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Hoipolloi’s FLOATING with Hugh Hughes, presented in association with TEN DAYS ON THE ISLAND (Tasmania) and ARTS HOUSE (City of Melbourne) at the Sydney Opera House Playhouse.


This show apparently (I will explain the “apparently” in a moment or two) begins with a quote from Luis Bunuel on a screen “about lies becoming truth if they are told often enough.” In fact the quote appears several times on the screen. It is about imagination and memory interacting to create fictionalised events that over time may become our truths. Mr Hughes the, co-creator of this show in the program notes goes on to say “I’m very interested in the idea of memory and of truth and of imagination, and the relationships between all those things. And I suppose I admire Bunuel because, like myself, he doesn’t seem to mind too much what exactly the difference between those things is. He accepts that all three overlap and influence each other……” Mr Hughes expresses his pleasure in “all I’m trying to do really is share my experiences and I’ve always loved making new friends and I’m always so grateful that people want to come and see my shows that I think it would be a little rude for me not to acknowledge them and say ‘Hello’ and ‘Thanks for coming!'” Elsewhere Hoipolloi, the parent producer, state that they “are committed to creating new work for theatre that imaginatively engages our audience and makes them laugh.” All of these objectives are achieved. My audience was engaged and laughed.


Now, I thought, how will I write about this experience? I had several mishaps, that ended with me having a unique interlude in the performance. I actually ended up on stage!!!! So, like Mr Hughes I thought I would share my experiences and hopefully make you laugh and maybe if you were there with me will see the Bunuel quote in action. Here, then, is my memory, which may or may not be too imaginatively embroidered, and will become a form of “truth” because it is in a printed form. In black and white (or grey and blue).


As I am a frequent participator in the performing arts at the Opera House, I am on their mailing list. So, I received all the publicity information about this show, and others, in my mail box, and consequently perused it in my home with a cup of tea. Despite the glowing publicity enticements I felt, in the balancing of my artistic life at the time and the financial responsibilities of my bank balance, that this show, FLOATING was not going to be a priority.


It opened and I read a review. Still did not feel an inclination to go. Then a friend, whose opinion I respect, casually suggested that he thought I would love it. So on Tuesday last I thought I might go. I bought the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday morning and looked in the Arts section to see if there was an advertisement for the show, there was not one. I must confess, now, that I am also a little “panicked” about the rigmarole of telephone booking and always a little put out about the booking fee. I also prefer if possible to see the seating plan and book my seat in the relative security of having picked the best available seat within my price range. And what with my day job obligations, time is always escaping me, and waiting for the automatic answering machine to connect me to a live person is often dismaying and consuming of my limited free time.


After a very heavy schedule in the day, I thought to myself, ”Do you want to go?“ I thought, ”I’m so tired and it has been so hot.” (I do not enjoy humidity, and where I work there is no air conditioning (My carbon foot print is a little smaller, daily, I guess!!!) “All right”, I said as I slung my bag over my shoulder and headed to my bus stop (I don’t drive either, another contribution to my carbon foot print being smaller!!) “If the 400 bus comes first, I’ll get it and go home, OR, if the city bus comes first, I’ll get that and go to the show.” I was what Mr Hughes might metaphorically call “floating” with chance. As chance would have it a city bus came first, close behind was the 400 but being a principled and honourable type, even with myself, I caught the city bus and was wended into Circular Quay and walked to the world famous Opera House on a balmy twilit evening. Starving, I ate some corned beef and creamy mashed potato at the Café Mozart upstairs in the Booking Foyer (By the way the menu has not changed for several weeks. (I have attended the House 4 times in the last month). I am a little tired, delicious as it is, of the corned beef and creamy potato, the mustard sauce is icky!!! Beware. (The seafood choice I have also had, once, and there was more empty shell then sea food on my plate.) and at $20 a go, not necessarily good value, but when over a barrel with time, metaphorically, and pressed for time between work and performance, one must “float:” and go with the flow. Corned beef once again.


