Februarys are hard. It’s hot. It’s really hot and not befitting of people with pale skin and dark hair that conducts heat like metal. In other words, it’s not my favourite month. But it usually coincides with the ushering of the Lunar New Year, and the opportunity to start afresh if January didn’t quite work out, and the Perth Festival. With this in mind, the month is more of a glass half full situation (provided I remain indoors).
If ever there is a reason to subscribe to Netflix it’s to watch Russian Doll. I wasn’t particularly sold until the third episode when my binge watching commenced in earnest. Natasha Leone dominates every scene with her simultaneously gruff and cheeky insouciance and, although there have been allusions made to Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day (1993), the narrative is refreshingly original. I felt a little bereft when I finished the season, but there is still the eclectic soundtrack to play on repeat and the lingering quote of “Sweet Birthday Baby.”
At the cinema I saw Lee Chang-Dong’s Burning (2018). The film’s characters are so opaque and the mood so insidious that I was initially left a little cold but, true to the film’s title, it slowly crept into my subconscious in the days after I watched it. The way that the film intertwines themes of class and alienation in South Korean culture displays a cleverness that borders on brutal.
The ushering in of the Year of the Pig (my Chinese astrological sign no less) was met with lots of eating. And not just average bites (although there was some of that), but some really special dining experiences. My mother’s birthday dinner was at Garum where everything was indescribably delicious, but if I had to select a highlight it would be the zucchini flowers with baccala and caponata.
A few weeks later the Lunar New Year was celebrated at the Grand Orient. The food was amazing, but I will particularly remember the night for partaking in my first prosperity noodle toss and for losing a struggle between my chopsticks and a piece of lobster that would not dislodge from its shell. That is until it unceremoniously landed in my lap. Quel faux pas.
I generally pick shows to see at the Perth Festival on a whim, which has resulted in seeing some great performances and occasionally leaving with lighter pockets and the bitter taste of disappointment. Fortunately, I chose two exceptional performances this year that both dismantled and challenged the boundaries of theatre practice. Dimitris Papaioannou’s The Great Tamer unfolded as a series of moving tableaux where the theatre space and the performers’ bodies collide, undergoing transformations of entanglement and disentanglement. If that sounds heavy, it also had some moments of divine humour.
Completely different, but equally as compelling, The Last Great Hunt’s Lé Nør blended 1980s aesthetics and music into a hybrid theatre/film work where all the performers spoke in an imagined language conceptualised specifically for the performance that meshed together parts of Scandinavian and Romance languages. The overall effect was completely exhilarating.
I saw Beach House back in 2011 at the Laneway Festival when their stage accoutrements included piñatas by Confetti System, so I had high expectations for their gig at the Perth Festival. This time around I was not disappointed - a heavy fog of smoke, glittering lights and bursts of color backfilling the stage was a befitting spectacle for their ethereal music. I wasn’t a huge fan of their most recent album, 7 (2018), but the live performance gave me a new appreciation.
I unwittingly spent the month catching up on reading key works by female authors. Mary Oliver’s passing promptly sent me to my library where I got out a number of her books of poems and essays and immersed myself in her uncomplicated verse on nature. I also re-read Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and confirmed my suspicion that I really didn’t understand it when I read the book as a teenager. However, it definitely stands up to the test of time if only to reinforce Woody Allen’s infamous quote from Annie Hall (1977).