Our first drive out of town is always tinged with a buzz of beginnings and the wide open road ahead. But more, it’s light with the relief of leaving behind the dailies – details, multi-tasking and checklists. It was so surprising to arrive quickly at our first stop, Kilmore – with only a 40 minute drive out of town, it felt like a road tour cheat. Librarians Sue and Danielle of Kilmore Library welcomed us and opened the door to the community room.
The first pre-show set up and ritual is always a bit lumpy – where does teddy go at the stet of the show? Not in the crate, on the stripey chair. Which side of the table does the sound desk go on? Which side of the sound desk does the iPod go? – but it’s a great way to become present and re-enter the performance space. Especially with Postcards From Nanna where the spaces we perform in at libraries and community halls become defined as performance spaces by our set.
The Kilmore crowd were warm and ready to roll with whatever happened. From stage a lovely 4 year old and a toddler on their grownup’s knee were both fixed in to focus on the show. When Ruby Big Dog got to go to the smiley toddler, there was a long moment of free play and impro and chuckling between the ‘dog’ and the toddler. Not having words can be so fantastic for connecting. In the afternoon show at Seymour, librarians Amanda and Chantelle were ecstatic at the ‘massive’ turn up. What’s massive in a country library? 49 people. And everyone of those people had a special moment, a laugh, an insight, a sing. All of which may hang around in the memory for … I don’t know. How long?
After the show Amanda tells us a story of her relationship with the library. ‘I’ve lived here all my life. When I was little I came to this library and I had a favourite book about a cat. I’d return it and then position myself so I could sit at a table and draw and watch the librarian check in the books. As soon as she put it back on the shelf I’d go and get it out again.’ I asked ‘Did it ever occur to you that you could get it restamped?’ ‘Nup. Never.’ Librarians Kerry and Judy welcomed us to Stawell, home of the Waack’s Bakery Australian winner of The Best Vanilla Slice. Vanilla Slice Judge, Ande (the only sugar eater on the tour) gave the slice a 7.5 out of 10 feeling the icing was a bit thick and sweet. (Cha Cha Sam’s Vanilla-Slice-competition leader is from Wungnhu Bakery just out of Shepperton with a 9/10).
In Stawell the audience of little kids could all fit on a long bench seat. Like a morning fence full of sparrows. Whilst waiting for the show to start, two little boys came near to Cha Cha Sam: one to read a book and watch the audience gather, the younger to climb through the library shelf and thrust his head out the other side to look at Cha Cha Sam. From the audience’s point of view it looked as if the books were spewing a little blonde boy from their pages. Cha Cha Sam recalls this moment feeling like Gulliver surrounded by ingenious Lilliputians way too clever by far for this great big oaf.
The Stawell kids were so shy and wide-eyed, constantly checking with each other whether it was alright to join in. After a bit of a dance party and a gentler-than-usual performance the kids warmed up and had a ball. One boy sitting with his grownup and older sibling steadily absorbed every moment, copying dances and singing along with Cha Cha Sam. It takes great steadiness in a kid to hold a gaze so vividly for that long.
At Horsham library we were warmly welcomed by librarians Mary and Pauline. Temporarily camping in a shop front near Target, the space works well with it’s open cement floors. The morning show is overflowing! At the end of the show a six year old girl who wants to know at length about Cha Cha Sam’s performance past ‘How old were you when you starting doing all this. Like…singing and dancing?’ ‘Do you work with other people doing this?’ Then she cries ‘I’ve forgotten my other questions. Would you have any questions?’ Cha Cha Sam chips in ‘Um, you seem really interested in this. Are you wanting to sing and dance?’ ’Not really. I have a really good voice for being an actor. So I think I would like to be an actor.’ Then she hugs Cha Cha Sam and says ‘Thank you for doing such a good show and being so good.’
Driving out of Horsham to get back to Melbourne we stop off at the place where Postcards From Nanna all began – at the Big Koala. For the sheer fun of it Cha Cha Sam starts singing at the Big Koala. Every time she opens her mouth, a huge truck roars by and wipes out the sound. Driving back to Melbourne in the dark is quiet. A sign that week one of the tour is beautifully complete.
Thanks to the warmth of Kilmore, Seymour, Stawell and Horsham.
To see where you and your little ones might catch Cha Cha Sam next, visit the Gigs page.