, It's not a recognised brand but we think it's good coffee."

"What can you tell me about the components?" he asks, his tone jutting its chin in a slightly outwardly-upwardly direction, making me want us to stop talking about things so that I can just make his coffee, since I can't be suddenly on a beach in Barcelona with my fellow nude Spaniards, sipping mojitos and discussing Gaudi.

Truth is, it's been so long since I've thought of the 'components' of our coffee beans that I can't quite recall them.

"Erm... it's a blend of beans from New Guinea, Guatemala... India..."

I'm really hoping something kind of big, like Armageddon, is going to happen right now because if it doesn't, I'm going to have to start pulling coffee growing countries out of my arse. And if I do that, I suspect this fucker will be right onto me.

"Ethiopia or - "

"I don't KNOW!" I whimper.

"Hmm. Well I like Guatemalan coffee. I'll take a long black."

"In a take-away as well?"

"Nah. hit me with ceramic. I'll sit outside and smash out a cigarette while I'm waiting for my sausage roll."

I fully expect him to shoot me with his two finger guns and make clicking sounds with his tongue.

I am very happy that he is gone, but equally sad that I now have to make this Guatemalan coffee appreciator a long black. On the one hand I am glad he is not a latte drinker because the result of my attempts at latte art are as unpredictable as Melbourne weather. On the other hand, with a long black there is nothing to hide behind. I like coffee and I think ours is good, but I am no connoisseur. This bastard, I feel sure, is.

Which is fine. All I have to do is not fuck up his coffee.

I make the coffee and take it out to him. The grind has been perfect. I manually stopped the extraction at 27 seconds because I like the number 27 (I just like to stop the extraction on a long black before 30 seconds - at 27 seconds - because some of the most legendary rock stars died at the age of 27 and so... er...). The crema - floated so deftly on the surface of the water - looks glorious in its deep caramel hue. It's a good looking cup of Joe. I feel confident.

But not confident enough to double shoot Mr Guatemala with my finger guns.

Service is busy. I'm getting nailed on the coffee machine but as Mr Guatemala's Moroccan sausage roll comes through, I grab it because I want to take it out to him and find out what he thought of the coffee. I need to know.

Outside. I walk towards him. I open my mouth to ask but he cuts me off with his diamond-hard confidence.

"You've got a good cup of coffee there."

"Oh really?" I sob. "Because you had me worried there. You obviously know your coffee." I wipe the tears from my eyes with the heel of my hand.

"Nah. I'm a discerning customer that's all. And a happy one. It's good stuff." His smile is all finger guns and click-clicks. He takes his sausage roll rides off into the sunset.

I skip into the cafe and kind of frolic in my Viking-frolicky way for the rest of this wonderfully sunshine-filled afternoon.

Not even Spoonwoman could bring me down now.