Rugby League the Musical | REVIEW

Maybe I shouldn’t have put myself in the position of being a Queenslander in this audience the day before the all Queensland NRL Grand Final… Regardless, it was a hilarious show and I would highly recommend it for any people who enjoy sportsball (even if I did have to get up and bang coconuts together as the ‘QLD Percussion Section’).

Tonight was my first trip to the Sydney Fringe Festival for this year which is terrible since it finishes up tomorrow night. I chose to see Denis Carnahan’s Rugby League the Musical in appreciation of the fact the the NRL Grand Final is happening tomorrow, and both of my teams are playing! Hawthorn had just won it’s third straight premiership in the AFL and I thought the only way to deal with that disappointment was to book a last minute ticket to something that would remind that no matter what happens in tomorrows Grand Final, I win!

It was very clever and awfully entertaining. Carnahan took on many different roles from players, to referees, to the businessmen behind the league. The songs were all original parodies, and many involved catchy choruses that were easy to remember which had the audience singing along in delight. There was one part involving audience participation. When he asked for the Queenslanders to come up to the stage, I stayed put as I was worried for what was to come. However, I was ratted out by a lady sitting two rows behind me who must’ve paid attention when earlier in the show he had asked who was a Queensland fan and I raised my hand. I had to stand at the front of the stage and bang coconuts together with two other guys who were equally as afraid. Turns out we were just the percussion section and nothing else, so the Queensland shaming didn’t last for too long! (Of course, it was all in good fun – no Queenslanders were harmed in the making of this show! Let’s be honest though – if we come up with slogans like “Seven in Heaven” and “Eight Straight” to promote our Origin wins, it’s safe to say we like to be the centre of attention… so Carnahan really just did us a favour!)

His final song was a reprise of his claim to fame ditty, ‘That’s in Queensland’ – originally a satirical number about the process of how players are selected for State of Origin. For this finale he changed the lyrics to create a 2015 Grand Final Prediction. I will leave you with his parting lyrics –

“Where’s Brisbane? That’s in Queensland. Where’s Townsville? That’s in Queensland. Where’s the premiership? Not in New South Wales.”

The Bear Pack | REVIEW

Made up of Steen Raskopoulos (Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Barry Award Nominee 2015, National Theatresports Champion) and Carlo Ritchie (One Man Yarns), The Bear Pack is an outstanding comedy improv duo. Now there are a lot of things in life that I really enjoy and speak highly of, but The Bear Pack are on a level where I can’t even figure out praise high enough to worship them with.

I have been attending The Bear Pack’s performances since their debut show at The Giant Dwarf Theatre which happened on February 26th last year. I was taken there on a date and it was marvellous. After that, I went to almost every single show they performed, only missing a couple this year (which was super unfortunate and now that I’m leaving I am full of regret about).

This photo was taken during their first show at The Giant Dwarf. Before the Bear Pack performed, a few other improv comedians got up and played in a format called The Pitch which was developed by Steen. This photo was when the brilliant Pat Magee instructed us all to ‘lift up our dream spoons’. I remember the night so clearly! That’s me, right there at the beginning of the second row. I remember laughing and laughing this particular night. One of the best dates I’ve ever been on!

Growing up I did a lot of drama both at school and extracurricular and I absolutely loved improv and theatresports. However, the Sydney improv scene gave me a deeper love for it. I had no idea how many things were possible just because of improvisational talent! I began my Sydney improv education with the weekly Full Body Contact No Love Tennis shows at The Roxbury in Glebe. That was where I first had the privilege of watching both Steen and Carlo (and many of the other actors and comedians I now look up to and massively respect).

A quick lowdown of what to expect at a Bear Pack show: During the first half there is always some kind of show made up of other brilliant improvisers. Last night was an edition of the Improv Theatre Sydney Soap Opera which is an improv’d (and improved if you ask me) version of shows like The Bold and The Beautiful. It’s some very funny stuff! Last night’s fantastic cast was made up of Will Erimya, Jon Williams, Bridie Connell, Cale Bain, Tom Walker, Jack Scott and Jane Watt. There is then a quick interval.

The second half is the main event! Steen and Carlo start by asking the audience for a location suggestion – they’ve used a graveyard, a supermarket, an abattoir, etc. Last night was on Candy Mountain! Then they ask a question to which the answer will be an object – last night’s question: “What is something you buy in a bag?”, the chosen answer was a chicken. They usually choose the first answer they hear clearly. They then perform a 55-minute improv called a ‘yarn’ that takes place in the location that was suggested and somewhere within the 55 minutes they weave the suggested object into the story. These guys are pure genius! Focused, clever, and completely in sync with each other. They also always have a highly talented musician improv along with them. Last night’s musical accompanist was Heather Lloyd on strings.

