Last Friday, I drove down MacArthur Ave along the Hamilton reach of the Brisbane River – past the cruise terminal and Northshore’s tower blocks and residences, past Flipside Circus’s cavernous storage shed on the left there and Flipside’s pop-up circus centre being constructed on the right – to the Northshore Hamilton Playground. Beside the river, tree-ringed, slides and climbing frames at one end, and an open grassy space in the middle.
And in the middle of that grassy space, lolling about as they had just finished training, were the Dogs in the Schoolyard. (Well, some of them are birds in the show, but never mind!)
Putting a shopping bag full of snickers, caramello koalas, snakes, party mix, kool mints and Shapes in the middle of the troupe, I got a lot of Hellos! Yep – it’s a Pavlovian response – if I appear, they know there’s sugar somewhere.
It was wonderful to see these fabulously talented, hard-working young performers who do things at 9, 12, 15 years of age that astound me. Rob Kronk, Flipside CEO, told me that circus is a vocation, and it is. There are 9 year olds learning flying trapeze, 12 year olds who are professional trampoliners – just gobsmackingly gifted. And they are dealing with narrative in this story beautifully. The idea of a world of dog children going to school and having all those young child experiences – making friends, joining a group, being excluded from a group, group dynamics, finding your place and learning to value yourself – they absolutely got the idea that a pack of young dogs and pups was the perfect metaphor for this story.
We started rehearsals for Dogs in the Schoolyard in February this year. One of my favourite things was to watch the catch-a-bird game – where the dogs had to try to catch one of the birds, pull them over the ‘safe’ line – and the birds teased and teased those pooches rabid – the dogs were literally leaping off hands and knees, barking, and snarling – and, honestly, when they finally got a bird, I thought they’d eat her!… as well as tumbles, acro, runs, towers, banq-ing (yes, you say it like ‘bonking’) and so much else I can’t name.
Then Corona virus.
Then WHO declared a global pandemic.
Then lock-down and self-isolation. Theatres closed. Toilet paper disappeared from the shops, along with manners. Work from home. Online schooling. One solo exercise session per day. No rehearsal.
And no show in May/June for the Out of the Box Festival.
Talk about this Elephant diving head first into mud in frustration.
But Flipside’s motto is ‘Unthink the Impossible’. And Qpac are big believers. And one of the first shows they wanted to re-schedule was the Dogs. We were tentatively booked in to the Cremorne Theatre for the first two weeks of November – and, so, last, Friday I drove over to the Northshore Hamilton Playground with a shopping bag of sugar for the first troupe meet-up…
But now – Melbourne’s in lock-down, and borders are closed to Victoria. There are regional Vic hotspots and one pub in western Sydney is now like some kind of creeping vine…
And we are waiting to hear about November, waiting to see if it’s confirmed. We’ll know next week. Keep your fingers crossed – but Rob and I already know – this year or next, the Dogs will be woofing and climbing and stalking and tumbling, and creating havoc and howling at the moon.
Update 2– 22 July 2020
We heard from Qpac yesterday. The dogs in the schoolyard will not be woofing and wagging across the Cremorne stage in November. They will, in the future, just not in November of this year. It will happen – there are a couple of possibilities… and there’s a fabulous rowdy dog pack straining at the leash, and the most beautiful aerial birds, and a gobsmacking tree, courtesy of Josh McIntosh – there’s a world already made. Get ready to come see.