This morning I re-discovered my very earliest appearance in print, this small clipping proudly tucked down near the bottom of the second page of my first scrapbook.
Towards the end of 1974 my eldest brother Nick, who at that date was writing for Lot’s Wife, the student newspaper at Monash University, kindly delegated to me the task of furnishing a theatrical notice of the opening night performance in the old Palais Theatre in St. Kilda of the A. V. Alexandrov Soviet Army Twice Red-Bannered and Red-Starred Song and Dance Ensemble. No doubt this heavily subsidized event was a direct consequence of well-meaning but fruitless cultural diplomacy in the last years of the Whitlam government, but the two complimentary press tickets passed along by Nick’s editor at length allowed me to accompany Aunt Anne, and to take advantage of the pair of powerful agricultural binoculars which she always took along with her to the theater. I recall I wore school uniform, and was thrilled to be allowed to stay up so late. With consummate professionalism I returned my notice to Nick first thing the following morning, and it was duly published a week later:
Our intrepid reviewer Angus Trumble (age ten) went to the premiere of the Soviet Army Song and Dance Band at the Palais last week and writes... “By ten to eight twenty-four people were in the lounge. I thought it was a very bad night for an opening. By the time of the start forty-nine people had assembled in the lounge. I thought that there was too much of the same sort of singing. In the first half of the show there was ballet which was a bit long and loud. Altogether I thought it was most enjoyable, but I don’t recommend children of my age coming.”
This now strikes me as the model of concision, a quality has through intervening decades all but disappeared from my prose style. However, I am pleased to see that the habit of at least trying to isolate the telling detail was already firmly established. (The “lounge,” incidentally, was the equivalent of the dress circle.) My point about it being a very bad night for an opening was, upon much reflection now, almost certainly Aunt Anne’s, but I am still most grateful for it. However, the mixed assessment in conclusion was obviously colored by that genetically encoded predisposition from which Trumbles appear to suffer in every generation, namely a deep reluctance to give offense, to rock boats, or, at the very least, amply to make provision of any and all benefits of the doubt. Regrettably, to be honest, I have no recollection of any particular enjoyment of that long, martial entertainment 38 years ago.
Now I wonder which of those other forty-eight audience members was a covert representative of the federal government’s counterespionage service, sent to keep a watchful eye on everyone else, on both sides of the footlights. Alas, it was definitely not my late cousin and godmother Janet.