Yesterday here at Shambles Manor it was all butterflies and flowers as I wrote a lovely post to my eldest daughter in honour of her 16th birthday.
Today, well the atmosphere has grown decidedly icy, you could grow stalagmites.
You see, turns out I am an evil mother.
At the last-minute I purchased tickets to see a play, without consulting, the eldest if (a) she was available (b) she wanted to go.
Turns out she had other plans and no desire to see Animal Farm.
I brought the tickets because I remembered reading Orwell’s book at school and thought it might be useful for the Hippie Child to see it in action just in case it happened to be on a school reading list sometime in the next three years. I did attempt to see if it was on the curriculum at her school but couldn’t find a list of texts, checked on the department of education website and couldn’t see it listed on the HSC prescribed reading. But I didn’t let that stop me. No sir. This was an EDUCATIONAL opportunity not to be missed. One show only and we were booked in.
Look, with the benefit of hindsight I am prepared to concede that choosing an adaptation of an allegorical novel about the Russian Revolution and life in the Stalinist Soviet Union as our first theatre experience was probably not the most stellar of parenting decisions.
Somewhere in the deep recesses of my heart I imagined us watching the play together and afterwards enjoying a discussion on communism, the corruption of power and … oh all right, it’s easy for you people with no emotional involvement in this to judge the naivety! The eldest is my philosophical one, I had hopes.
The pragmatic child had scored herself a sleepover at a friend’s house and thus managed to avoid yet another of Mum’s mad educational/bonding family activities, she left with much joy.
Hippie Child’s attempts to win her father over to her side of the argument were met with steely resistance, we were standing side by side in this battle of education.
Well actually he argued “kid you have got no idea how many crappy theatre shows your mum has dragged me to, if I’ve got to suffer so have you”.
Having cancelled her previously booked engagement the unhappy one traipsed glumly to the theatre. I thought it would be nice to have pre-show dinner in the newly opened restaurant at the theatre. Unfortunately so did half of the 300 strong audience, a situation which the operators hadn’t considered. Being a little short-staffed our meals arrived after the bell to take our seats had rung.
Something you should realise is that Hippie Child is the world’s slowest eater. We’ve had to ban her Nana from doing cooked breakfasts because we struggled to get her to school before recess if she was wading through bacon and eggs. As the clock ticked away and there was no sign of our dinner I morphed into a track & field coach, building my athlete up for the race ahead.
“Look, when dinner gets here, you are going to have to eat fast. And I mean really FAST. Like you have never eaten before. Don’t talk, don’t savour, just swallow, many times, very quickly”.
As the final call echoed over the microphones our meals were sat in front of us. I must say my chicken was delicious, what I managed to taste as I scoffed. Looking over at Hippie Child’s prawn linguine I knew we were in trouble. Admittedly attempting to wrestle the fork out of her hand and shovel the pasta into her mouth was going a step too far, I acknowledge that now.
“This is really nice, I want to EAT IT. I don’t want to see the show. You go to the show, I’ll stay here and enjoy my dinner.”
I had paid for tickets, she was seeing the show. I called for a doggy bag, and our nice, overworked waiter offered to keep it in the fridge for us until after the show. Hippie Child did puppy dog eyes as her meal was whisked away.
(Note to locals, it was the first night the restaurant was open, the food is really good, and reasonably priced and I’m sure they will sort out staffing better next time – but get there early just to be on the safe side).
We headed into the theatre to see a fantastic performance about which the Brisbane Times said:
But with its electric blend of breathless narration, physical virtuosity and cracking dialogue, Shake & Stir Theatre Co. do justice to Orwell’s dark, sometimes raucous, and always disturbingly confrontational text.
Suspension of disbelief is laughably easy. Though there are no animal costumes – just black jeans and grimy singlets – the transformation from actor to animal is convincing and complete. The audience is transported: to the barnyard, to the farm, to the unanticipated horrors of revolution gone wrong.
Each performer must switch frequently from one animal persona to another, adopting idiosyncrasies and vocalisations with surprising alacrity. The fine details make these performances magnificent: a horse’s head-toss and soft spontaneous nicker; the frightful inhaling squeal of a pig; the low chirrup of a quietly skeptical rooster.
Needless to say I thought it was great, the husband offered it was by no means the worst piece of theatre I’ve dragged him to and Hippie Child gave me a lecture on how I am not to make decisions without consulting her and that was an hour and half of her life she won’t get back.
So, have I destroyed any hope of my daughter loving the theatre by forcing it upon her? Or do you, as a parent, sometimes have to make your offspring go outside of their comfort zone and try something new in order to broaden their horizons?
Right now I’m just praying that in three years time sitting in the HSC English Exam there will be a question on Animal Farm and my visual learner will recall a dark theatre with young actors leaping over the stage pretending to be pigs and get TOP MARKS!
PS Animal Farm is on tour, including many regional areas check here for details. (Not a sponsored post just thought you might like to know).