After Nightfall Season 2, Episode 6

After last week’s episode and a stiff drink, Episode 6 is upon us and the drama, in a lot of ways, has come to a head. I’d be lying if I said this was my favourite episode so far, but it definitely has two of my favourite moments of the series!

Episode 6 opens where Episode 5 left off, with Angela attending the crime scene of Brad’s murder. Coroner Wendy is back, and they wonder out loud whether it’s the same killer who got Troy and Simon. It’s could be, but there’s a few key differences. Troy was strangled (although it’s been confirmed by the creators that the same person killed Simon), and Simon was stabbed twice, while Brad unfortunately got more than 20. But Wendy still says it’s possible. And there’s also a chance they might be next.

Is the series hinting that Quintin might not have killed Troy? Did he just go after Brad in an attempt to regain some sort of control after what Colin said to him? He’s not off my suspect list, because there’s a good chance he did it. But the truth might not be so black and white. Also, the McLeavey name is literally all over this. The first place the cops are going to look is that family, because Colin is the real estate agent. There’s no hiding from that fact. Colin could very well be implicated for this murder. In fact, he already is because of the crime scene. Here’s hoping Brad’s time of death proves Colin couldn’t have done it.

Speaking of which, Renee has arrived at the interrogation room to represent Colin against a highly cynical Zara, who despite having no hard evidence, declares her mission to prove Colin’s guilt. Neither Renee nor Colin are taking kindly to these accusations, but least impressed of all is none other than Troy himself. We saw last week he’s now able to physically throw things, and in this case he’s turned his attention to a stack of papers on Zara’s desk. We don’t see what happens next, but Colin talking to Troy like this is sure to raise a few eyebrows.

Meanwhile, Hayden’s come round to visit the McLeaveys, and Justine discovers her husband has been keeping more secrets from her (opening the iPad, Troy’s phone, working with Hayden etc). I think Justine’s about reached her breaking point, and justifiably so. Especially now Colin’s been released and hasn’t come home straight away. I really feel for Justine, probably more than almost any other character (except Nathan of course). She’s been through so much and arguably she’s dealing with everything on her own, even more so now she’s found out at least part of what Isobel’s been up to. Someone get that woman a martini.

The episode hasn’t even reached the halfway point. Oscar’s returned to his bookstore to find the place ransacked, and Kobie is waiting for him. Oscar’s pleas fall on deaf ears, and what follows is a brutal beating involving a bike chain. Oscar may be dead now, but the cardinal rule is that if a character doesn’t die on screen, they don’t really die. So until that’s confirmed, I think Oscar is going to stick around for a little bit longer.

Over at the park, Dave is with Quintin and Leanne, waiting for potential new clients. Quintin is restless (!) and Amaia is suspiciously absent.
A trio of university students/drug dealers arrive (Elijah, Sasha and Xander, according to the credits) along with their new head of security….Ryan. I wonder who could have predicted that. Obviously Dave is…less than thrilled and attempts to call the deal off. Sasha and Xander seem genuinely shocked at this, but Elijah appears to know the history already. Oh, and Ryan’s pulled a gun on everyone now. I’m sure this won’t end with any bloodshed whatsoever.

Sarcasm

And now we’re at the moment I’ve been chomping at the bit to see. The escape attempt from conversion camp. It…doesn’t go well. It seems the powers that be knew about the plans (I guess the guards did overhear them. Sad face). Most of the kids are dragged back…except Nathan and Yardley. Not going to lie, I almost lost it when they got away. Nothing good is waiting for those who didn’t escape, but at least my boys managed to get out. That’s something, and something big. Thank everything on God’s green earth. Yes, I realise it’s a fictional story. Yes, I realise it’s a web series and they aren’t the main characters. I know all that, and I don’t care. They are out and that’s all that matters to me. Sorry Troy. Still love you.

Finally, we’re at the main event. Colin, Viv, Ursula and Narelle have decided enough’s enough and they’re going to hold a seance. As Colin says, it’s time to find out the truth. What I know about seances could fit on the head of a pin so I can’t comment on the accuracies, but what I do know is this scene is one of absolute beauty. The atmosphere builds perfectly, the ambience is set, and Troy appears. He’s now able to touch his father, and speak to him. What follows is easily the most impressive sequence (from an editing point of view) in After Nightfall thus far.

