When I was at university, I was going to change the world through the power of Physical Theatre and the rhetoric of Feminist Performance Theory! I suspect these days that that my alter-ego, The Incredibly Pathetic Crying Lady, has more effective weapons at her disposal – pathetic sobbing and incessant whinging about the unfairness of the Late Pass Policy being two of them. But at university, I was Young and Idealistic and Full of Passion and prone to Capitalise Letters Even More Than I Do Today.
Now, nobody knows exactly what happened, but during my final year of university, my rather over-inflated notion that I was put on this earth to do “Something Significant” got somehow deflated, and I slipped quietly out of the spotlight and into the shadowlands of administration, new media project management and happy homemaking. Oh, and the blogging. Don’t forget the blogging.
Seventeen long years have passed since I last went to see an undergraduate theatre production. And another seventeen may well have passed, had my friend MM and I not been invited to see our mutual friend, the fabulous Mzzzzz E, perform in such a show.
Of course, this required me to step onto the campus of a place I had worked at (in an administrative capacity, no less) some 14 years previously. I was pretty confident I knew where we needed to go, but hesitated because of some construction work ahead. Before we knew it, some guy in a shirt and tie and carrying a gym bag swept up behind us like some Shirt And Tie Superhero and asked us if we needed help. Turned out he was on his way to the Union Building too so he told us to follow him.
As he charged on ahead, I turned to MM and whispered ferociously “Don’t we look like students?”, followed by “I mean, he was practically wearing a suit – a suit!” and then the awful realisation of “Oh god. I look like Somebody’s Mother.” And that “Somebody” wasn’t a charming little first-grader who still liked eskimo kisses in bed but a fourth-year engineering student who hadn’t managed to do anything but grunt at his mother for more than eight years and was about to buy an investment property with his live-in girlfriend.
And sure enough, when I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the bathroom mirrors shortly before the show started, I was overwhelmed by how middle-aged, middle-class and frumpy I looked against the hot pink paintwork. The slightly-ironic slung-over-the-shoulder handbag with large red roses looked reasonably hip back in the ‘burbs. But in this undergraduate setting? Positively Mumsy.
MM tried to be nice about it all as we took our seats in the theatre. “Perhaps they all see you as someone’s slightly older sister?”. There was some uncertainty in his tone, but since the lights were starting to dim, I could totally pretend that he was actually looking utterly sincere as he said it. Which was nice.
Anyway, I can honestly say that I enjoyed the ensuing performance and not just because Mzzzzz E might be reading this. Part of that enjoyment, I must admit, was the thrill of looking at the cast and imaging who their counterpart from my own University Dramatic Days might have been. And spotting who was gay and who was not (not many, it turns out). And which ones were most likely to recite the entire Monty Python oeuvre by heart without provocation. And who held the most promise for making a complete and utter tit of themselves at the cast party – most certainly, in my own time, it was me (cue for a host of “close pals” to step forward with tell-all exposés).
Of course, I also tremendously enjoyed watching Mzzzz E perform. She was magnifizzzzzent! However, I never did ascertain from her how she, some twenty years after her own university drama days, had managed to make a return to that most noble of art forms. I guess, objectively speaking, she’s much more still “One Of Them” – she wears platform heels, sequins on her cheeks and is “on the Centrelink” (her words not mine) – whereas I’ve definitely crossed over to the Other Side. MM, who is a parent but still manages to wear a natty hat, still has a foot in both camps. But I like to think that eventually one of those feet will get rheumatoid arthritis (or some such) and he’ll have to Choose His Side, as they like to say in the Transformers lexicon.
But here’s the thing that I enjoyed most about the performance: it was the sheer joy of seeing people doing something that they loved doing and something that they utterly believed in. And doing it together. As much as I love blogging, it’s very much a solo gig – there’s no high-fives back stage and drinks at the bar after I’ve published another post. At least not with other people.
Anyway, I found myself wondering what the Other Side NDM would say to the young passionate thespian NDM should they ever meet. You know, in the event of one of those The Terminator-style time travel type scenarios. Which is Entirely Likely.
Would she say “Stay the course! Follow your heart! Change the world one interpretive movement sequence at a time!”? Or would she say, echoing Les McQueen from Creme Brulee, “It’s a Shit Business!” and tell her to repent the theatre and embrace a life of stationary requisition forms and budget reconciliation and as soon as she possibly can?
Somehow, I like to think the Other Side NDM would say neither. She would just pat that young girl’s skinny little arm and reassure her that “Sometimes life has the strangest way of getting you exactly where you need to be.”
But whether that young NDM would listen to someone carrying a handbag like that is anyone’s guess.