Theatre in the Heart of Sydney

Theatre in the Heart of Sydney

My two favourite theatres in Sydney are part of the fabric of the community. They provide affordable and entertaining theatre all year round. They are a true home to artists.

Genesian Theatre – Kent St

On the site of an old church in the heart of the city is my beloved Genesian theatre. As a member of this welcoming community, acting in my first ever play, I met my husband. My first impression was: “You are too short to play Darcy! This is going to be a disaster!” Thankfully, I was very wrong.

We recently returned to the theatre and caught Figaro, by Charles Morey, directed by the talented Shane Bates.  It was a side-splitting laugh-out-loud romp through this classic work. Having seen the Mozart Opera several years ago at the Sydney Opera House, I had high expectations and was not disappointed.

Owen Gimblett outdid himself once again with the clever set design. The actors were brilliant with a script that required a knack for comedic timing. The costume swapping antics and romantic intrigue had me hooked.

I’ll definitely be attending their next production: Bloody Murder by Ed Sala. The show will run from 28th October to 2nd December. It promises another night of laughs.

The Genesian generally caters for an all ages audience. The Agatha Christie’s are always superb. I adore it when they through an Austen or a Shakespeare into the season. The community is open and welcoming, and has become like a second family to many of us.

The old church opened in 1868 and was dedicated to St John the Evangelist. It has had an eventful history hosting several theatre groups, a poor school and the first Matthew Talbot Hostel. I’m not sure if it is only the facade that is heritage listed, but it has a beautiful roof, with exposed wooden beams inside, and stain-glass windows at the back.

Sadly, we are losing our beautiful venue and with it a piece of Sydney history. The building has been sold to a developer, reportedly for over $6 million. Location location. But the Genesian Theatre Company predates it’s history at Kent St, and will hopefully continue to be a pillar of the arts in the amateur Sydney theatre community. The theatre has given many young Aussies their start, including but not limited to: Baz Lurhmann, John Bell, Bryan Brown and Nick Enright.

I’m humbled to have tread its boards.

New Theatre – King St

New Theatre is as different as can be to Genesian Theatre, but I love it too, and am thinking of joining as a member there as well. Where the Genesian is family-friendly, New Theatre is edgy. Between St Peter’s and Newtown Stations on King St, you could almost be forgiven for walking past the unassuming exterior painted grey, black and red. But inside, it’s huge.

The stage is at the bottom and the seats rise back up to the bio box, so you are looking down on the performance. It’s a vast black space that lends itself well to minimal or abstract stage sets. When the lights are out on stage, it’s a total blackout, a void. Where the Genesian has brick, wood and stain glass charm, the New is black den of the alternative and subversive.

We recently saw Birdland by Simon Stephens. It runs until 4 November, catch it if you can. It’s a long show without interval, but no longer than a film. It is brilliantly directed and poignantly acted. It traces the downfall of a flawed Rock God whose mistakes with sex, drugs, friendship, and money see him spiral into worsening situations.

I loved the stage, the perpetual angle of the wooden planks contributed to the sense of drunkenness and the feeling that the characters were adrift. The scenes cut seamlessly from one to the next with barely a pause for breath. It was an epic performance from Paul who was onstage for the entirety – in every scene – with every eye always upon him. The supporting cast provided insightful and entertaining vignettes and counterpoints.

All in all …

I highly recommend you stop by both of these theatres when you are next in Sydney and I am very much looking forward to my next experience!

Can you share with me any recommendations for more theatre in Sydney? On the hunt 😉

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What’s in my suitcase?

What’s in my suitcase?

I’ve just moved back to Australia from the United Kingdom and the packing was a mammoth task! It was very much worth it though. We’ve had more sun the last two weeks in Sydney than I think we had all summer in London. Wearing SPF 50 daily for my pasty rosacea riddled skin.

I do miss my new family though! A big shout out to the Hamby’s in the UK. Thank you for welcoming me into your family and your country. It’s been wonderful getting to know you and I look forward to seeing you again next year xx You are completely responsible for one of the more unusual items in my suitcase and I love you for it.