I was really trusting to fate because who knew if the show was sold out or not, since the House did not deem to tell the public if it was even on in the daily newspaper. Probably the House was saving money on advertising. Anyway, I went downstairs to a foyer that seems to have been under development for a ”thousand years” (this maybe my imagination stretching a truth, Mr Hughes, but it has been many, many months…) (I also wonder what other Entertainment building in Sydney could get away with the obviously precarious (if not dangerous) state of its public spaces. Maybe being a Commonwealth Building it has Diplomatic Immunity or something or whatever! The Queen’s building licence or something?!!! Where are the O.H and S officials?) Anyway, after carefully finding my way over crapet, sorry carpet, artificially and artfully joined to the newly partly laid, when wet, slippery tiles and pieces of clean wooden pieces, I found the ticket sales desk and asked to buy a ticket to FLOATING. Yes, they did have a ticket. That will be $48. I had heard that this show was only just over an hour long and only had two performers and not a very elaborate design or set up, I wondered what the expense was, as $48 seemed inordinately expensive from my wallet’s end. Maybe the Opera House was finding a show with a profit margin that was worth utilising. Who knows? I thought this may be the theatrical event of my life and really money and art should not come into the equation. I gulped and punished myself for not taking heed of my first instincts and save my money and not bother with FLOATING. “Terrific”, I say. I pull out my cash. “There is also a $5 transaction fee. The ticket will cost $53.” “I beg your pardon?” I am being very disingenuous as this was what happened when I bought my ticket to the Ashkenazy Concert, last week. The House is charging $5 inc. GST for transactions over the counter!!!! “What,” I say, “I am been charged for coming to the House at my own time and expense, to buy a ticket over the counter, in cash, and the House is charging me $5 over and above the advertised price to do just that?” “Isn’t this A Sydney Opera House co-production?” “Yes. Yes,” The answer to both questions. “I guess charging me $5 over the advertised price does not include that money in the takings when sharing with the other producers. The House gets it all for itself. There must be a comforting number of extra $5, especially from the eager tourist who just wants to see something on at the world famous Opera House?” I get no response to that question / statement. I know we are living in economic straightened times and yet this Publicly Funded building is “raking” me for extra money to see a show here, at my own need to save money, by attending the Box Office personally, and avoiding the booking fee over the telephone (which is awful enough)!!!! THIS NEEDS TO BE COMPLAINED ABOUT OR EXPLAINED. I have not received any information about this from the House in all the advertising-bumf I get to read, with my cups of tea, at home, attempting to entice me to their offerings. Why not? Don’t you think as a customer you value enough, to send me your unsolicited brochures, it would be polite to tell me that you were now also going to “scalp” me further for each ticket, whichever way I decided to buy it? I bought my ticket. I’m here now, so….. “Is there a program?” “After the show.” OK. I have been so disoriented by the anger that momentarily rose within me that I thank the pleasant but now uncomfortable staff member and go out onto the boardwalk for some air before the show. There is nothing like the body of water that is Circular Quay Harbour to calm and bewitch one into a state of readiness for art.


While out there I met some friends who are working on the TRAVESTIES production that is in preview and some other friends that are attending that. I chatted. At ten minutes to eight I go back into the demolition space that doubles as a foyer and asked if any programs were now available. “No” “Oh!” “Sir, the show has begun.” “Really?” “Yes,at 7.30.” “Oh shit!” (pardon me). I hate being late for anything. Should I go in? Bugger, you have spent $48. You surrendered yourself and ended up here, destiny, fate means you to be here, now; GO IN. So I let myself be floated up the stairs into………!!!!!


