from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: my Name is Gulpilil …

March 20, 2021

The Adelaide Festival finished a week ago and our Fringe Festival finishes tomorrow, after 31 days of events.

Tickets to the main festival are not cheap often AU $40-150 a show. This year the main Festival shows have been more modest, with fewer international performers – for obvious reasons. However, in spite of this, the Fringe Festival has been nothing short of amazing. They had over 300 venues and 1,200 shows and the prices are very modest, around $20-30 a show. The shows are often short and the audience, with appropriate social distancing, very small. The Fringe Festival is not-for-profit and the performers are often young and suitably enthusiastic. These are not major productions but robust and entertaining and, because they do not require a big setup, they are often set in interesting venues such as the Botanic Gardens, small restaurants, the Museum and in the dedicated venue called the Garden of Unearthly Delights. The East End of Adelaide is the centre of the Fringe Festival and the streets and cafes located in that area are overflowing every night. The Fringe is very much a young person’s festival: risqué, experimental and challenging.

I’m embarrassed to say we did not attend any Fringe events. I am resolved that next year I will make an effort. I did attend another main Festival event: a single show at Festival Hall: My Name is Gulpilil. David Gulpilil, only 67 years old, is very frail with lung cancer. This was a retrospective of his life and his extraordinary film career.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Gulpilil

The show was a sell-out. David himself was helped on stage for a few minutes and was able to say a few words: that this was the story about his life. I have seen many of his films. David has a remarkable acting ability. Quite exceptional: the merest movement of his eyes or body is captivating. Charismatic.

But it is a sad story as well. In 1969, aged 15, he was plucked from his tribal family in Northern Australia as the filmakers wanted an Aboriginal boy who could dance, sing and hunt. The film was Walkabout and it became a sensation. This catapulted David out of his childhood home into the heady world of international stardom. The rest is history. He is perhaps the best-known Australian actor. His career has spanned 47 years and in every role he has been impressive. Sadly, his life has been blighted by alcohol and drugs. A lifetime struggle.

After David had left the stage, he spoke to us through the film and commented on his current situation. He can barely walk to his postbox from his front door.

During the opening credits we saw the old man walking away from us down a dirt road, flanked by empty fields. Beyond him, also walking away from us, on the other side of the road, was a single emu – a strange bird, stepping slowly and carefully with its huge feet, in no hurry. (BTW David can do a traditional emu dance – it’s on YouTube). Then David stopped, paused, turned around and walked back towards the camera: just like the emu, slowly without concern, content. David did not look back, but beyond him, the emu stopped, turned round and walked towards us. It was uncanny.

I believe we go to festivals for moments like that: unexpected, unexplainable and memorable.

‘A man who loved his land and his culture and took it to the world.’ – this is how he wants to be remembered.

David Gulpili  “We are all one blood. No matter where we are from, we are all one blood, the same“.

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: Breakfast with Papers …

March 1, 2021.

Looking across the River Torrens north to the Adelaide Oval

Today, I attended ‘Breakfast with Papers’, a program of free hour-long live interviews that continues for two weeks during the Adelaide Festival. Mostly socially distanced.

https://www.adelaidefestival.com.au/events/breakfast-with-papers/

The only problem, is that it begins at 8 am and at the moment dawn is 7am. It’s a tall order for a retired person to get into town by 8 am – and in a reasonable state. I managed that this morning and was richly rewarded with a very interesting discussion between three authors and journalist. The discussion centred around the issue of aged care in Australia and the Royal Commission that has tendered its final report to the government.

https://agedcare.royalcommission.gov.au/

Australia has an ageing population and, without counting immigration, has a declining population. The government must now consider taking on board the 148 wider-ranging recommendations that are contained in this commission, and this is while the level of public funds being thrown at the age care sector is considerable. (2017–18, the Australian Government spent over $18 billion on aged care). This afternoon, our government announced that another 452 million aud will be spent in this sector. They are printing lots of money.

In two years of hearings, the Commission was presented with countless confronting cases of abuse and neglect in aged care facilities. Something radical had to be done to improve the services provided.

On top of this, there are a hundred thousand people on the waiting list for a package for their age care needs. The top package is valued at 52,000 aud.

I then went to the first session of the day of our Adelaide Writers’ Festival.

https://www.adelaidefestival.com.au/writers-week/writers-week-schedule/

We finished the 2020 Festival just before the first lockdown of last year. So, we are delighted that the 2021 Festival is open.

