Recently, the little apartment that I share with Saffy and Amanda has been filled with the soaring strains of Puccini’s famous opera, Madame Butterfly. Amanda had decided that seeing as we were all going through a very dry dating patch (“It’s a desert out there!” she declared. “I’m this close to becoming a nun!”), this was as good a time as any to brush up on our culture.
“We’re not getting any younger,” she pointed out with penetrating insight. “Besides, I’m so sick of Saffy’s Boney M CDs. If I hear ‘By the Rivers of Babylon’ one more time, I’m going to scream.”
Which explains why Maria Callas is blasting her lungs out on our tiny stereo, causing poor Pooch to spend his days cowering under my bed. As Saffy once observed during a particularly strident aria while peering at the CD cover, “I wouldn’t want to get into a fight with this woman! She scares me. But I’m loving her eyebrows!”
“She’s dead!” Amanda exclaimed.
“I’m not surprised,” Saffy replied smoothly. “You would be too if you had to hold a note this long!”
A few days ago, Amanda came home waving tickets to a performance by an experimental dance troupe. “They got rave reviews on the Internet! They’re cutting edge and avant garde! Ooh, what should I wear?”
It always worries me when something is described as avant garde. From experience, this usually means that you won’t understand a thing that’s happening, but you never admit this as other people will look at you sideways, pitying you for your lack of appreciation for the fine arts.
As it turned out, I was right. The theatre in the Arts House was half filled with people I immediately recognised as art snobs. The women came wrapped up in shawls while the guys wore all black and looked like Hugo Boss sales assistants, trying to look important by constantly checking their handphones, just in case President Bush was trying to call them for an urgent meeting. Meanwhile, Saffy was fidgeting with her underwear.
“Remind me never to wear G-strings ever again!” she hissed loudly. “Who the hell invented these things? Is this thing going to start soon? I want to get home in time for Amazing Race!”
Thankfully, the lights dimmed and the show began. Well, I use the word ‘show’ very loosely, because even now, I’m not quite what happened.
Eight women in white flowing dressed came on stage. The soundtrack started playing some weird sitar twanging music that vibrated so deeply my teeth hurt. Then the women swayed while a guy dressed in pyjamas weaved in and out of them. They swayed some more and then the music stopped, the lights dimmed and the next group of dancers came on.
“What happened?” Saffy asked bewildered. “Is that it? Is the show over?”
“Shhh!” Amanda hushed, looking rapt.
The second act involved the dancers walking very quickly around the stage while little white pieces of paper floated down from the ceiling. This time round, two guys in scrappy T-shirts came out and sat on boxes and played electric guitars; but it wasn’t anything I’d heard recently on the Top 40.
“Are they supposed to be here?” Saffy whispered urgently. “I’m not getting this at all!”
And so it went. Two hours of women either swaying on the spot or running breathlessly around the tiny stage, accompanied by tuneless twanging music. I tried to find a plot. Maybe the girls were waiting for a king? So who was the guy? Maybe he was an elf? Was Pooch OK? I worried. And when it was finally over, no one clapped. This was because we weren’t sure if it was actually over. Maybe the silence was also part of the show.
“Well!” Saffy announced as we emerged into the warm night. “That was without a doubt the biggest waste of my time! Ever! I’m not paying you for those tickets, Amanda!”
“I thought it was brilliant!” Amanda said stoutly. “It was incredibly moving!”
“Moving, my ass! It was incredibly stupid!” Saffy huffed pulling at her G-string as she struggled into the cab.
Later, back in the flat, as I gave Pooch a cuddle and Amanda got on the Internet to post her glowing critique of the show, Saffy defiantly inserted her Boney M Greatest Hits CD into the player and turned it up full blast. “What a stupid waste of time!” she muttered as she skipped to her favourite track.
“Ra-Ra-Rasputin!” she began singing off-key happily, “lover of the Russian Queen!”
And just like that, I think we’ve heard the last of Maria Callas. God rest her soul and her eyebrows.