Ruby Slipper @ Summer of The Seventeenth Doll

I realised recently that a large chunk of  my Australian cultural knowledge was missing – it was a big Ray Lawler-shaped gap called ‘Summer of the Seventeenth Doll’. I can’t really understand how I’ve got to the ripe age of 29 without having read or seen it before – but when I was sent an MTC newsletter about their new production (along with a $30 for those under 30 enticement!) I saw sold. Cultural hole plugged, so to speak. So today join Ruby Slipper at new restaurant at My Mexican Cousin – followed by a night at the theatre.

A night out at the theatre is something to dress for, is it not? I remember going with my Mum to see Gilbert & Sullivan plays during the 1990’s and it was always a huge production – which party socks to wear with which frilled, polka-dotted dress? So in homage of multi-tiered dresses, I decided on this luridly outback coloured silk dress by Arabella Ramsay. I loved this dress immediately because it is both ugly and very beautiful at the same time, with odd tiers of ruffles that move and billow as you walk. Plus, I thought wearing an Australian designer to a quintessentially Australian play on a 30-odd-degree night appropriate.

I am enjoying wearing braids (fishtail, milkmaid, french) in summer, as it ensures a ‘done’ hairstyle without using a hairdryer. Check out the ‘cornu’ on the right – a traditional Calabrian version of the Greek ‘mahti’ or evil eye. It’s the same kind of hand movement death metal rockers use to show their appreciation too, co-incidentally. The cornu has no particular relevance here other than being bright red, and highly amusing to me.

Before feasting on culture, one must feast on…. well, food. My elegant companion and I decided to try out hot restaurant My Mexican Cousin, which is on the ground floor of the new MTC on Southbank Boulevard. Don’t be fooled by the name – Mamasita this is not. Rather than Mexican cuisine, this is a kind of non-specific creole restaurant with lots of seafood and pork on the menu – both of which I enjoy. The exterior fit out has lots of stainglass window inserts, and looks a little like a Six Degrees architects project. We ordered everything to share – Jamaican empanadas (vegetarian and served with a zucchini mashey thing), a beef and spinach salad, quinoa and corn side, butter lettuce and goats cheese salad with crushed caramelised praline. Dessert was a pecan pie with icecream. Sounds good on paper, doesn’t it? For some reason, the reality was underwhelming. Everything seemed OK – but totally achieveable at home with a handy Women’s Weekly Goes Creole feature and a few hours in the kitchen. Sorry, lovers. Nice night – but probably wouldn’t go again – it’s quite exxy for what it is.

The play however, was anything but underwhelming. With a stellar cast including Alison Whyte and Robin Nevin, MTC’s anniversary edition of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll was delicate, humorous and emotionally touching. It centres around the lives of two barmaids in Carlton who share five glorious months each year with their strapping cane-cutter boyfriends from the north. This is a tradition which has gone on happily between the four for 16 years – but everything changes on the 17th. I love local stories, films and media – so this SOTSD was a real treat for me. I live in Carlton, and this play gave me enough detail to truly imagine the characters shielding themselves from the February sun in gloves and hats on their way to Percy’s on Elgin. Achingly painful, it’s a story with humorous characters who have been driving their lives blind at the wheel, not caring about their destination. Nevin’s matriarch Emma was a standout, like a soothsayer-come-granny who viewed life with an earnest eye. I don’t really want to spoil the story for you – but if you liked Don’s Party and you love character-driven plays – make sure to see Summer of the Seventeenth Doll before it finishes up in February. Remember – $30 if you’re under 30!!!

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