After a while my eyes adjusted to the darkness. It takes time after standing in blazing sunshine for half an hour.
The auditorium was enormous and the interior designers had thrown a lot of black paint around. Everything was black. Black walls, black stage, black seating, black floor. The ceiling was at a vast height and if you craned your neck you could make out the usual affair of blacked-out air conditioning piping and lighting and sound wiring and spotlights. That's a lot of black paint. $12 million dollars worth.
The PR writers gush:
'With no expense spared on the $12 million fit out, Peninsula is best described as a sublime warehouse conversion that fuses Shed 14’s rich-heritage (sic) with today’s most contemporary and glamorous design, created by leading interior design firm blackmilk.'
That explains the black. The place is described as have been 'inspired by London's iconic Tate Museum', which seems a stretch, unless you reverse the comparison and think of the Tate as being like an old wharf building painted black inside. But with all that darkness, you need light:
'The piéce de rèsistance is a 66-metre crystal chandelier designed by Melbourne lighting designer Dean Phillips that spans the length of the room and comprises 1,200 cut crystal pendants.'
Sounds like the place for your next global warming conference. Flick the switch and half the power supply coming into Melbourne from the La Trobe Valley gets diverted to Docklands.
Finally everyone sat down on the black seating and the place went dark and then a spotlight hit the stage and the awards began. Denise Scott, one of the country's funniest comedians, presented the awards and insulted everyone as they came to the stage; and then, just before the night's major awards were about to be presented, the roll of drums on the PA cut out and the next thing we heard was a kind of phut! - very loud - and everything went totally black.
Then some sound guys ran out from behind the stage and another guy came to the stage and announced that there had been a major glitch and would we please be patient. He sounded nervous, as you would be if you'd just opened a new $12 million high-end function centre and the place goes down just as the awards are being presented to a bunch of C-listers who think they are A-listers. They're always the hardest to please.
Denise Scott saved the night and went right on cracking gags despite the lack of a microphone, ad-libbing the electrical failure into her act. She brought the house down. She started raving about a fringe-theatre one-act show she once went to see, featuring a woman by the name of Annie Sprinkle, and threatening to replicate the act if the electricity didn't get switched back on soon.
After a while the electricity came on again and the gongs were handed out. By now the schedule was an hour late and the temperature was still 35 degrees.
The charge to the bar was like a thousand stampeding elephants. Maybe two thousand.