I dare you to listen to the Coogee Poet and not feel a range of emotions sweep over you.
It’s a wet Sunday on May 23. The Mandala Nepalese Restaurant in Randwick is closed to the public for the first performance of the season by local poet and writer, Tony Peacock.
Tony is a true Coogee child. Having grown up along the shores of the eastern suburb of Sydney in the 1950s, he attended Coogee Public School and apart from a brief period in the country, he has lived in Coogee for over fifty years. A regular swimmer of Coogee bay all year around, the beach remains to him a place of refuge and reflection.
For twenty years, Tony has been staging his performances locally, delivering a mixture of short stories, anecdotes and poetry in the first person.
To classify his genre of performance would not do it justice. He does not merely read his works but he takes them to the stage with an outpour of emotion and personality. Through his passionate delivery, very poignant at times, his stories and characters begin to live in the imagination of the audience.
In the first part of the show, Tony delivers a series of yarns ranging from expressive tales of the most relaxed person in the world to an amusing goldfish incident from his university days and the icky fate of a possum in the snow. There is humour in his execution with a good dose of Australiana, peppered with satire, local characters and lovable Aussie larrikins.
I ask him if his writing is inspired by autobiographical events. He smiles and quotes references from the back cover of his books. One declares that all the stories are true and the other asserts that none are true. But like all good stories, I sense a touch of reality behind the inspiration which fuels his writing.
He moves onto poetry in the second half of the show and delivers The Brigidine Poem, a satirical portrayal of a young Aussie male infatuated with a school girl from Brigidine College in Randwick. Joined by another performer, Shay, who dons the school’s uniform for this sketch, this broad accented delivery with rhyming ocker poetry has the audience totally engaged.
The piece de resistance is the final poem and Tony’s signature piece, The Coogee Ballad. Inspired by feelings of anger and hurt he felt at how the precinct of Coogee has changed during his formative years, he puts all his emotions into a poem that deserves to be told again and again.
Delivered in what he calls a lower eastern suburbs dialect, the rhyming ballad sends shivers among members of the audience. Raw, passionate and highly strung, this is not the usual nostalgic piece that laments a period long gone. This is a tale of anger at the erosion of the heart and soul of Coogee by the rise of property development and the exploitation of the local environment for greed.
There was a time before flats were built, when local shops and milk bars abound and views of the beach from most houses were unobstructed. The northern end of the beach was full of fishing boats and the catch of the day was sold on the beach. This was a Coogee where pine trees were seen around the beach and everywhere, and you could smell the sea and salt from your home.
Hearing this ballad has changed me irrevocably. I can no longer sit on the northern end of Coogee beach admiring the odd silver fishing boat coming to shore without imagining what would have been a lively and anticipated rhythm of life.
Tony does not advertise his performances through normal channels. A gentle and unassuming man, he’s a firm believer that good word of mouth delivers an interested audience, a principle that has not let him down in twenty years. This article is my good word of mouth.
Performance dates for the 2010 winter season:
May 23, May 30, June 6, June 13, June 20 and June 27.
Cost: $55 (incl. performance and the banquet lunch at Mandala Nepalese Restaurant)
For bookings, you can contact Tony Peacock:
Phone: (02) 9664 2466
Mobile: 0401 081 039
Note: The 2011 winter season is on May 22, May 29, June 5, June 12, June 19… Contact Tony direct for more information.
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