I wish I had the eloquence to put together a paragraph that truly did this duo justice. But since I don’t and can’t imagine even trying, please, if you live in Sydney or if you’re ever passing through, do yourself a favour and look these guys up and see if they’ve got a show on. You will never be disappointed by them. In my humble opinion, a Bear Pack show is the #1 must do activity in Sydney (apparently also in the Sydney Morning Herald’s humble opinion!)

Tonight I attended what I thought would be my last Bear Pack show, but to my delight they have another show on in two weeks time, 10 days before I leave! It will be one of the things I miss most when I leave Sydney, and I hope that this reaches at least one new person who can enjoy them as much as I have! They are now so popular that people are turned away if they haven’t bought a ticket online – so please book in advance!

You can like their pages on Facebook to keep up with any new shows they may have happening!

Click on each name below for the link:

The Bear PackSteen Raskopoulos and Carlo Ritchie.

Again, I cannot stress enough how worth it these guys are. I just can’t recommend them enough.

Disclaimer: all photos used in this post have been taken either by me or from The Bear Pack facebook page. No copyright infringements intended.

Even though there’s quite a bit of stuff to do and organise before I embark on my road trip, a lot of it can’t be done until it’s a little closer to my moving date. Since I still have to live in my bedroom up until the last day, it’s hard to start packing it up too early – especially since more than 50% of my belongings live in perfect tetris harmony underneath my bed! But, in the meantime, I have decided to create and complete my ‘Sydney Bucket List’ – a list of things I want to see and do before I permanently leave this city.

I’ve been living here for three years, but I’ve only had a car for 6 months – and during that 6 months I’d been focusing on uni and not much on fun or adventure! So believe it or not, I’ve still only seen very little of Sydney. I plan to revisit some old favourites, as well as explore the places I never went to because I assumed I’d have all the time in the world to get to them… first stop: Bondi Beach.

It’s funny to say, but after all of this time I’ve only been to Bondi Beach twice! The first venture was in my first year here – it was a sunny summery Saturday and my first two housemates in Sydney, Claire and Mikayla, convinced me to call in sick to work so that we could have a bonding day. (They didn’t exactly convince me… I had just developed a severe case of FOMO at last minute and didn’t want to have to go to work while they frolicked all day!) I had never called in sick when I wasn’t before, and I tell you, it was invigorating. I remember having one of the best days with those girls. It’ll always be one of those carefree days I wish I could go back and replay.

Now that I think about it, I don’t even remember the second time… If there actually wasn’t one, it’s even crazier that I’ve only been there once! BUT to be completely honest, I find Bondi a little overrated. Yes, it’s beautiful, and yes, you get that beachy Aussie vibe, but it’s just so busy! And very commercial. I’ll be the first to admit, growing up in Australia in a tropical paradisiacal town has spoilt me when it comes to beaches, but I still know to appreciate what we have here. Maroubra beach and Coogee beach are so much more enjoyable – you can get your own space on the sand and relax and not have a million people running around you hoping for their glimpse of the Bondi lifeguards.

In saying that, my visit today was really nice. Most people would think that this particular outing to the beach was a total flop, but not me. I drove out around 4pm, planning to do the coastal walk from Bondi to Bronte beach. It had seemed like a nice day, but when I arrived I realised how much the wind had started to pick up. When I got out of the car I thought the wind might actually bowl me over! I snapped some quick shots and got back into my car. The beach was totally empty, except for a few daring surfers catching the crazy waves. I had never seen – or heard of – Bondi being empty. I’m still in shock!

The wind was fierce – my car was rocking from side to side, and then it started to rain. I ended up just sitting there in my car for over an hour, watching the waves and the few surfers in them. It was really peaceful (and peaceful is not a word I ever thought I would use for Bondi Beach!).

Isn’t it funny how things you don’t plan end up being the best memories?

The hardest decision in all of this (if you don’t know what I mean when I refer to ‘this’, you can get a pretty good idea of the situation by reading this post!) was not deciding whether or not to leave my studies, but instead deciding whether or not to stay in Sydney. I wrote up a list of pros and cons for staying in Sydney, and pros and cons for moving back to Cairns. I also asked the advice of friends and family – even though they can’t make the decision for me, they sure can make it easier.

The winner, without much competition, is Cairns – much to my parents delight!

