Saturday, October 18, 2008

Happy but sad

It was a subdued family who left the Canberra Theatre last night. Bumblebee's school didn't win the ACT Wakakirri title, but I'm cranky about the people who did. I've been trying to think, this morning, of ways to describe my grumpiness about the results without sounding like a bad loser. I honestly don't mind the losing bit, but I do mind losing to something that doesn't feel right.

Of the seven acts (plus extras) we sat through, there were really only three contenders. I'm not going to name names of schools here, that wouldn't be fair.

There was us, with our ripper little 'From little things big things grow' number about Sorry day. The kids were marvellous, but then so were the others.

'The others', in my mind, were a school who did a fab number on frog metamorphosis, complete with a great music mix, a good tight narrative, and the most gorgeous tadpole, frog and fish costumes you have *ever* seen. If their costume designer isn't already in showbiz, they are doing something wrong. A whole fleet of tadpoles on skateboards, and then wonderfully jolly tapdancing frogs (before the rubbish and the predators skulked onto the stage) made for a completely delighted audience.

Then there was the 'Tribute to Anne Frank' done by one of the Catholic schools. I adore the diary of Anne Frank, especially the uncensored version. This 'tribute' to her was the most facile and sentimental rendition of anything to do with her I have ever seen.

For one thing, they started off with a pastoral scene of happy, laughing, picnicking Jews dancing to German folk music ('no mention of the fact that she was Dutch', said the Dutch Albatross, for once in total agreement with me) who were marched upon by 'Nazi'-like soldiers (no swastikas, probably because they wanted to recycle the armbands somehow later) and for the most part whisked off the stage, leaving a small group who were then led into a hidden space. Mostly good and well.

Then we see Anne at her desk, and a voice over saying 'I'm Anne Frank, and this is my diary'. A little bit of time was spent watching the family moon around crying and waltzing, Anne held hands briefly with a boy, and then the Nazis found them. Then they were put in cattle trains (to the sick-making sound of Louis Armstrong's 'What a Wonderful World', a song that should be banned from Wakakirri forever for its complete over-use. In fact, let's make that a blanket ban for movies and advertising. I used to love that song so much!) and whisked off to a place where angels found her.

For the last THIRD of the segment, Anne lay in a heap in the middle of the stage whilst blue-bedecked floaty ballerina angels danced around her, and to one side her father sat and looked through her diary, crying.

At no time did they share any words of her diary, which for me would have been the point. They reduced Anne to a maypole, with everyone dancing around her, rather than a lively, heady, interesting individual.

The school representatives afterwards talked of their act being a story of 'joy and triumph'. Whose? The angels?

The judges swooned. Ballerinas! Angels! Jews being oppressed! The rest of us grimaced. At interval I had a number of conversations with people about the layers of problems around performing that theme. One fellow I'd never met before said that he had big problems with the way Catholic education co-opts other people's narratives for their own means. I don't think that's a particularly Catholic thing, but I do object to Anne being sentimentalised any more than she already has been.

And they won, to our utter disappointment. I was, if we had to come second, rooting for the frogs. They at least got the story right, and had a great message to share. As did we. We came equal second.

Still, I've always said to Bumblebee that it's the doing that counts, not the winning, and I stand by that. I haven't seen him yet (I let his dad pick him up) and won't until tomorrow night, but I hope he's not too sad. They won a number of other awards, including a $1500 environmental award which is in no way to be sneezed at (more money than the Wakakirri winnings!). So that may have cheered them up.

We did get one good giggle, watching the Jews and Nazis get the teamship award.

We went to the school fete this morning (held around the ACT Election polling booth) and splashed some money around on food and books. It was smaller than the last fete, and I realised that it was because the year 5 and 6 kids always contribute a lot of colour and energy to the stalls. But this year they weren't involved, having put so much work into last night's performance. They are the lifeblood of the school, and this year it showed. Nice try, guys.


Anonymous said...

I wonder what pinko bleeding heart theology they're teaching in RE class there -- I'm afraid dead Jews, like dead Muslims or dead Atheists, don't get greeted by angels. They go to hell. So sorry, Anne!

Congrats to Bumblebee. I still stew over the great unfairness of judging in the Shakespeare comp in Armidale in 1992, but I'm sure he's much more mature than me and will take it in his stride!

lucy tartan said...

God, that Anne Frank performance sounds like Mr G thought it up.

chosha said...

The most disappointing thing about performances like that is that often you can see just how good it could have been if they hadn't taken things overboard or had chosen just a slightly different direction. I hate it when people waste a great inspiration.

Ampersand Duck said...

Exactly! on all comments.

pk said...

That Mel Brooks has got a lot to answer for.