Last night I had a Thespian experience. A friend's hairdresser, now stay with me, is also the Director fo the Bilpin Arcadian Players, an Amateur Dramatic group. He used to live in our area but has now relocated into a more rural part of the neighbourhood about an hour away in the lower blue mountains. Keen to patronise his hobby, my friend frequently buys tickets for a 'table' at their performances and last night, I was asked to join a table of about 14 for a night of theatre. Bilpin is an orchard area in the lower blue mountains. Not remote by Australian standards but it is a little microcosm of its own with local families who have lived there since the settlers days and a few yuppies who have weekenders to escape from the city heat to enjoy the rural lifestyle. There are no supermarkets or malls, it's a village atmosphere with the general store and a few little restaurants and fruit stands dotted along the only road that links it to the Blue Mountains.
So, with TheBoss and TheDane talking business in the drivers and front seat, Thommo, Rhonda and I squished into the back and talked girly things such as curtains and separation anxiety. As we wound up the Bells Line of Road, in the rain, we'd agreed to meet at the Bilpin Bowling Club. Lawn bowls that is, the pasttime of many retirees in Oz. It's really just grown-up marbles as far as I can see. So, we pull in among the utes and four wheel drives donning multiple arials and bull bars and eek our way past the 50th Birthday Party being held in the main area of the club and settle in behind the bar. Crowding isn't difficult as this bar area is little bigger than my cottage kitchen! The revellers celebrating obviously from the pink and white balloons, a female 5oth birthday look like something out of that film with Duelling Banjo's, Deliverance. The men have mullets. Short back and sides with a swag of hair at the back hanging shoulder length. Many are wearing really classic jackets bearing the insignia of Jack Daniels and Cougar. Some are wearing their football jumpers, obviously the dapper country man's choice of formal wear. The women are similarly identifyable by their 'country' good looks with missing teeth and slicked back, jus- got-out-of-the-shower hair. No GHD straighteners or spiral perms here. By now, the inner snob in me is absolutely having a field day.
We order a delightful round of drinks from a select list of beverages that included beer (three types of draught), spirits and soft drinks or that delicious goon that you get out of cardboard boxes usually with names like Fruity Lexia or Hock . . . it passes for wine up there apparently. Fortunately, we brought our own from home for later. Eager to get out of this place, TheDane is now standing there with his arms crossed, not happy about this environment at all. I can see him scanning the room and counting the fingers on the patrons just to see if there are the requisite 10 or if inbreeding had actually enabled them to grow a few extra. He was absolutely dreading the theatrical experience ahead. If this was pre dinner drinks, what was the rest of the night going to be like?
Back in the car and off to the Arcadian Theatre. Quite a cute little hall with a stage and proper curtains. About 12 trestle tables neatly laid in red white and blue with real knives and forks and wine glasses, not the plastic cups we had expected. Nibbly bits comprised those frozen samosas, mini pizzas and Aunty Mabel's home made meat balls with BBQ sauce but they were hot and we were hungry. A meal of roast beef and chicken with little frozen baby carrots, peas and corn mixed together and a potato bake (an aussie staple) were plain but wholesome and tasty and supplied with white bread rolls and little tubs of real butter. None of your yuppy low cholesterol high omega margarines, it's the real deal up here!
Then an eerie silence decends and the lights dim as the play begins. Actually it wasn't too bad, a little French farce about a woman who had three grown children, each by a different father but needed to marry one of them (the fathers that its) in order to 'save face' with her kid's fiancee's. Too long but only a few prompts from the sidelines were required, loud enough for everyone to hear them. And of course the Director's end of show speech, thanking his wife, children and God for the accolade afforded by the tiny crowd as if he was accepting an Acadamy Award. Generally, it was a good night, cheap, warm and cheerful despite the awful weather.
What really surprised me is that you can drive just 50 minutes from middle class suburbia and land bang smack in the middle of hicksville. We could have been air lifted beyond the black stump, way out in woop-woop and found ourselves in a similar environment. The only exception, dogs of the four legged kind weren't admitted into either venue. Amazing . . .I'm just glad we didn't dress up for the occasion or we would have looked much more out of place. As it was, the cabernet and chardonnay set were a little conspicuous among the local crowd but got into the spirit of things anyway.
I don't think we'll get TheDane there again . . .