Tabac Rouge: Week 202

Tabac Rouge at the Sydney Theatre Company

She laughs and babbles like a madwoman. Then she leans her head so far backwards that when she puts on a jacket all you see is a decapitated body in repose. This is the physical embodiment of Thierrée’s opium addiction.

Not that James Thierrée really has an opium addiction, but his character in Tabac Rouge does and when it hits him, he jolts back in his armchair and drifts across the stage. A cloud of smoke and a spry contortionist trail along in his wake.

Tabac Rouge did not have an intermission, so at the end of the show it took me and Barret a couple of minutes to digest just what exactly we had seen.

What had we seen?

Tabac Rouge at the Sydney Theatre Company

The centerpiece of the show was a grimy, massive mirrored wall. On the reverse side was a labyrinth of pipes. At the end of the performance the mirror fell into separate pieces that spun like a shattered disco dream.

There was a small troupe of dancers whose movements alternated between mechanical precision, epileptic seizures, and rolling waves.

Then it all ended with the floor swallowing up everyone on the stage.

Barret and I had our own ideas about what it all meant, but all the reviews I read seemed to lead in another direction. The only thing we could agree on was that Tabac Rouge was truly out-of-this-world.

Tabac Rouge at the Sydney Theatre Company

About: Tabac Rouge

How to get to the Sydney Theatre Company: 22 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay

Atomic Bomb: Week 201

Atomic Bomb

William Onyeabor is a Nigerian synth pioneer that was, “responsible for some of the most searing Afro-funk and space-age jams you’re ever likely to hear.” The majority of his music was released in the early eighties and shortly thereafter he turned born-again Christian and refused to speak about himself or his music.

Almost thirty years later, a group of musicians from the US are keeping the groove alive with a Sydney showing of Atomic Bomb at the Enmore Theatre. The core group is composed of Sinkane, Money Mark, Luke Jenner, Pat Mahoney, and Pharoah Sanders whose shirt glowed under the stage lights like a purple velvet oil slick. Sanders, a Grammy winning jazz saxophonist, is pushing seventy-five but not afraid to drop low when caught in the grips of a good beat.


Then there were the special guests, the Mahotella Queens. The South African vocal group entered the stage wearing bright red shirts, white skirts and a large red hat with their country’s flag. Two of the singers were members of the original lineup from the 1960s while Amanda Nkosi was the newest member. She was the only one young enough to do a high kick, but that just meant she’s spent less time on this planet perfecting her swagger- and the Mahotella Queens had some serious swagger and some serious voices.

As this was an Australian show, Gotye was on board as a guest singer and he killed it! His vocals were rich and there was something about his lanky, mellow demeanor that just fit the vibe of the music.


Since I came to know you baybyyyyyy,

I’ve been telling you how sweet you are.

I’ve been telling you how good you are.

Now I want you try to tell me how I look.

Tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me. 

Please tell me how I look.

<Mahotella Queens>

You loooooooooook so good.

Fantastic man!

Towards the end of the show Sinkane, wearing a slim-cut two piece suit and wide brim hat, came out from behind his keyboards and got the entire audience to get low. It was not an easy position to maintain and just before my thighs burst, we all rose back up together and jumped up and down to the music and to relief. Hanging above the stage was a projection screen with a recording of a woman dancing on roller skates.

William Onyeabor might not appreciate his music anymore, but it was pretty obvious to the crowd that the only downside to Atomic Bomb was the length of the show. We wanted a million more encores.

About: William Onyeabor

About: Atomic Bomb

How to get to the Enmore Theatre: 130 Enmore Road, Enmore

Sydney Opera House: Week 98

Polaroid of the Sydney Opera House

“Uh, let me take your purse?” Barret tentatively suggested as he reached for my brown leather bag. “Why don’t you go to the bathroom?”

My chest was still heaving from running one and a half miles alongside the late afternoon Sydney traffic-jam. The last stretch from Circular Quay to the Opera House had been the toughest because of the lack of shade.

Walking through the bathroom, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My cheeks unfortunately matched my scarlet lipstick and my hair was plastered against my scalp. This was not how I had imagined the night would go. I left my house feeling like a sophisticated patron of the arts and arrived looking like I had swum the Sydney Harbour.

Within the privacy of the stall I rolled up a wad of toilet paper and pressed it against my drenched face. The seat was damp and clammy, which irritated me. Then I realized that I was the reason the seat was damp and clammy.

I took a few deep breaths to relax and tried to focus on something else other than sweat.

The stall doors had an unusual wavy shape. That’s kind of cool, I guess.

My eyes drifted down to the tiled floor; nothing exceptional there. C’mon- you are at the Opera House I told myself and ruffled my limp wet bangs.

Feeling more collected, I went to wash my hands. The cool water made me feel less sticky until I glanced one last time in the mirror. Like a boy learning how to shave, there were little white styptic dots clinging to my face.

No matter how I felt at the moment, I was determined to enjoy the evening. I had put a lot of energy into getting these tickets.

My day had begun that morning at 3:40am. By five I was in line at the Tix for Next to Nix booth. I was not the first; there was already a small crowd with dogs, sleeping bags, comfortable shoes and hiking pants. I had picked a seat on a bench underneath a street light and waited for three hours for the booth to open.

By the time 8:00am rolled around I was completely awake. My heart was racing because of coffee and because the booth was about to open. It was the last weekend for the Sydney Festival and my only chance to get tickets to the sold out showing of 2001 A Space Odyssey. Not only were these tickets the last available, they were also a fraction of the price- $25 compared to $120.

Five minutes after the booth opened I had two tickets and I was on my way to work. After managing to keep my head in an upright position for six hours, I took a nap at home before jumping on a bus headed downtown. What had been a 20 minute ride in the morning had stretched to almost an hour. When I realized the pedestrians were walking faster than the bus, I jumped ship and ran the rest of the way.Polaroid of the Sydney Opera House

Two minutes before show time I wiped the toilet paper off my face, reclaimed my purse and put my blazer back on- as if completing my outfit it would help restore equilibrium.

Inside the angular hall the lights began to dim while the orchestra remained illuminated. From the hushed shuffle of feet and the distant clearing of throats emerged a double low C note. It was singular, powerful and pure. The note rose till it could not go any further and just before collapsing, a brass fanfare exploded to encourage the note on again.


The commanding reverberations of the bass drum gave me chills. I squeezed Barret’s hand.

Double basses and contrabassoons took heart once again and responded with the same evocative and sustained note. Barret squeezed my hand back; he was just as excited as I.

Sunrise was the name of the first part of Richard Strauss’ composition Thus Spake Zarathusta.  It filled the acoustically perfect auditorium with the feeling of promise and rebirth and hope. Stanley Kubrick had chosen well. I felt like a new person.

How to get to the Sydney Opera House: Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000.

The best way to arrive on time for your show, regardless of traffic, is to catch the CityRail train to Circular Quay. Trust me.

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: