It began as two tiny words pinned to the wall of one of the old army huts that housed NIDA back in the golden days. We were in our second year of the acting course and were instructed to put forward ideas for short plays that we would then “self-devise”. While many students including myself proposed lengthy submissions, Baz Lurhmann simply stuck up the title. I couldn’t help but sign on. After all, we had history.
Having both starred in feature films in our teens (me in ‘Puberty Blues’ and he in ‘Winter of our Dreams’), we formed an alliance and practiced our NIDA audition pieces on one another. When we failed to gain entry into the austere institution, we formed our own theater company – The Bond – and staged our own production of Steven Poliakoff’s ‘American Dreams’ at the Bondi Pavilion Theatre. We hired our directors, our publicists and even got Harry M. Miller onboard to help us make a splash. But within a year, we realised that we needed to audition once more. And we cracked it.
Happily Baz chose me as one of the seven other students for the job – the others were Sonia Todd, Glenn Keenan, Cathy McClements, Tony Poli and Jaime Robertson and Helen Mutkins. We learned all the moves from our dance instructor Keith Bain and went out on research trips to ballroom dancing competitions. And after 8 weeks we let the beast out of the box. The reaction was amazing, right from the get go. Later NIDA sponsored us to travel behind the iron curtain to Bratislava in what was then Czechoslovakia where the play caused an even greater sensation with its message of individualism triumphing over “the Federation”. After the performance, we were banned from mixing with theatre students from the Eastern Bloc but were sent home with the prize for Best Play nonetheless – a beautiful folksy vase that I, as the courier, still have here at home despite having several times offered it back to Baz.
So now our little play that became a box office blockbuster, beloved of people the world over including Bill and Hilary Clinton, is going to become a fully fledged stage musical opening at the Lyric Theatre at Crown Casino in September 17 2013 – pending of course the end of the world.