Saturday, December 16, 2006

article - Unsilent Night, Sydney

Metro, Sydney Morning Herald. December 15, 2006

Why sing carols when you can parade around playing Chrissie music on your boombox?

Unsilent Night - an iPOD-free event.

"It's a Christmas event that isn't corny or naff," says Daz Chandler, the organiser of Unsilent Night.

"This is for people who want to do something different around the silly season, who aren't into the whole Christian carolling side of things."

Unsilent Night is a composition by New York composer Phil Kline designed to be performed as a street parade by whoever turns up with a boombox.

It was first staged in 1992; last year's New York parade attracted 1500 participants. This Saturday night it will be performed in New York, San Diego and, thanks to Chandler, Sydney.

Chandler was given a recording of the New York parade for her 2SER-FM show last year and decided to organise the inaugural Australian parade in 2005.

"We asked Phil and he was stoked, so we bought a heap of cassette tapes - you can't do it on CDs because they skip - and stayed up all hours duplicating," she says. "It was great fun so we decided we'd definitely to do it again."

The symphony is arranged in four layers and distributed on cassettes to participants, along with a map of the route through the CBD, St James, Hyde Park and Oxford Street.

"It's timed so you get to Taylor Square and you're standing there [for] five minutes and it finishes and everyone goes, 'Wow, that was insane.' It attracts a lot of attention from normal people. They're having dinner and they look up and there's all these people carrying stereos on their heads."

It draws a wide range of participants.

"I was expecting the usual suspects: art students, people into weird stuff, musicians, but there were also families," Chandler says. "We had a women who was in her 80s.

"It feels magical, it also feels a trifle naughty. It's really great to do stuff with people you've never met before and feel like you're all united in something."

Saturday, December 09, 2006

interview - Aunty Mavis

Stocking Stuffer, Turkey Plucker

Benito Di Fonzo
Sydney Morning Herald, December 8, 2006

Aunty Mavis isn't quite as she seems.

Aunty Mavis, stocking stuffer.

"I remember, as a girl, I had fantasies about Santa," says the unshaven 30-year-old man in the voice of an elderly woman, "I really did; that sort of older daddy figure, fuller figure, white beard, red suit. Santa comes only once a year, as did my husband."

Andrew Benson is getting a few odd looks as he channels Aunty Mavis for me in a pub near the performing arts school where he teaches. Mavis, a character Benson created under mentor Reg Livermore, is talking about her new show, Stocking Stuffer, Turkey Plucker.

"Try saying that fast with a few dry sherries under your belt," she says.

Aunty Mavis, Country Women's Association member and ex-president of the Lowlands Bowling Club, is a singer "somewhere between 60 and death" from his hometown of Newcastle. Since 1999, she has fronted shows such as Scones & Songs and The Silence of The Lamingtons.

"I've got a bit of a following in the gay and lesbian community," Mavis says. "A lot of lesbians like Mavis; I think it's the fuller figure myself."

Thought of turning? "No, closest I get to a lesbian is a lemon meringue pie."

As well as free Darrell Lea plum-nougat puddings - "they really put the dull back into delicious" - the show promises such carolling satires as Cross-Dressed Ye Merry Gentlemen, Away With a Stranger and Menopause is Getting her Down (to the tune of Santa Claus is Coming to Town), as well as a little Novocastrian culture.

"People in Sydney don't think there's life after Hornsby but there is, and it's Newcastle."

Mavis rounds off the show with a bit of tap-dancing, ably assisted by her elves. "You just say the magic word 'poof' and they appear."

Mavis, a staunch Country Party supporter, feels modern Australia may have lost its way.

"Oh look, there's a lot of foreigners here, isn't there? I mean they're nice, they've brought dim sims to the country and that's quite nice, but bring back the Australia of the '50s, I say."

Haven't we? "That's what I love about John [Howard]."

Mavis also will discuss the big questions of the day, such as AWB scandals. "They were just trying to help [Iraqis] out because they've got flatbread over there. I think they were trying to sell them yeast to give their bread a bit of a rise."

Could she send scones and lamingtons? "Wouldn't that be fun? I might have to speak to my local member and see if they'll send me over. You will have to try my rummy balls, I make a good rumball."

Rumballs in the jungle?

"Can I use that?"

Unfortunately, Santa won't make an appearance as, Mavis explains, he has been placed in detention on Christmas Island after Navy ships allegedly spotted him throwing presents overboard.

What does Mavis make of her nephew and creator, Andrew? "Oh, he's nice enough, isn't he? I just wish he could find a nice country girl and settle down."

What exactly does Mavis miss from the '50s? "Just politeness, manners [and] hot-water bottles - do you use a hot-water bottle? No. Well, that's what's missing in our culture and that's something I always relished as a girl: the smell of rubber close to the skin as you fell asleep. Do what I do, fill it with porridge; not only does it keep you warm, it's breakfast-in-bed in the morning. [The] taste's a bit rubbery but, in today's society, rubbery is quite safe, you know?"