The last couple of weeks have been rather busy. I decided to participate in a local amateur theatre production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”.
It takes a tremendous amount of work from a large group of people to put on a production of this scale. There are costumes, sets, lines to learn, lighting, sound, marketing, etc. etc. to organise.
The production was hosted by the Moresby Arts Theatre (MAT). It is a theatre troupe with a long history of producing quality amateur theatre in Port Moresby. In fact, next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the MAT. The theatre itself is a wonderful facility – cleverly designed and purpose-built. The MAT has been delivering productions in the building for almost 40 years.
The building is in a bad location, but we’re always safe because we employ guards with eagle eyes to watch over us vigilantly. I had to kick this one gently on the boot to confirm his eagle eyes were still in action.
Here is the props table.
Here is the cast list that was handed out in the programme. I took on a medium-sized role – that of Antonio. I had a sword fight and got arrested by the police.
We also posted pictures in the foyer to give the audience an introduction to the characters.
Being amateur theatre, everyone pitches in to do what they can. We spent an afternoon building sets and then had people come and paint them and decorate them progressively.
On the night of the first show, it was a frenzy of activity and nerves back stage.
Everyone has to wear a little make up to stop their faces looking all white under the harsh lights on stage.
In the dressing rooms, people were reading through their lines one last time.
And getting changed into whatever outfit was required for the next scene.
Then, suddenly the play is underway. We hang around backstage and watching from the wings; following along with our scripts so that we know when to come on.
All of the hard work bears fruit and Shakespeare’s words come to life on the stage, 400 years after they were written.
Twelfth Night tells the story of a brother and sister who are in a shipwreck.
Each thinks the other drowned. The sister dresses as a man to serve the local Duke.
My character, Antonio is the loyal friend of the brother, Sebastian.
There is a subplot involving drunken revelry.
And even a song or two.
The fun is interrupted by the obsequious Malvolio.
The comedy begins when a love triangle forms involving the Duke, the sister (Viola) and Olivia.
Here I am as Antonio, lamenting the fact that I can’t follow my friend to Illyria for fear of being arrested by my enemies.
But I decide to anyway. “My loyalty overcame these arguments of fear and set me forth in your pursuit”.
Poor Malvolio is badly mistreated and ends up in an asylum (not on Manus Island, just the regular kind). In the process he steals the show and generates many of the laughs.
In the end, Antonio intervenes in a sword fight to protect Sebastian (not knowing it is Viola in disguise)
And is indeed arrested. But it all works out in the end and I’m freed. Sebastian marries Olivia and the Count marries Viola and everyone lives happily ever after.
We did five shows in total, and all were very well-received. There were a lot of laughs. The matinée had a lot of children in the audience and they stayed behind afterwards to ask us questions. It was a lot of fun. There were a few glitches of course – the occasional forgotten line, etc. Perhaps the biggest of them was when one of the cast came to the show so drunk that he passed out back stage and couldn’t be revived in time to go one. But we are professional amateurs and we worked around his absence with some ad libbing and rapid learning of lines. The crowd didn’t notice at all.
And as suddenly as it began, it was all over. As is tradition, the cast had a party after the show.
I’m very pleased to have participated. People have been recognising me all over town since and saying, “Oh, you were in the play at the MAT!”
The MAT also hosts other cultural events. Here, some dancers from Paga Hill Arts Resistance (PHAR) put on a show.
The guys were waving around traditional drumsticks that looked a bit like chicken kebabs.
There is a female dance group too. They did an interesting traditional dance that was choreographed to modern Western music.
As I’ve said before, “Chaos breeds chaos” and here is another example of how it happens so often in PNG. Here, a bridge collapsed because someone attempted to take a load that was heavier than the engineering rating of the bridge. So then a crane had to be called out and the bridge repaired, all costing money that could have gone into hospitals and schools.
I stumbled upon these payphones the other day in town. They are the only ones that I have ever seen in Port Moresby. Like in other parts of the world, mobile telephones have rendered pay phones obsolete. I imagine that up until the 1990s, people would queue to use these telephones. Now they are largely abandoned.
Ever wondered how to dress up your taxi so that it stands out from the crowd? The obvious answer is to stick a plastic horse to the roof, as this chap did.
I like guard dogs in theory. I’m sure they keep me safe. I’d just rather that they didn’t leave surprises on my steps.
PNG moment of the week – I bought a newspaper from this chap and I needed 1 kina in change. I couldn’t see any one kina coins in his pile so I thought he was going to hand me a pile of smaller coins. But never fear, he had the 1 kina coins – stuck deep inside his shoe. He pulled one out and handed it to me. I’m not sure I wanted a kina enough to touch it after it had spent the day in his shoe, but he was a ferocious looking fellow and I didn’t want to offend him.
Until next postcard….