Living in London, we kept the household items to the essentials + a few luxuries (Dearest Nutribullet – I hear you are being put to hard work in your new home!), so we expected packing to be not so difficult. We still managed to mostly fill two large boxes and two small from Seven Seas Worldwide who were wonderful to deal with in London.

These contained heavy boots; winter jackets; fancy dresses (I’m looking at you BAFTA ball gown); assorted kitchen-ware that *meant* something, like gift mugs; filled notebooks and diaries; and one very lonely but very beloved piece of *art* – a framed scrabble pasted photo of Han Solo and Princess Leia between takes (see above).

I love you

I know

Sigh – I read The Princess Diarist earlier this year and adored it. It travelled back in one of the boxes too. Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds – you are sorely missed!

Despite the four boxes, there were still some effects that we couldn’t leave behind. Which leads me to the list of 5 unusual things that I brought back to Sydney via Dallas and San Francisco in my luggage:

  1. Warrick the Ewok (we pronounce it Yoric, Life of Brian anyone?). We bought him in June from Disneyland Paris. My first trip to Disneyland: I think I must have been waiting for all the Star Wars rides and merch. Warrick – was sat beside my bed hiding from the boxes. He must have wanted to see the US of A. Can’t blame him, it was a fun trip!
  2. Manduka Eko Travel Mat in Midnight. It FOLDS! That’s why it makes this list – it’s unusual. Brilliant design for travelling. I love it. It smells nice too. It’s made from sustainably harvested tree rubber.
  3. Two laptops – one for writing and one for work. I’d hoped to leave the second behind in London, but since I’m transferring internally, it was advised to bring it with me. At least that one is small. The writing one is the brick! I got a few odd looks from security when I pulled two laptops out of my carry-on :S
  4. Four pairs of shoes – how many do you travel with? It’s always the hardest decision I make when packing.
    • Irregular choice heels. Candy whistle style. Similar to this pair … but with a different pattern painted on. I love how quirky they are. I chose Irregular choice heels for my wedding too. Have you seen the film Me Before You? This brand of shoes feature. They are so much fun!
    • HiTec walking boots – these came in handy in the Lakes District and again in San Francisco’s Muir Woods. I also pulled them out in Sydney for the walk from Maroubra to Malabar. It’s a new one that’s opened up behind the shooting range. We were very lucky to see a pair of whales frolicking.
    • Aasic sneakers for running/working out. Ha! Happened twice, maybe? More now that I’m back in Sydney.
    • Havaiana Thongs (or Flip Flops as non Sydney-siders call them). My go to footwear. Probably because I’m usually too lazy for socks or laces or even just pulling up the back of a ballet flat.
  5. A photo album of my husband’s life to date.
    My favourite of all the unusual or unexpected items in my suitcase. This included his original baby photos and the wrist band from the hospital. A gorgeous gift from his mother to us and the new family we are starting in Australia. I am so grateful to her for putting this beautiful piece of family history together for us.

Have you ever travelled around the world with something unusual or unexpected in your suitcase?

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Writing course wishlist

Writing course wishlist

I have $20 to spend on a writing course. Woohoo! 

How? I filled out the Australian Writers’ Centre survey and they gave it to me. For free. It was quick and easy to do. I love this team of industry professionals, they are so generous and welcoming!

So the question is: 

Which one??? 

Click on the course name to be directed to the website and a full description. 
Advanced Fiction Writing

I’ve done the creative writing stage 1 course, this is supposed to be the next step. I’m hesitating, because I like to jump steps and some of the other courses on this list grab me more. But I’m also not sure this is a step I can afford to jump?!

Write your novel program

This is a six month program, which means it’s really exxy overall, but great value on a monthly basis. I’m not sure which novel to use it on – the current first draft or the shiny new idea or even the 15 year idea that I keep shelving? But I’m really tempted to try it. 

Editing Essentials

I want my novel to be the best it can be before I submit it to agents or publishers. That means not submitting my first draft. I need to know how to edit. Full stop. 

