Perhaps it wasn’t Wellington’s fault. We were only there for one day, so maybe we didn’t give it time to impress us, but the long and short of it was that it didn’t seem a particularly exciting town.
There’s an attractive harbour area, which we explored, finally chancing on a theatre! Yes, a theatre! For all of the months leading up to our departure from Madang we had been promising ourselves two things.
- To go out and walk aimlessly around a town in the evening, even in the dark. You have no idea how important just being able to stroll can be when that simple pleasure has been denied to you for so long.
- To see some live theatre.
So perhaps I shouldn’t be too unkind to Wellington. It provided both for us.
There were, in fact, two theatres in this one building. One was showing the Christmas pantomime which, after much debate internal, we decided we could forego. (It would have been a bit too bizarre to go from the land of painted faces, scary headdresses and stone axes to the world of Christmas pantomimes in the space of a few days!)
The other theatre, an auditorium that could have been described as ‘intimate’, having less than 100 seats, was featuring a one-man show based on Dylan Thomas’s “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”.
We had journeyed to the other side of the world to watch a one-man show based on the writings of a poet from the town where Linda was born and I was brought up.
Adding to the irony was the fact that the actor, Ray Henwood, who had devised the evening, piecing together bits and bobs of several of Dylan Thomas’s essays, had lived within half a mile of the house where Linda had first seen the light of day and where she had spent her first eighteen years! He had attended the same school as Linda’s father, a school that I also attended some years later, albeit on a different site and, by that time, renamed from “Swansea Grammar School to the rather more grand “Bishop Gore Grammar School, Swansea”.
All of the stories were based in Swansea, “an ugly, lovely town” and Dylan described it. Growing up in Swansea it was difficult to avoid being familiar with the work of Dylan Thomas but although I hadn’t read or listened to any of his writings for a long, long while, certain phrases echoed down through the years. For example, his description of the various, undistinguished statues of long dead dignitaries with which the town is dotted. Dylan called then the “blacked monuments of civic pride’, and his cryptic dismissal of Swansea Museum, which he said “…should have been in a museum.” Anyone who has seen Swansea’s museum will appreciate how apt this comment is.
Our story-teller, Mr Henwood, a man well into his seventies, was excellent and we just revelled in the experience of being in a theatre and watching live entertainment.
(Actually, this was our second foray into live drama since reaching New Zealand, but the least said about our first experience, the better. It was an amateur group performing a sort of musical based, loosely, on a robbery on the Orient Express. Now I am a fan of amateur theatre. I actually think theatre, even amateur theatre, is important and worthy of support. But this offering was truly awful! A litany of popular songs strung together with no particular theme and performed with no particular skill, combined with dialogue that featured a lot of infantile racial stereotyping, laced with numerous references to farting.
The audience, most of whom were local, were seated around tables, bistro-style, were having a wonderful time, which made premature escape difficult. This situation was made even more embarrassing when two large ladies, dressed entirely in Victorian costume, who were obviously well-known to the cast and seemed to be enjoying the show no end, joined our table.
Then, mercifully, Providence intervened on our behalf. During the interval an announcement was made that a white Toyota in the car-park outside had its lights on. We seized our chance. I was absolutely certain that I had not left the lights on our hire car, but my own amateur dramatic skills came into their own as I played the part of the flustered old bloke who fumbled for his car keys before blustering out of the theatre to switch his lights off. Indeed, as it turned out, it was the car right next to ours that was draining its battery, but by the time anyone discovered that, we had made good our escape and were on our way home.
So perhaps I should not be too quick to judge Wellington. We’ll go back in a couple of weeks and give it another chance to impress us before we leave for Australia.
We might just go and see what’s on at the theatre!