There are two sessions, running concurrently, from 9.30 till 6.15pm, every hour and a quarter. They take place under East and West ‘tents’ – really shades slung under the many trees of the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden.

https://adelaidecityexplorer.com.au/items/show/94

The first session was an interview with Louise Milligan, an investigative reporter for the ABC TV program Four Corners, on the subject of her book, ‘Witness’, an investigation into the brutal cost of seeking justice for victims – mainly of sexual abuse. There is a problem with our system for complainants of sexual crimes. Louise explained how harrowing it is for victims to ask for justice from our system, how the victims are belittled and suffer long term damage psychologically from the process. Many victims suicide. There are lifelong consequences of these crimes.

https://theconversation.com/review-louise-milligans-witness-is-a-devastating-critique-of-the-criminal-trial-process-148334

This is all very pertinent, as the issue of reporting and dealing with alleged sexual crimes by members of our government and their employees is in the news.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-26/pm-senators-afp-told-historical-rape-allegation-cabinet-minister/13197248

I will write something about the next interview in another post.

I had a wonderful day, and when I return from 5 days down the Yorke Peninsula, I shall drag myself up early, into town, for more ‘Breakfast with Papers’ before our Festival ends.

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: Festival Time …

Elder Park, Adelaide – better than Mars

February 20, 2021

Well, we have cancelled our trip to Victoria. We decided it was too risky with the threat of Premier Andrews suddenly slapping another sharp lockdown over the whole state. South Australia has not yet lifted the quarantine requirement for those returning from greater Melbourne. And – if we went – all venues still have strict rules of numbers and masks wearing. So instead, we will have a short local holiday on the Yorke Peninsula.

a Martian Landscape from NASA – streaming via the BBC

Yesterday I enjoyed a busy, interesting day. I woke up to watch the BBC’s live streaming the landing of the Mars Perseverance Rover. NASA talked about the ‘7 minutes of terror’ as they waited for the landing. The entry, descent and landing phase (EDL) was to take 7 minutes and much could go wrong. Nothing did, and the rocket powered sky crane landed the Rover in the chosen spot in the Jezero Crater. I saw the first images of the Mars terrain sent by the Rover. It looked like our desolate Australian Outback: a curving horizon, some nondescript rocks, pebbles and dust overlaid by the shadow-shape of Rover’s robotic arm. Surely, this was a pretty all-round bloody amazing effort! Not sure anyone would want to move to Mars though! I do wonder about the wisdom of the plan to bring back microbial fossilized rocks from the planet, even if that will only take place in a decade or so.

While the East coast of Australia is being pelted with rain, our three-day heat wave ended yesterday with the arrival of a relatively cool change. Last night was the opening of our Adelaide Fringe Festival (900 events at 392 venues). Our Fringe Festival, Main Adelaide Festival and Writers’ Week will go ahead in controlled circumstances over 3 weeks. There are fewer international artists, many shows are on for a single night and we have to wear masks for all inside shows. Many events have been moved outside.

The Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide

We attended the preview of A German Life, a play by Christopher Hampton starring Robyn Nevin. The single actor show was first presented at The Bridge Theatre in London in April 2019. Robyn Nevin acts as Brunhilde Pomsel, (1911-2017) (yes, she lived to be 106). Brunhilde lived an extraordinary life and Robyn Nevin took 90 minutes to recount some of it. (Brunhilde was depicted at the end of her life, living in a nursing home.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brunhilde_Pomsel

Brunhilde Pomsel is most famous for the interviews she gave telling of her years working in the office of Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister for Propaganda, where, for example, she massaged down number of German dead and increased the numbers of German women raped by the Russian army. During the show, short video clips of various events in Germany were beamed onto the stage. (eg. Goebbels making his 1943 Sportpalast Speech, or Total War speech – which event Brunhilde attended.) To the end of her life, Brunhilde maintained that she was not guilty of complicity, that she did nothing wrong, that she did not know of the genocide of the Jews.

Looking north from the Playhouse to the Adelaide Oval

The director Neil Armfield developed the play during 2020. He spoke in the notes about how much he was aware during that year of the fragility of democracies …’more and more this play seems to be as much about our contemporary world as it is about Hitler’s Germany … in one of Brunhilde’s last interviews she said, “Hitler was elected democratically, and bit by bit he got his own way. Of course, that could always repeat itself with Trump, or Erdogan …”’

It was somewhat shattering to emerge from the confronting expose of Brunhilde’s life into Adelaide’s mild summer evening. My generation all have stories of the Second World War. My father was born in 1911, the same year as Brunhilde. We are the children of those that fought and or suffered in some way from that war. For us, in terms of war and national strife, life has been kind but when I watched on January 6 the madness of Trump’s enraged followers as they attacked the Capitol, I realised that the veneer in our democracies is indeed skin-deep.