Kate Forsyth’s History, Mystery and Magic course

I want to write a novel like this one day and I want to sit a course led by Kate Forsyth. So this would be amazing! Full details are not yet available, tear. So I’ll have to wait.

What course would you take? Have you taken any of them before? 

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Helvellyn and Aira Force 

Helvellyn and Aira Force 

The Lakes are a beautiful place. Enchanting and absorbing. It’s the kind of place where you turn a corner and expect to find a faery ring.

On the final night of my visit I dreamt of dragons (and no, I was too busy travelling I hadn’t caught up on Game of Thrones then … I have now!).

My husband and I climbed Helvellyn. We had good shoes and water and a couple of snack bars. But apparently we should have had a map and a compass. My husband also should have had something more waterproof than a poncho and I should have had gloves. In other words, we should have known better.

But we survived! We conquered Helvellyn! The views were amazing!

We weren’t the only #BadHikers. There were plenty of people around. People running up it in tiny shorts. People with dogs: big and small, trekking through the sleet. People with kids that were noticeably quieter on the way down, half frozen, and needing an extra hand to catch them when they tripped. They all beat us down!

It was incredible. I had forgotten how exhilarating it is to reach the top of a mountain. It’s been a while since I’ve hiked.  I’ve been up Ben Nevis before and through mountains in Switzerland and Australia. I’ve skiied back in Aus, but not recently.

But this climb was brilliant, because it had been so long, because it was with my husband who had a great sense of humour in his Disneyland poncho and Superman tshirt, because the views were amazing.

It is very humbling getting to the top and feeling the sleet hit hard across your face. Your fingers are frozen. It’s a different weather system up the top of a mountain. I’d forgotten. I hope I don’t forget again. Gloves really are essential!

Wandering around Aira Force was a stroll in comparison. A beautiful forest stroll accompanied by the sound of the river bubbling along beside us and the gush of the cascades. It was crucial to wear good shoes, as it got pretty slippy in places, but it is suitable for all ages and dogs. 

All in all, both are highly recommended, just for very different things. What is your favourite part of the Lakes?

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Haddon Hall: for Jane Eyre and Princess Bride fans

Haddon Hall: for Jane Eyre and Princess Bride fans

Haddon hall is gorgeous and full of real and cinematic history.

There is no rope or prescribed route. Minimal crowds. You meander your way through as you please.

An oakpanelled room had an open fire and a musician playing twice during the day. A classical guitarist strummed to our visit, but I think they change it up regularly. It cost no extra. You could walk in and walk out as the music suited you.

The garden held a small wedding while we visited… and you could see why. It was so beautifully kept and in keeping with the stony backdrop of the Hall.

It’s a Medieval hall that used to be separate buildings, a hall, a chapel, the kitchens, but over time as the technology improved and the risk of fire reduced, they were connected. Tapestries depicting the senses decorate the walls. The main hall has a slightly raised dais at one end, and a manacle to chain you to the wall at the other end. Time was that refusing to drink was a punishable crime against the spirit of conviviality.

The royals seem to enjoy visiting the hall, they have graffitied the wall above one of the fireplaces. It is covered with glass or something to protect it.

So what kind of literary fan are you? If you were to visit Haddon Hall would you see Mr Rochester’s Thornfield or Prince Humperdinck’s castle?

I adore both. Jane Eyre for its intensity and richness of character. Princess Bride for its comedic value- and one of the best sword fighting scenes ever. I’ve read the books, I’ve watched the films.

Even so, I don’t always like Mr Rochester, I think he’s a bit of a git. As for The Princess Bride, it is soooo corny. The side of my cheek is sore from biting it by the end.

Here are some of my favourite quotes from each:

Jane Eyre

“Do you think I am an automaton?–a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!–I have as much soul as you,–and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh;–it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal,–as we are!”

“I would always rather be happy than dignified.”

The Princess Bride

“Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!”

“As you wish!”

“They’re kissing again. Do we have to read the kissing parts?”

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Chatsworth house or Lyme park?

