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High Rise

A Diary of Controlled Chaos

January, 2001 

Meetings with Terry Soumilas at the Tenants Union of Victoria and Ernie Sims, a resident who runs the popular Kids Clubs on the estate. I also hung around with the kids at the clubs and talked. Often surrounded by a mob of cheeky Muslim kids who said they'd be in my play if I became a Muslim too! They were very disparaging of me when I couldn't say I had a religion. Quite pitying.

March 26

Yesterday went to the Fijian Service to hear the choir on Sunday - lovely voices, very warm group.  Every time I go to the flats and meet up with some cheeky kids who want to persuade me to become a Muslim or shy girls who summon enough courage to speak Vietnamese into Musical Director Jennie Swain's tape recorder, or talk with a guy with a totally bent set of philosophies who is so full of personality and vigour - I come away refreshed.

April 9

About to have a first full day of Highlight on The High Rise and that will be heaven. First full workshop was today, a big turn out. More cheeky kids. I think I have been planning too many things in my head. Doesn't work. High Rise is a very organic process and will continue to be so. We don't have that many definites yet and certain things will remain in flux ... kid numbers, workshop sites, rehearsal times, personnel involved. Can't over-plan. What's happening is very good for the process in the long run.

June 12

Met with John Norman, stage name Johnny Shakespeare, an old actor living at the flats. Had a wonderful hour with him. Ranged over topics such as his history as an actor, the story of how he cut his leg off in 1972 with a chainsaw (he suffers from schizophrenia, thought God had commanded him to do it in order to save the world). Going to be very interesting working with him ... how to do it ...?

August 15

Fringe Festival Parade construction, many handed monster, crawling tube for lift shaft. Paper shadow tunnel. Small puppet window stages. John Norman spouting poetry. Pigeons flying and pecking and sitting while you walk through because they're so tame. Big banners from corridor walls on Y side of Mercedes building. Long stretch of fabric/plastic from tops of buildings. One child calling to his/her mum at the 12th floor, hey mum, can you chuck us down my thing

July 31

I met Tamat, mother of school student Saddam. Indomitable woman with an amazing story to tell of her escape from war in Somalia. She lost her husband to the war, was separated from her brothers and her two children and walked for three months, heavily pregnant with Saddam, with no food or water. She had the baby all alone, in a bush, and was found by the Red Cross digging a hole to bury the placenta.
November 5-9

Full-on set construction. Residents love seeing it all unfold as we rehearse on site. Residents Alby, Fred and Macca are going to hoist the boat. Macca said I was gonna go up north and try to change my life, time I had a bit of direction, but then I thought, well, I might as well stay around ...

November 17

Tonight was opening night. Audience gathered. About five hundred sat on the grass and in the building behind them every window had people in it. We started ... and the kids were amazing.  The weather was perfect. Everything worked. Jack saw his window piece with a big smile on his face and moist eyes. John was splendid and held the audience in the palm of his hand. Ernie was radiant on his high rise throne. Yasser Suliman was there with tears in his eyes watching those kids. Everyone loved it. My cup is full.