Sara Brodie directs Auckland Theatre Company's new production of Maurice Gee's Under the Mountain, at ASB Waterfront Theatre until February 21.
My partner and I have recently returned from a holiday in the Banda Isles. We were inspired to visit from reading Giles Milton's book Nathaniel's Nutmeg. Five tiny isolated islands are the source of much of the world's nutmeg and mace. They are part of Indonesia but closer to West Papua than anywhere else. In the early 17th century the Dutch and British raced to claim them as nutmeg was worth its weight in gold. The Bandanese, who had happily traded with Arab and Chinese merchants, were massacred as a result. Today the islands are littered with Dutch forts unusual for their five-pointed star design. We chartered a boat to the tiny isle of Run (which the British traded with the Dutch for Manhattan, in the Treaty of Breda). Walking through the hillside villages of colourful houses and beautiful mosques, we were greeted warmly everywhere we went. The Banda Sea is pristine and a snorkeller's paradise.
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I celebrated my 20th birthday on tour in Rimini, Italy, drinking vodka into the small hours of the morning. At 5am my boss announced that I was to travel to St Vincent, in the northwest of Italy to stand-in for a dancer that had fallen ill in another show. At 7am he packed me on to a train. With standing room only, the journey was horrendous, made worse as the sweltering heat and my hangover kicked in. I had two transfers to make, and wouldn't recommend negotiating Milan Central train station with no knowledge of Italian. I got on the wrong train, then fainted, face planting into the squatting toilet at the next station. Twelve hours later I eventually made it to my destination, where I learnt dance routines in a hotel corridor and went on stage that night.