One of the things that always impresses me about Melbourne’s festivals is the speed in which they set up shop.
A cinema or theatre will have a permanent box office, with printers and computers, landline phones with assigned numbers, trained staff and tested systems. They’ll have had months, even years, of trials and testing to get it all right.
Festivals like the Melbourne International Film Festival, or Comedy, or Fringe, have to start from scratch every year. They bring in all the equipment, the staff, the phone lines, the desks and chairs, with only a few weeks to get it all going. The hope is that the public see a confident, unified organisation while out the back everything is held together with gaffer tape and no-one can work out why the computers are trying to kill people. Out front, the grandeur of the Forum Theatre – out back you can’t plug the kettle and the toasted sandwich maker in at the same time or you’ll blow half the fuses in the theatre (and once again, I said I’m sorry. I just wanted a cup of tea. OK?)
The exquisite Polash Larsen, this year’s box office manager, has a wonderful metaphor for this experience. Let’s listen in as he explains to a customer exactly why we can’t seem to find her booking, shall we?
“The entire festival is like a circus. The big top gets rolled up and put away year after year, and when we unroll it to put it together we find moths and bugs have eaten holes in the tent. When it rains in the first few days people get wet, and we run around with buckets, and needles and thread to fix all the holes. But the circus carries on, none the less”.
Special thanks to actor Gina Morley for playing the public face of MIFF. You can really believe she’s reading, can’t you? Polash also wanted me to mention he’s an award-winning playwright and an ARIA-nominated musician, but I think that’s going too far. Polash is in The Grenadines, and you can their website here.