Rehearsals are continuing apace in Auckland while life goes on in Northland. An unexpected perk on this production is the rehearsal reports I’m sent at the end of each work day: a one-pager of what happened, what’s needed, and any observations.
Yesterday’s report got me cackling and yahoo-ing in the Fortress Mamea environs:
Rehearsals for Still Life With Chickens kicked off this week with an Auckland Theatre Company welcome followed by a reading, then a read-through.
I got to meet and thank set, puppet and costume designer John Parker. I caught up with director Fasitua Amosa and actor Goretti Chadwick, as well as met the masterfully coiffured Chicken puppeteer Haanz Fa’avae Jackson and the very quiet, very calm technical stage manager Andrew Furness. Also well-met were those whose names are unlikely to appear in the brochure but whose work is just as vital as those on and around the stage: Eliza, Natasha, Nicola, Emma, Jan, Jade, Nicole, Siobhan and Miryam.
I realised with a shock that opening night is only four weeks away. It feels perilously close.
Going by how I had to blink back tears through a couple of mere read-throughs, as far as I’m concerned, the show is in good hands.
The inhabitants of Fortress Mamea have at least two pairs of farm boots each: one for the front door, the other for the back door. Surrounded as we are by muck and mud paddocks and woodland, it’s much more efficient — especially when it’s something urgent — to have a pair of boots at each exit, ready to take us places.
Lately, my front door pair have been feeling a bit damp. I thought it was just the morning dew and what-not — but no:
The heel has disintegrated somehow. Time for some resoling or a new pair for the front door.
Ideally, I would segue to something writing-related, like how to know when it’s time for a tool to be replaced or upgraded. The thing is… none of my writing tools need replacing or upgrading.
I’m a month into 2018 and I’ve got projects on my slate.
Fortress Mamea has around three acres of paddocks. Three acres is a lot of ground area. Despite the best efforts of the cavalry element and a small flock of sheep*, the paddocks were getting overgrown with grass and weeds.
The current lot of four-legs needed help and it was decided that kunekune pigs, with their ability to live on little more than grass, fit the bill. The pigs would be a twofer solution: get the greenery under control; then time for the freezer.
I was good with this plan. I like bacon. I like the smell of it cooking. I like its texture, the taste of the pork fat that it cooked in, and its saltiness.
The porkers arrived and they were babies and they were so cute but I was strong and I wasn’t going to get attached to them because I like bacon and pork sausages and —
Then someone went and named the new arrivals Fig and Prunella.
Nell & Fig. (Photo courtesy Deborah K.)
We have pet kunekune pigs now.
* I haven’t mentioned the sheep because they’re boring. And some of them are destined for the freezer.
In the first eighteen months of the new Fortress Mamea, our chicken flock increased a number of times. (We can’t remember how many times; we’re softies with fuzzy memories.)
How could we say no to the girls when they got broody? They were merely heeding the call of nature. And when the fertilised eggs hatched and there were soon cheeping puffballs of fluff underfoot — how could we say no to life itself?
When some of the puffballs grew into ambitious young roosters and started beating up on Ghost Dog, ending the aspirants’ lives was an easy choice. After a couple of culls, I called a moratorium on our chickens having babies. It’s all well and good when everyone’s getting along, I could imagine my mother lecturing me, until it’s time for someone to end up in the pot.
The flock has remained at a steady twenty or so the past eighteen months. It’s required vigilance: collecting eggs every single day, turfing wannabe broodies out of the laying boxes so they don’t get ideas.
Throughout the month of December, I noticed one of our chickens behaving suspiciously. What with the festive season and everything else, her movements were noted but not closely observed.
Honourable mentions: the hilarious and disgusting Girls Trip; David Michôd and Brad Pitt‘s slow burning War Machine; the chemistry between Samuel L Jackson and Ryan Reynolds in The Hitman’s Bodyguard; and the excellent I, Tonya Harding.
Honourable mentions, including those moved here to give new titles a shot: Emily Watson and Ben Chaplin in Apple Tree Yard; the fitfully funny Brooklyn Nine-Nine S01; creator and showrunner Noah Hawley shows how it’s done in Fargo S03; and, of course, Game of Thrones S07.
My reading output (input?) this year was better than last year. But it coulda should’ve been much better. Standouts from the reading diary:
Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver — I maybe should’ve read this when the Lovely Wife suggested it before agreeing to follow my wife to rural Northland;
Ratatouille (2007 draft) by Brad Bird;
Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses 007–029 by David Lapham — I thought this sprawling small crime epic was consigned to the unfinished classics section of comic history until I tripped over this at the local library;
Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl;
Lazarus X+66 001–005 by Greg Rucka, Eric Trautmann, Steve Lieber and Michael Lark — a very welcome salve while the main Lazarus series is on hold;
Atlanta S01E01 by Donald Glover;
Te Puhi by Cian Elyse White — a beguiling slice of New Zild history about our first Māori Miss New Zealand;
The Walking Dead 162–174, including Here’s Negan!, by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn — the Negan character arc in the Walking Dead comic is a masterclass in humanity, patience and compassion.
The Mamea family had a get-together earlier this year. With almost all of his progeny in one room, my father announced that this year he was turning 90 years and he expected a full and proper celebration. In the (brief) silence that followed, my siblings and I exchanged looks, jaws mid-chew, our mouths full of food.
Our father has always had good timing.
The thing is… we’d celebrated his 80th in 2006, which meant we’d all forgotten that last year, 2016, should’ve been his 90th birthday. But we hadn’t really forgotten because somewhere along the line, someone had unearthed this document:
He’s not officially 90 for another two years. He snuck in his 80th three years early.
“What’s with the numbers?” the numerically-bonded amongst you ask. “How could we forget his 90th birthday?” the emotionally-integrated amongst you cry out.
We did that 80th shindig on his say-so, and in the intervening years a fog of confusion has grown where official documents say this, our father says that — and our father’s answers have differed slightly with each asking/confirmation. Also, he’s 80-plus, for pete’s sake; his birthday/s was/were almost a century ago now, and, for a large part of his adult life, birthdays were irrelevant.
Some might say there’s a rich vein of family history here. For my siblings and I, it was another memorable moment in the life of being a Mamea.
Wearing my writer helmet, there’s an interesting character feature here that might come in handy at some point. Not the obvious age-defining-character angle, but more how multiple birthdates — all equally valid — inform backstory. A lot (could have) happened in that two to three year gap between my father’s possible birthdays: he was born either before or during the Great Depression; he was born either before or during the rise of the Mau movement in Samoa. The timing of his arrival on this planet could make a world of difference in his upbringing and character.
Like anyone and everyone else, both real and imagined, there’s more to Pater Mamea than meets the eye. It just requires some thought and a little patience.