South Pacific and Bistro Guillaume

Sunday turned out to be a pretty cool day – with hints of French!

After a quick work-out and a bowl of home-made muesli, I spent most of the morning and early afternoon editing the draft version of The Purloined E-mail, the short story which I posted yesterday and then tweeted about on Twitter. It was a fun writing exercise and I could not have been more psyched to find out later that Margaret Atwood herself replied to my Tweet and had also read my story! I think I nearly fell over then. It is such a great honor to have an amazing (and unbelievably nice) writer like Margaret Atwood comment on your own short story! That definitely made my week for me!

Later that afternoon, my mother was in town so I took her to see the matinee performance of Rodger and Hammerstein’s South Pacific at the Crown Theatre. I hadn’t seen South Pacific before but I’m glad I did – it was an amazing performance. The backdrop of the South Pacific was beautiful (I’m always a sucker for gorgeous theatre backdrops) and I love how the musical began and ended with an unknown writer’s typewritten piece about the South Pacific. I late found out that the musical is based on James A. Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific so that makes sense!


As for the performers – I have never seen Teddy Tahu Rhodes perform before and, whoa, what a voice! That baritone! And that height! He towered above everyone else on the stage, even the guys, by at least a head. I could just picture him playing Gaston in Beauty and the Beast with the knee-high boots that he strutted around in during some of the scenes on stage. He should definitely keep those boots on all the time!


There are rumours going around that Rhodes and Lisa McCune, the Perth-born actress who played Nellie, are secretly a couple. I don’t know how true those rumours are but they definitely had chemistry onstage! I’m also hearing that both Rhodes and McCune are signed up as the leads of The King and I next year.

Byrone Bache has written an article for Crickey asking if Rhodes is the best person to play the role of the King of Siam as he’s not Asian or, if we want to be really strict with race-casting, Thai (for that matter, I don’t think any actor of Thai nationality has ever played this role as it’s currently banned in Thailand and the country has extremely strict rules regarding any perceived dishonour upon the royal family).

While Bache’s article focused mainly on the question of ethnicity when it comes to casting, I think in this case, the bigger question is whether Rhodes and McCune are suitable leads for the roles of the King and Anna – or if they were chosen just because their names would guarantee more tickets sold. In the case of Rhodes and McCune, I’m afraid it’s a question I can’t answer but must give over to someone else who has wider knowledge than I do of the breath and depth of the artistic talent in Australia. Personally, though, I do think Rhodes and McCune would rather suit the roles of The King of Siam and Anna. The power of Rhodes’ baritone is without doubt and when he’s not donning a hairpiece for the role of Emile, he does bear a striking resemblance to Yul Brynner! Similarly, it’s not hard to picture Lisa McCune in the role of the uptight English governess.

But back to the debate of colour casting – colour casting always prompts a debate, especially when it comes to new productions of older narratives like a Shakespearean play or an opera or a musical (think Miss Saigon or Aida). Then there’s the other side of the coin – if white actors are not allowed to to take non-white roles, should non-white actors be able to take on white roles? Personally, I’m all for seeing the likes of Ken Watanabe peforming in the Royal Shakespeare Company, Idris Elba playing a Nordic god in Thor and Teddy Tahu Rhodes performing as the King of Siam! I’ve never had a problem with either situation – I think my bigger criticism would be whether an actor was chosen to fill a role because of his/her colour rather than because of their acting ability, regardless of what race they are. I think the question that’s being asked is whether Opera Australia is implementing its ‘colour-blind casting’ standard correctly and if so, I have no problem with that. But if not, it would be nice to see that changed. I would certainly like there to be enough talented non-white performers out there filling roles in performances – however, I don’t think I would like to see a non-white artist gain a role ahead of some other more deserving artist just because they happen to be of the right ‘ethnic minority’ either, rather than their talent.

What if, say, all the roles of The Tempest were reversed? What if, say, all the actors playing Prospero, his daughter, Ferdinand, etc., were coloured actors and the actor playing Caliban were white? That would be an interesting reversal of roles. One adaptation of The Tempest has already given us a female Prospero in the form of Helen Mirren – if there is a reversal in gender, why not a reversal in race too? It doesn’t have to be taken too seriously, but such a production would only serve to enhance and widen our perspective and understanding of the play and the many interpretations that could be derived from its plot and themes.

But enough talk about the trials and tribulations of proper artistic casting. Talking about art always makes me hungry so let’s talk about food.

After the musical, we went on to Bistro Guillaume for an early dinner. After reading various online reviews, I was a little worried that we might be getting pretty standard fare and service for overblown prices but I have to say my fears were assuaged the moment we stepped in.

Bistro Guillaume

Bistro Guillaume interior

They sat us by the floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking the Crown’s fairly new pool (revamped perhaps just over a year ago) and just look at the view we had!

Crown Perth Pool

Mainly due to my prompting, we chose to share the escargot en persillade for a starter. Mum ordered the barramundi fillet with vegetables while I settled on the beef daube in red wine sauce on a bed of Parisian mash.

The escargots were perfect, served in melted butter seasoned with garlic and herbs. Even my  mother liked it and she’s not usually a fan of snails.

Bistro Guillaume escargots

The mains were equally a success – both the barramundi and the beef daube were soft and tender – especially the beef, which just flaked away at the touch of a fork. I only wished I could have eaten everything but as it was a generous serving, I made it till just the last few mouthfuls.

Bistro Guillaume Beef Daube

Bistro Guillaume Barramundi

Unfortunately, that meant we had to say no to dessert but a pot of chamomile tea helped with the digestion as we chatted and watched the sunset outside.

I couldn’t have asked for a better Sunday!

[South Pacific photos sourced from South Pacific Photo Gallery]

P.S. did anyone else find Emile’s first radio message as hilarious as I did? “We have set up quarters in a mango tree–no room but a lovely view. . . . First the weather: rain clouds over Bougainville, The Treasuries, Choiseul and New Georgia. We expect rain in this region from nine o’clock to two o’clock. Pardon? Oh–my friend Joe corrects me. Oh–nine hundred to fourteen hundred. And now, our military expert, Joe.”

At least we know Joe probably died laughing.


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