A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Colosseum

October 15, 2012

Q. What measures 2m x 1m, is composed of 200,000 plastic bricks and evokes a swords-and-sandals era?

Watching Woody Allen’s latest film To Rome with Love with its shots of Eternal City landmarks reminded me of an exhibition I wanted to see at Sydney University.

The thought of a Colosseum fashioned from LEGO bricks brought back childhood memories of bonding with new-found Italian cousins on a trip to my hometown in the mid ‘60s. Many cold wintry afternoons in Trieste were spent playing with LEGO, and many sessions followed back in Australia until teenage self-consciousness took over. With rare figures currently fetching steep prices, it might be worth checking the crevices of my mother’s old vacuum cleaner for hidden LEGO treasures.

Colosseum made from Lego, University of Sydney

As the exhibition centrepiece, the world’s first LEGO Colosseum ticks all the boxes. In cross-section – with half the structure in present-day ruin, the other half as it was in 80 AD – it features gladiators, chariots, rabid animals, spectators and modern touches too including tourists, ice-cream stalls and the Popemobile. But what about the CATS? With 200 of Rome’s 300,000 stray cats living happily in the real Colosseum, here we’re only allowed a solitary white moggie in the grounds of the complex.

Lonely white crouching cat

Maybe the replica’s Australian creator Ryan McNaught is not a cat person? Woody Allen certainly isn’t and considers entering a petshop a fate much worse than death. Personally, I’d have preferred more Colosseum in his film, imagining his recreation of the famous lobster scene from Annie Hall, with the neurotic director handing the cat wrangling over to Dianne Keaton. I would have happily assisted as I’m almost an apprentice “gattara” (Italian woman who regularly feeds Colosseum cats) in my co-fostering role for two desexed ginger orphan lovelies near my house. A phone call asking me “What’s New Pussycat” would suffice.

In the meantime, I’m coveting this lovely silk ‘Cats in the Colosseum’ scarf. (Available from Amazon for only $39 – and on my Christmas wishlist.)

‘The Colosseum’ exhibition continues at the Nicholson Gallery, Sydney University until January 2013.

For lovers of musical theatre, Stephen Sondheim’s Tony-award winning romp ‘A Funny Thing happened on the Way to the Forum’ is playing in Melbourne in October and November. 


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