It was a well lit auditorium. All the lights were on. The two actors (Hugh Hughes and Sioned Rowlands) were on stage talking and demonstrating how the show worked to the audience. I attempted to slide into my seat quietly, but Mr Hughes turned to me and welcomed me and then asked the audience to welcome me with a round of applause. They did. But as I moved into my seat row I thought, I should improvise along with the audience and actor. I was taught at drama class to just say YES to the offers one was given. So, as it has been some time since I have experienced a personal round of applause, I encouraged the audience to applaud a little more enthusiastically, (It was like a blissful cascade of joy to my ears and memories), they responded to my thank you’s and enthusing arm gestures. I sat down in my seat. The applause died away. I thought my moment was over. There was a pause. Mr Hughes hesitated. The pause became a little more pregnant, with tension. He turned back to me. Asked my name. “Kevin”, I replied. “Hello, Kevin.” (He didn’t introduce himself. ”How Rude”, I quickly registered.) Slight theatrical pause. “Have you a few words you would like to say?” I hesitate. I was happily calm. I remembered my impro classes. I decided to say “yes”. I took a breath, ”Good evening.” There followed another wonderful guffaw and round of applause from the audience. I was thrilled. It too died away, lapping away in my ear’s memory. “I thought there might be one other word you might like to say?” asked me Hughes like a condescending school teacher from my school memories. I instantly knew what it was Mr Hughes wanted me to say but I decided I’ll just see if he will say YES to my offers. So after a gently blushing pause of rebellion I replied, clearly and steadily “Hello.” Would you believe it, I scored another round of applause? AHH, MMMM AAAAAAAhhhhhhh. I was in heaven. Another pause from Mr Hughes who looked at his partner. “Are you sure there is nothing else you want to say?” Stillness for a second as I cogitated my response, then, I clasped my hands, I knelt fervently on my right knee and earnestly declaimed “I am sincerely sorry.” Well, this elicited the biggest response from my audience so far. I sat back in my seat comfortably, ecstatic. Mr Hughes hesitated once again, seemed to move on, but then returned to me and addressed the audience with a query, if they had observed my body language in my offer of sorrow. A ripple of laughter. Mr Hughes turned to me again and asked would I repeat it for those who hadn’t seen. I was entirely enthusiastic by now to do so. I thought that it would still be blocked for all to see in the position I was in, so suggested to Mr Hughes that if I went to the aisle to do it or even better could I go up onto the stage? A rapturous applause and laughter from My audience. Hugh agreed. So with all the adrenalin of the thrill of the unexpected return to the stage platform in front of a live audience I moved swiftly to the downstage right corner, nay, I instinctively edged a little closer to downstage centre (I couldn’t get to centre stage as Mr Hughes was steadfastly holding onto it and in my swift judgement was not going to give way to this interloper.) I asked Mr Hughes, and being a Christian Gentleman, also, Ms Rowlands, should I apologise to them or to the audience? Slightly reluctantly, I thought, Mr Hughes suggested the audience. There had been various delightful responses from the audience during all of this. I was wrapped in a safe cocoon of affection. I summoned my biggest theatrical voice and with the conscious application of my movement and Alexander Technique I dramatically knelt down on the right knee and clasping my hands to white knuckled anguish, begged for understanding and forgiveness “I am sincerely sorry.” The explosion of reciprocated joy and overflowing understanding and rivers of forgiveness flowed over and around me. The communion I felt with MY AUDIENCE and my humble self was almost overwhelming. I was humbled by this unexpected relationship. Fate, Destiny had guided me to this sacred moment in my life’s history. I had FLOATED to this great, great… I find it hard to express accurately…. I guess… Thing, will do. Truly everyman is an Island. I SAT DOWN ALMOST FEELING HOLY AND SANCTIFIED BY THE GIFT Mr Hughes had given me. I hope my imagination and memory has not created untruthfulness from Mr Hughes perspective but the fundamental aim of his project had for me, succeeded. A phenomena had been experienced. I hope it was for Mr Hughes and Ms Rowlands.


The show recommenced and after having seduced the audience of mature adults into a kind of infantilised state of rapturous game playing through knowledge and imaginative suggestion, much like most of us would have had with Miss Susan and Mr Do Bee on weekday afternoons many years ago now, or on playschool episodes. we travelled with Hugh and Sioned to the floating of an island across the Atlantic and back. With all of its adventures and characters and digressions, like sliding on pools of water, for example. It was simple and simply and ingeniously conceived. The audience followed the “Let’s go to our cubby house and play games with the found clothes, props and antiquated old tools superseded by the speed of technology but saved by us,” (the reel to reel tape etc; the computer was modern though).


Delightful. Delightfully conceived and executed. The audience I was with seemed to have had a great time. I suspect that my contribution was a great part of it. But then that is my memory and maybe my imagination. These recorded facts maybe lies.

Now if the Opera House can make it clear as to why we are been charged $5 for personal and cash transactions at their on site Box Office I might even feel happier that I saw FLOATING.


4 replies to “Floating”

  1. Kevin, What a wonderful post! Thanks for taking me along with you for the ride.

    I share your resentment of the undisclosed booking fee. Makes me want to throw things. Large, red firey things.

  2. The 7.30pm start has caught me out a couple of times (very annoying, why don’t I learn etc etc) – but the new $5 ticketting charge has me crazed!!

  3. Kevin,

    I’m so glad for you that the city bus came along first. It was a fantatsic show and I’m glad to read about someone I actually know being caught up in Mr Hughes games.

    As for the S.O.H… yes, they seem to have some explaining regarding their money gouging practices. Maybe they need the extra cash to finish those foyers.

    Mr. Richard.

  4. Hi Kevin,
    Didn’t want to fully read your response until seeing the show myself, and having just witnessed the Melbourne premiere I think it’s gotten even better. One of my fave pieces of performance in a long while – it took at least 45 minutes of digressions before the “story” began, as countless latecomers, hecklers and enthusiastically vocal audience members added to Hughes’ fantastic introductory preamble. What a wonderful show – glad you enjoyed it too. I think you evoke the anarchic, generous mood of the piece perfectly.

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