I am hoping it will be the right decision and that I will be able to move on from all of my setbacks and start over. The most exciting part? I am road tripping my way back from Sydney! A 37-hour lone road trip up the East Coast, with 15+ stops. I will be completing the road trip over 2 weeks, taking my sweet time and spending nights in locations I’ve never been to! Turning it into a holiday has made me so excited for the move. I will be posting photos and blogs all the way back. Finally, I get to be a tourist in my own country!

Commencement of Road Trip Countdown: 39 sleeps!

The Lowdown

So. My story… Maybe sit down with a cuppa because this is going to take a while!

(You also might want to grab your snorkel, because it’s going to get deep!)

Three years ago I graduated high school, auditioned for my dream course, got accepted, and moved cities. I was off to Sydney to study a Bachelor of Music majoring in Music Theatre (and as many know, the only thing I had ever wanted to do with my life!). For a couple of months, things were great! But it went downhill when I tore my hamstring during a dance class in April first year. It was diagnosed as a grade 2 tear and was quite painful. I couldn’t dance, and when that was all I had ever done with my life, it was hard to accept that I couldn’t do it anymore…

I began my recovery by attending acupuncture sessions with a physiotherapist, but after many sessions and a couple of months, I realised it just wasn’t doing anything. I wasn’t getting any better, I was wasting money on sessions, and I had been missing other uni classes to fit in with my physio’s schedule. So I stopped going. By now it was trimester 3 of first year and I sat down with the head of my department to discuss what I should do next. She referred me to an osteopath so I made an appointment… After only three sessions with my osteo, my hamsting felt almost completely better! It was incredible, but very painful to go through her procedures. The most frustrating part in it all was that I had been wasting so much of my time with the physio’s treatments when it could have been fixed so much sooner by the osteo!

By the time my hamstring started to heal, the emotional damage was already done. I tried to stay strong and pushed myself to stay in Sydney through it all, even though I had no real support network there and no particularly close friends. I started to become a very different person, not as bubbly or excitable as I had always been. I stopped wanting to go out or make new friends or talk to people or even get out of bed in the morning. Class was suffering because I had no motivation. I ended up not finishing trimester 3 and deferred my course until the start of the new year. Things were not looking good at all.

A couple of good things happened that first year – I got my job at Luna Park, I met a boy who I would soon fall very much in love with, and I had some experiences I couldn’t have even dreamt of had I stayed in Cairns – and I thought maybe all of that would be enough to outweigh the negatives. So at the beginning of 2014, I returned to my studies. I was with a new group of people by then and had to go through the nerve wracking first introductions and first time singing in front of them all… they were lovely, but I didn’t click with anyone in a special way. Before I knew it, I had deferred again.

By now I was with my then boyfriend (he made life bearable!). He and his family helped me out a lot, and I definitely think I would’ve given up on myself and my life in Sydney had they not been there to support me through the particularly dark days. They were blessings in what was a very difficult time in my life, even though I took them for granted – not on purpose of course, but as the song goes “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”. I will never ever be able to thank them enough for their role in helping me get better, they made a huge difference in my life and I am a much better person for it.

In the middle of the year, I was promoted to Team Leader. I was so excited about this new opportunity to excel in something in Sydney, giving me a real and tangible reason to stay. Things had not gone well, my dreams had been crushed, I was not mentally or emotionally well… but this promotion was incredible. I felt so accomplished and was exceedingly proud of what I had achieved. I decided I would enrol myself into a Certificate in Business at TAFE – I realised how happy my job made me and thought I could carve a career out of it. Unfortunately, after a short time, I realised that the content I was learning was very basic and most of it had already been taught to me during my first job in Cairns. My classmates soon realised that I knew what was going on and that I would be the one to team up with if they didn’t want to do any work – I was constantly being handed group assessments to finish because they knew I wouldn’t let myself or my group fail. After putting up with it for half of the semester, I bowed out and decided TAFE wasn’t the place for me.

For a couple of months, I only worked at the park. I just did my team leader duties and fully immersed myself in creating inductions and organising team briefings. Things were looking okay, but I wasn’t much better. I was eventually persuaded into going to see a proper doctor and that’s when I had my wellbeing examination. I was diagnosed with severe depression, extremely severe stress, and extremely severe anxiety. I was upset to hear it properly clinically diagnosed, because I knew I couldn’t pretend it wasn’t real, but it was also a weight off my shoulders to know what it was and that it could be fixed. One in 16 young Australians is currently experiencing depression – it’s nothing to be scared or ashamed of, but it’s definitely something to diagnose and to manage.

