Last Friday was a crazy day. I made the decision to do some life maintenance- you know, pay bills, clean the bathroom, make lists, look at the lists, then cross things off the list once completed. I thought I’d bake some muffins, my neighbour had handed over a hand of blackening bananas for me to transform into soft warm morsels- something I love doing. I bake muffins for a couple of reasons- one is the fact that I spent my teenage years in a banana growing region of NSW- so the banana recipe of my family is a sacred one, another reason is during times of stress and crippling workload- sometimes you need a task which has clearly defined and a conquerable beginning, middle and end (indeed an end which results in eating), another, I find it the easiest way to remind the botanist that though he is knee-deep in PhD writing- that I still exist and he deserves treats for tackling evolutionary science in such a rigorous/focused way. In fact, in a lot of ways I express myself through muffins. I spent last Friday, doing work- I wrote a review, had tea with two very interesting visual artists: http://timandrewart.com/ and http://www.bendenham.com/ , enjoyed the sound of aggressive rain on the leaves of the trees in my garden, had a scrumptious pasta dinner, replied to a metric tonne of emails, paid rent, answered enquiries of a theatrical nature… and bundled myself up, battling the elements to see Peter Brook’s 11 and 12 at the Sydney Theatre with Mr Waites.

Friday, Mr Waites and I arrived at The Sydney Theatre in a taxi which went slow through flooding gutters. It was really raining. Serious rain. Inside, in the foyer of the theatre, umbrellas stood to attention in the hands of many opening night guests- some well known for their film work and occasional theatre dalliances… A theatre director I know was on Box office- another theatre maker of my generation in charge of the cloakroom- my generation of practitioners a part of the corporate theatre machinery. A room full of established celebrity actors/theatre artists. And me.

Peter Brook. The man of legend. The author of a book “The Empty Space” which changed the way I thought about theatre (that’s what everyone says- and that’s fine- I’m ok to be cliche. And anyway cliche’s come from somewhere. They come from easily recognised – nearly universally recognised experience- which may be like a universal truth- but less arrogant)… Arguably the greatest living theatre director- a body of work behind him that inspires awe- a body of work in him which is undeniable. I’ve read reviews of Brooks work. I have heard people talk about his practice. Read his writings on theatre. Never seen a production. So it was all rumour to me. I wasn’t sure what to expect- perhaps a movement based performance in French with surtitles? Grand spectacle? Impressive design? A full orchestra? I don’t know.

The two pieces of theatre I have seen at the Sydney Theatre are Matt Cameron’s Poor Boy and Tenessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. I had sat in seats in that theatre on opposite ends of the spectrum- once in the second row to the side and the other in the ceiling seats to the side… so I am aware of how much that stage/the space can feel like you are peering into a tiny diorama- or looking up into the fly tower. On this occasion, three rows back, centre. Previously I have been overwhelmed in that theatre- overwhelmed by the set design and creative undertaking (which was Poor Boy) and overwhelmed by the celebrity which is Cate Blanchette and Joel Edgerton. Both theatrical experiences that tried really hard – that felt like lots of effort to prove production over story.

11 and 12 is the opposite to those experiences.

I am not writing a review but a response- please check out thesereviews http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2010/feb/11/11-and-12-review , http://www.stagenoise.com/reviewsdisplay.php?id=451, if you are keen on plot/ traditional review forms- I may leave you unsatisfied if that’s what you are wanting. Ifyouare keen for another reponse from a seasoned theatregoer- check out Mr Waites’ splendid review: http://jameswaites.ilatech.org/?p=5627

No celebrity. No giant set. A story. Actors. Something to say. And this “something to say” is not a cultural crusade. It’s not a righteous rant about religion. It is a meditation on learning, journey, adventure- detailing how experiences changes a person- how people influence each other. No explosions- no sound effects- no pyrotechnics- no actor celebrity (the closest thing to celebrity is the invisible director- which I doubt anyone outside the theatre community/industry would know/have heard of). All production elements handled simply and as lightly as possible.

As the last moment fell upon the audience- there was true silence in the theatre. Long sustained silence. No cough. No phones. No noise. Silence. As we sat in the warm hum of the thought. That feeling- resounding, reverberating. The story teaches us of humility, of patience, of acceptance, of generosity, of kindness, of fickleness and forbearance. But it doesn’t teach through didacticsm. It invites us to let go, to listen and digest.

AS I sat paralysed in the auditiorium- I felt utterly relaxed and reassured. I felt refreshed and ready. Mr Waites and I caught up with old friends/colleagues of our respective generations… and then talked to the performers. Conscious that my night should ed with muffins, we left at 11pm in a taxi. Delighted with the experience I went home.

Upon arriving home, I found my apartment had been broken into- smashed window- broken toilet- water everywhere. “God please , please not my….” My laptop – stolen. My back up drive – stolen. My camera- stolen. Ten years worth of theatre work – gone. A play I had nearly finished writing- gone. Only emails and this site hold my works now. Sad. Resigned to the fact it is gone. The police called. Me consoling myself with the idea that somewhere there are theives reading my plays about love and yearning. My neighbour offering condolences in the shape of a loan of his large handsome laptop. PLaywrights far and wide- across the world sending me condolences and swear words on their behalf. And I must admit- that I doubt I would have handled this as well as I have, had I not been philosophically prepared by Brook and his actors who told me the story of 11 and 12.

PS. I didn’t make the banana muffins last Friday night. I made them on Sunday- and shared them with the botanist and my neighbour.