Chatsworth house or Lyme park?

If you’re a Pride and Prejudice fan (guilty! Though Persuasion is my favourite Austen) then you’ll likely be familiar with this question. Which makes for a better Pemberley?

Luckily you don’t have to answer it because you can visit both in person like my husband and I did. Or watch either as Pemberley.

In the 1995 BBC TV series, Lyme Park is used as Pemberley, in the famous lake scene semi-recreated here by my handsome hubby.

In the Kiera Knightley version, Chatsworth house features. For Austen fans, Chatsworth house has the added benefit of being visited by Elizabeth Bennet in her tour of Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle.

Both houses and grounds are truly stunning, but with very different histories.

Lyme Park, house and garden was famously home to the Legh family. The house was built in the late 16th century, but Thomas Legh directed substantial renovations to the property in the Regency era. The tour of the house centres on the life of Thomas Legh, an adventurer who traveled through Egypt and wrote about his experiences. On returning home, he became an entrepreneur. The library is also home to the Lyme missal, a 15th century prayer book, touted as the most important printed book the National Trust’s collection.

I loved Lyme Park because we saw a magnificent herd of deer grazing. They also had a second hand bookstore in the basement. There was a lego tour and an opportunity to dress up for families, which was very sweet. My husband and I walked on though. We’ve done P&P dress up before 🙂 I’ll save that for another post. Lyme Park was also less busy than Chatsworth to my delight and relaxation.

Pro tips:

1) Ask the staff lots of questions, they know heaps of history!

2) Wander up to the deer park for a gander.

Chatsworth house was the 16th century home to Bess of Hardwick, the second most important woman in Elizabethan England. The house is still occupied by the Cavendish line (of her second husband). Her fourth and final husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury, was tasked with being custodian of Mary Queen of Scots who was kept prisoner at Chatsworth house for a time.

I loved Chatsworth house because it had vast landscaped gardens you could amble through and lose the crowds that gathered in the house. The maze was magnificent and challenging. The house and family have a strong connection with fashion throughout history and there is currently an exhibition throughout the entire house celebrating this relationship. In the chapel, the family wedding dresses, christening gowns and mourning clothes were displayed – it was a deeply moving tribute to life and death through fashion.

Pro tips:

1) We did the garden first thing in the morning, and the house later in the day. The queue for the house was crazy long first thing.

2) Visit nearby Bakewell and The Bakewell Tart Shop (in the footsteps of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan). The Bakewell tart is delicious.

I can’t choose a favourite between them. Can you?

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10 London Favourites

10 London Favourites

My time in London is coming to an end after 18 months of incredible experiences. Here are just a few, not strictly in order except for number ten… that one is definitely last:

  1. West End – All the theatre. All the musicals. All of it. I’ve absolutely loved it!
  2. The Globe – because, duh. My favourite was Imogen, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. So many abs! The cast were all such fit dancers. It was an incredible performance.
  3. National Theatre – Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a longstanding favourite of mine and they did it so very well.
  4. The extra large Foyles, second-hand bookstores on Charing-Cross Road, the Piccadilly Waterstones. The smell of books!
  5. Secret Cinema – Moulin Rouge – my God! I have never seen anything like it. Secret Cinema’s immersive experience surpassed all expectations. You’re not just seeing and hearing. You get to live and breathe it. You get woven into and swept up and away in the magic of that world. It was incredible!
  6. Walking across London Bridge and looking across the Thames at Tower Bridge. So pretty.
  7. Brockwell Park – I will always be a home girl and the park next door will always hold a special place in my heart. Brockwell has the good fortune of having a very beautiful walled garden in the middle, and it’s own resident swans and grey heron.
  8. The Eurostar to Paris. My first time in Disneyland Paris! Woohoo! So glad we waited till Disney bought Star Wars. Now I have my own ewok. He is named Yoric and is super cuddly.
  9. All the quirky yoga and fitness studios: Battersea yoga (in a yurt), Hotpod yoga (in a large indoor tent), Fierce Grace, Hit and Yoga, Embody Wellness, 1Rebel, Basefit, Light Centre, GymClass and more…
  10. The Northern Line – a London favourite? Really? I know, I know – but I think it’s been the making of me. The cause of so much angst and anxiety. It’s made me stronger. Never again in my life will I be so close to twenty sweaty strangers all glaring at each other and jostling for air.