At some point during it all I started feeling a lot better. I was extremely happy in my relationship, it was my rock, and it made me feel better. “Things will be okay if I have my rock”, I thought to myself. But no single person ever deserves to feel that kind of pressure, that kind of responsibility for someone else’s wellbeing. It is asking too much and I completely understand that. My mind was very clouded, even though I didn’t realise it at the time.

Christmas that year came and went, followed by new year, followed by the decision that I would go back to my studies – this time I would smash it! I was feeling really positive, “third time’s a charm!”.

Then came the break-up.

It was the hardest, most upsetting, most painful thing I have ever felt. I can’t explain the feeling and I’ve never felt anything like it, but all I know is that it hurt and I never ever want to feel that pain again. I still get twangs of it every now and then, if I think about it too much, so I try not to. I haven’t fully recovered yet, which is really hard, but it’s also okay.

Regardless of all of the positive parts of my life falling apart all together and all at once, I decided to tough it out. I stayed in Sydney and went back to my studies. I met my third new group – and boy did I love them. Do I love them. They are incredible people. Amazing people. During that first trimester back I was still having trouble. I was still not well, I was mid-heartbreak, and I needed to move house – which is never an easy experience. I quickly remembered that in a music theatre course singing about your feelings is encouraged, and so I became ‘that girl who always sings about her past love’. Sometimes I was sassy, sometimes I was scathing, and sometimes I was just downright miserable. One song in particular – Stranger to the Rain from Children of Eden – made me bawl my eyes out every time I sang it… (Points for connecting to the song though!)

As a quick background: the musical is set during the time of Noah’s Ark. Noah has three sons. Two are already married, but his youngest son, Japheth, is not happy with the women Noah has tried to obtain for him, and instead wishes to marry the servant girl, Yonah, who is a descendant from the race of Cain (Noah is a descendant of Abel – the descendants don’t get along because of a prior tiff between Cain and Abel… that story may sound familiar). Noah isn’t okay with this and to show his disapproval he won’t allow Yonah onto the ark… (when the storm comes, all those who aren’t on the ark will drown). Japheth comes to say goodbye to Yonah, and that’s when she sings this song. She says she is used to being left on her own because she bears the Mark of Cain (I like to equate the “Mark of Cain” to depression – deep, right?). She says it’s okay, and that she will be fine, and she wishes him an even sweeter love because she cares for him so much and just wants him to be happy. Very emotional and touching and all of the feels. (In the story he sneaks her onto the ark anyway and they get Noah’s blessing after a gallant fight to the death, and they live happily ever after and a dove is released, but details, details.)  But back to the main story.

I sang through my emotions that first trimester, and I completed it with a solo in the end of trimester showcase! Mum came down to Sydney to watch me and it all felt so good. I couldn’t wait to get back into it! The only real downside had been that I get sick very easily, and had taken a fair bit of time off due to coughs and colds and losing my voice and at least 3 terrible bouts of tonsillitis… but everything else was pretty good. I went back again – trimester two felt emotionally much stronger, the strongest I’d felt in years. I kept singing through my emotions – you wouldn’t believe how many music theatre songs related perfectly to my break up… but then I found out I had to move house again and had only twelve days to do it in, and my stress and anxiety got the better of me and I broke down. On the day I broke down I had two assessments due, I did one in the morning, a duet, and even though we got through it, it wasn’t very good on my part and I felt that I’d let my partner down. I was pretty upset about it all and went to ask one of the heads of my department if I could defer my second assessment because I felt like I needed to have a mental health day to myself. He really raised his voice at me and told me I was immature for doing “this” again (he’s talking about depression there, folks) and told me he thought I was just wasting my time. I felt completely attacked and totally lost and fled uni for the day to go and cry at my cousin’s house. Considering all of the progress I’d made and how good I had been feeling about myself, this was totally uncalled for and utterly hurtful.

I stuck it out for the rest of that trimester, I completed everything, and I even got my first Distinction in a practical subject. I’d just moved into my new house, and was loving it and my new housemates, so I decided to stay in Sydney over the break so that I could just focus on uni and settling in and getting ready for trimester 3. I was telling myself I was excited to go back and that things would be okay again.

The first day back I walked in and started to cry. I hated this place. I called my mum and she said, like she’d said many times before, “maybe it’s time to come home”. And I, very unlike many times before, said “I think you’re right.”

And that, my friends, is where we are today. I have dropped out of AIM and I am considering a move back home. And to tell you all the truth… I am so unbelievably relieved.