Two girls are sat on the floor of a large function room, their backs against the wall. The floor is sticky and smells of weak beer. They have bags under their eyes, these girls, reaching almost down to their knees, and they don't say a word. They try to take sips from the pints of beers balancing precariously in their hands - they'd cost nine dollars after all - but they just can't. A few hundred people gather here, dressed up and elated.
We are those two girls on the floor, and we have been nominated for a theatre award.
A month earlier we took a plane, then still three rather than two of us, to fly 14127 kilometres to escape the crunchy snow of Amsterdam. Our costumes neatly folded (insofar as that is possible with a backpack), our lines in English freshly memorized, flying over unknown mountains and oceans on our way to the first destination of our international Best-of-Fringe tour: Perth. The most isolated city in the world.
Adjusted to a rare minus 12 degrees in Amsterdam, we gained 54 degrees with just one flight. After arriving it was only the heat we could think about. With our heads almost exploding, we nevertheless had to focus on something more important: accommodation. As die-hard Fringe-goers we started our tour at the fringe of the city of Perth: couch surfing in a suburb.
We found ourselves at Joe's, 45 minutes from the city centre in a suburban area we only know from sad American movies. Long empty streets, square blocks, one-story houses with freshly mowed lawns. Joe lives here, a man addicted to couch surfing as much as to his own stories. 'It never gets sexual,' he stated. Not even that time he shared his own bed with a Ghanaian girl. His girlfriend (a new one) sat next to him and smiled, a smile that was frozen on her face. It can get pretty cold out here in suburbia. We had planned to stay a whole week, we left after one night.
'Scotty, isn't Scotty back from his trip to Europe? You can stay at Scotty's. He's a very nice man, I'll ring him, it'll be fine.' We were saved by Marcus, the big boss of Perth's Fringe World. Scotty had just moved into his new home - in a suburb again. It barely had any furniture, but in Australia people don't live in their houses. They live in their gardens, or on the beach. Scotty is an unbelievably hospitable character, who introduces us to the national dish, BBQ, who serves us curries in the middle of the night and who tells us about his country, Australia. He tells us of an Aborigine woman who resolutely denies the existence of Westerner. She never altered her original route to the river, even if this route now takes her right through the gardens or even homes of a 'new occupant.' The problems between the indigenous peoples and the Westerners are complex; Scotty is the only person we meet willing to discuss them.
The mood among the few hundred people in the function room becomes ever more elated. This is our last night in Perth. The night before we'd said goodbye to Scotty and others, and we celebrated our nomination a tad too abundantly with Dutch pancakes and vodka - a highly dangerous combination - which has drained our energy to be nervous.
We had started our trip as a threesome, but a week and a half in, our director Marjolein received a phone call. Lying down in a Wicked (Zombie) Van at a local winery, she got the news she was to be evicted from the cloister she lived in as a squat guardian, and had only one week to pack and move out. She promptly hopped on a flight and left us in the wild Indian Ocean.
Performing in English for the first time really was a tour de force. We experienced this hyper-consciousness, as if a teacher tapped a stick on ours shoulders the whole time, saying: 'Wrong pronunciation. Wrong diction. Wrong!' But after five times we fired the teacher and we got used to our Dutch accents, and felt more comfortable.
We gave twelve performances in The Treasury Back Room. This former gold reserve had a beautiful festival centre, within which a garden had been constructed with palm trees, a bar, a stage for musicians and a big glass aquarium, in which girls - and occasionally a man - dressed as mermaids would sway their tails every night. Every single night we hoped to be picked as mermaids too, like all the girls there. Every single night we were rejected.
The award ceremony starts. We stand, having managed to finish our beers after all. We lean against the wall, joke around with some of the friends we had made here. We don't win the award. But we don't care.
Check out the reviews from Australian Stage and ArtsHub.
Next week: Prague
[ Written by Anne Gehring & Vera Ketelaars]
Bye Bye World will be performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 15-26 August @ 11.35 at the Underbelly
Follow Bye Bye World on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@byebyeworlds