Back in the Saddle

April 7, 2008 at 12:30 am (Uncategorized)

Good morning! It’s very nice to be back – although it was also fabulous being away. Vanuatu was really lovely, and whilst I’m sure you’d like to hear all about the experience, I’m on deadline today to file my story, and strictly speaking the paper has first dibs on anything I have to say… for now you’ll just have to take my word for it: I definitely plan to return with Llew.

Straight off the plane Thursday and straight out for dinner Thursday night celebrating a friend’s birthday at Manly Grill. I was actually exhausted (what is it about transit?) but self-medicated with several restorative glasses of champagne. It was rather fun catching up with all the locals so immediately upon my return – some of them hadn’t known I’d even been away, so Vanuatu was the surprise topic of conversation at table. It was a very jolly night, all told. Did we really need to go to Shore Club afterwards for another round…? No, but we did.

Friday Llew and I were both useless. I spent the day catching up on email and other correspondence and getting my house in order both personally and professionally. Endearingly, Llew clearly hadn’t enjoyed being home alone. I think you could have dusted for fingerprints and only found mine. He told me he didn’t like being here by himself, so he worked late, walked through the apartment and went straight off to bed every night I was away, barely pausing to register what was patently amiss. I think this empty nest syndrome is amplified for us because I work here. Indeed, I received a text message from Llew when I landed in Port Vila: ‘Knowing you’re not at home makes me sad.’ As much as he curses me for my admittedly jammy office, it’s also a source of comfort, I think, that I’m always here when he gets home.

Friday we met up at the wonderful Palisades hotel at the Rocks with a couple of friends. It’s always nice to see a few original pubs left standing, blissfully unadulterated and free of chrome, and the Palisades is one of them. That whole quarter of the Rocks is great because it was always too poor for preening. Look around at anything that’s been left alone in this city and chances are it was once part of a slum. It’s only thanks to areas that were too poor and dodgy to develop that Sydney has any decent historic sites left at all.

We were off to see Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking at the Sydney Theatre Company, as directed by Cate Blanchett and starring the incomparable Robyn Nevin. After a sundowner at the Palisades, we walked down to Hickson St Wharf and had a very tasty pre-theatre meal of tapas at Firefly. It’s a gorgeous spot, and the evening was perfect. I enjoyed Firefly’s food, too, especially the chicken chorizo and veal involtini.

To the play. Well, how gruelling it must be performing night after night in a one woman, one act play. How Nevin remembers all her taut and fraught lines is beyond me. Again with the affected American accent. Why? I don’t think it’s necessary… as I’ve noted somewhere on this blog before, probably after seeing DeLillo’s Love-Lies-Bleeding, also at the STC, no one speaks Chekhov translations in a fake Russian accent, do they? It’s awfully distracting, occasionally grating. Nevin’s fake American accent compromises rather than enhances her otherwise very powerful performance. I understand Didion is a giant of specifically American letters – her Manhattan life and Malibu memories seep through every carefully chosen word of the play – but it’s not Nevin’s fake accent that gives us access to her character. It’s Didion’s words.

There’s a brusque, bristling fierceness to the writing that – tragic and moving as it all undoubtedly is – makes it difficult to fully empathise with her. It’s hardly a character that one is failing to warm to – the play is Didion’s first person account of losing first her husband, then her adult daughter in the space of a year – it’s a real woman, so it’s troubling at the end to feel so outside her heart, which we know is irreparably broken. For such an intensely personal play, it’s also oddly impersonal. There’s never once mention of tears being shed, of sleepless nights, of sudden outbursts and loss of control, all of which so typically accompany grief on this scale. On the contrary, it’s icy in its precision, and it keeps Joan Didion’s heart, though never her razor-sharp wit, deliberately off the stage.

And now I must away… I have a deadline to meet, you know…but I’ll be back tomorrow, and we’ll catch up more then.


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