Up in the cheap seats at the Theatre Royal (Australia's oldest, no less), where the chandelier is almost at eye level, you wouldn't want to suffer from vertigo as it is dizzyingly high. We went to see The Select (The Sun Also Rises) by an experimental New York theatre company brought to Hobart as part of Tasmania's International Arts Festival, Ten Days On the Island. Amazingly, a sizeable chunk of the dialogue was lifted directly from the pages of Hemingway's novel Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises which was narrated predominantly by the main character and acted by the cast. A play within the pages of the novel was revealed and it was long, almost three and a half hours....if you were a fast reader you could a almost read the book to yourself in that time (I read in on the two planes between Hobart and Brisbane). The production was witty and clever, which managed to save it from being a tad on the dull side, and used a pastiche of words, music, sound effects and....trestle tables, which did duty as.....trestle tables, beds, trout and most dramatically.....a bull:
Yes, a bull, because you need a bull/trestle table for a bullfight. And there was a bullfight, just before the promiscuous Lady Brett Ashley ran off with the bullfighter, having shagged most of the other male characters, except for Jake....because he was impotent due to wounds sustained in WW1. Hemingway, of course, loved bullfights.....after he committed suicide in 1961, two tickets to the upcoming Pamploma bullfights were discovered in his desk.
I can't say that I share his appreciation, as I don't like bullfights. All of that testosterone dressed up in pink tights and gilded, garishly hued, tight costumes......the absurd stances, pelvic thrusts and floppy hair. Not to mention the overwhelming barbarity and the blood and guts.
I went to a bullfight at the arena in Beziers in 2010....coincidentally, it was just around the corner from the hospital where I had my baby four months later. My overriding impression, from what I saw through my tears, was a cruel attention seeking display of virility. The odds are stacked against the bull from the minute that it runs, confused and scared into the arena. It is never going to get out of there alive. It is going to be taunted and formulaically stabbed, until it can barely hold it's head up and then some egotistical maniac is going to utterly humiliate it and kill it in an attempt to show off. Don't be fooled...it is nothing like the children's classic storybook The Story of Ferdinand.
Occasionally, a bullfighter gets gored:
.....good on the bull I say.
Peversely, outside the arena before the corrida, it was almost how I imagine going to a Tom Jones concert would be like.....lots of giggly, excited women....young and old, clutching flowers, cards and notes to throw at the bullfighters feet as an act of infatuation. If the judges want to show their approval, they don't present a trophy and fizz up the champagne...they award one or two of the beasts severed ears and if they think it was particularly good, it's tail.
Bullfighting in the Langudoc area of South West France continues to grow in popularity...in may have been outlawed by an act of parliament over the border in Spain's Catalonia, yet in France it attracts a massive crowd and various towns have a week long hard sangria drinking, paella eating, bullfighting focused Feria associated with it.
In just over three weeks we are heading back to the Languedoc. The closest sizeable town to the village where we will be living and our children going to school, is Nimes, which boasts several important remains from the ancient Roman Empire including an amphitheatre which was built around 70AD. In the late 19th century it was remodelled as........a bullring, which is still in use today. Needless to say, I won't be going there to see a bullfight however I am tempted to maybe get tickets to see Depeche Mode perform there in July.