Want to know any more about any of the above – let me know 🙂

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I want to fight like a girl

I want to fight like a girl

Like Celaena Sardothien in Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass series. 

Like Alanna or Keladry of Tamora Pierce’s many novels set in Tortall. 

Like in Girls of the Wild’s, the Korean manhwa webtoon series written by Hun and illustrated by Zhena (Kim Hye-jin). 

Like Sailor-moon. Like Mulan. Like Boudicca. Like Diana of the Hunt. Like Supergirl, Wonderwoman, Black Widow, Captain Marvel and all the other comic book warrior women.  

Like Emily Blunt’s character Rita in Edge of Tomorrow. Check out this awesome blog about her workout. 

I get this amazing sense of energy, freedom and strength after seeing films or reading about these women. Or even when seeing fighters or dancers on stage!

I want to fight like a girl. I want to train like a girl. I want to be strong, fit and persistent, like a girl. 

Do you get your workout motivation from characters and actors too? 

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Falconry – A day in the Cotswolds

Falconry – A day in the Cotswolds

A few months back, I read Catherine Gaskin’s A Falcon for a Queen. It must have set a spark. 

When I saw the Cotswold’s Falconry Centre on Google maps, I kept clicking through till I found a Flying Start for Two and signed my husband and I up. He’s an adventurous sort and an easy accomplice to many a scheme. 

It was one of the best and most memorable experiences we’ve shared. If you get the chance, I highly recommend you meet some of these glorious birds. It was an honour and privilege to hold and fly them. 

We first met a peregrine falcon: small, with a distinctive beak and nostrils. It was such a thrill to have such an elegant creature perched on my arm. 

Next was a common buzzard, Ivy, that we later took on a training flight. A length of rope was attached to her leg. We held food out to her in a gloved hand and she would fly from a post to your arm to eat the food. 

We held Thumper, a large European Eagle Owl. He was lighter than he looked, puffed up by so many fluffy feathers. While I was holding her, an eagle in the flying display just over the fence made a spectacular dive that whistled through the air. Both the owl and I jumped, wide-eyed. 

Saus was an eagle, he and his friend Lulu liked to sun themselves whenever the clouds parted. 

The main flight we had was with Kaiser, a stunningly beautiful owl. She would fly in low to the ground and swoop up onto your arm at the last minute. She was very blind at short distances and couldn’t see your hand in front of her face, so you had to stand still for her. 

We stayed around afterwards for the final flying show of the day when the vultures were let out. They were incredible. Large and majestic. I loved how they squabbled with each other for food or the best place in the sun. 

It was fascinating to learn so much about all these birds, their feathers, their sight, their preferred methods of flying and hunting. It was touching to see the interaction between them and their handlers. They were well cared for and each had personalities of their own. 

One of the biggest takeaways though, was the endangered nature of some of these birds, especially the vultures. Poaching, baiting and other human practices have had a devastating effect on some of these species. Read more about it here

Do you want to see a bird of prey fly? 

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The Paper House by Anna Spargo-Ryan

The Paper House by Anna Spargo-Ryan

Highly recommended. Find it here

When I finished this book, I wrapped my arms around my husband and cried a little. 

While I was reading it, I would often set it aside and curl myself up on his lap for a hug. 

A third of the way through, I had to set it aside for a few months until I felt stronger. This isn’t a book to be read over breakfast or lunch. It hurts too much. 

This is a book that sweeps you away in the stream of its beautiful prose. It portrays grief and anxiety with grace and sensitivity. It is raw and unflinching. It opened wounds and stitched them back together again with a fragile hope. 

It is a vivid and heartbreaking masterpiece. 

Have you read The Paper House? What did it make you think and feel? 

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