We see a rapid succession of flashbacks to Troy’s last day alive. And yes, I am the obsessive who slowed it down and gleaned each frame for potential clues.

So here they are.

– Troy wakes up.
– There’s the breakfast scene we saw a glimpse of in the season 1 finale.
– Troy is talking to Oscar
– Justine answers the door
– Ryan walks away from Leanne
– Troy runs into Nathan
– Back to the breakfast scene?
– Troy walks to school with Hayden
– Dave is in his car
– Troy sits with Xavier and Grace
– Troy is walking through bushland and appears to come across a tryst between…two men. On first glance it seems to be Wesley and someone else. Someone with dark hair. Someone who at first glance MIGHT be Xavier, but definitely don’t quote me on that. I’m not sure. But surely that wouldn’t be the reason Troy was killed?

Episode 6 ends on a tantalising cliffhanger, probably the best one yet, and there’s no violence, no death, no explosive action. It’s just a father sharing a moment with the ghost of his son.

And this, THIS is why I love After Nightfall.

There’s a great balance between action and stillness. It knows when to let the characters breathe and have a quiet moment. It knows exactly how much action is needed and above all, it’s about the story and characters. And every single scene plays a part in the narrative. Especially considering the micro budget, small crew and limited timeframe they had to work with…it’s just phenomenal what this series has done. There’s really no other word for it. And I mean that sincerely.

Episode 7 promises to be a flashback episode to the day of Troy’s murder. We’ve had a tiny preview, so we have some idea of what to expect. I hope we get some answers to a few questions like Troy’s relationship with Nathan and why Wesley is so beaten up. But more than that, I hope we learn more about Troy, because he’s been quite the enigma this whole journey.

I don’t know what will happen next, but I know one thing for sure. We’re about to find out who killed Troy McLeavey.

After Nightfall Season 2, Episode 5

Oh. My. God.

W.T.F

I may or may not have needed to down a glass of rosé after last night’s episode. Because I did not see that ending coming. And naturally, I’m here to write about it. There’s a lot to go through in this episode and some tantalising theories to spin, so pour yourself a glass and let’s get right into it.

Episode 5 opens with our friendly neighbourhood drug dealer Dave seemingly contemplating his recent decline, when Leanne shows up. And before I go on, I have to say, I do feel bad I’ve not given actor David Woodland the praise he deserves for his solid performance. So here it is now. He’s wonderful in this role. He sells the danger of this man while also imbibing him with a humanity not often seen with this type of character. This is also down to the writing, but the performance is great regardless. That’s really one of the main strengths of After Nightfall, as I said back in my very first review. The moments we see the characters are short, but the power of the writing and the acting is able to get across a lot with very little. But that’s also an advantage of film as opposed to live theatre.
Anyhow, Leanne shows up and she’s done with the icy reception she’s been getting since Dave discovered her infidelity. She wants to know what she can do to be forgiven, but he’s not sure there’s anything she can do. A feeling I understand all too well.

Next, one of the juiciest scenes in the episode. A big call, I know, but I’m making it anyway for reasons you’ll soon understand.
Hayden shares his suspicions of Wesley (still calling that as a red herring) with Grace and Xavier, and this is where things get VERY interesting.
See, Grace points out something that had actually been bothering me since Season 1. When she and Xavier found Troy’s body, what made them look in the ditch?
Troy’s phone ringing.
And then, Kobie mysteriously got hold of it. Later, they caught him burying the phone where Troy’s body was. Grace rightly wonders how he got hold of it. She suspects maybe the police gave it to him, but we know that can’t be the case; they’ve been looking for it the entire time. Someone else gave it to him, and from the music, the shifty eyes and the camera angle, that person has to be Xavier. Think about it. He’s literally the only one who could have done it. The only question is why? And to that, I have literally no idea. Maybe something to do with Oscar? He did say in season 1 episode 5 Oscar stares at him…

The scene cuts to my beloved Nathan at conversion camp. And this is where I will mildly celebrate the fact that one of my theories has turned out to be correct. Nathan, Yardley, Daisy and two other camp members Finn and Tess (who shares a surname with Leanne. Coincidence?) have joined forces and decided they’re going to try and escape. Next week, we’ll see if they’re successful or not. And I hope to heaven they are. But I’m wondering, did those guards overhear them?

The episode is far from over. Oscar is confronted by an enraged Kobie, and just barely manages to get away. Somehow I don’t think this is over. And I really doubt Oscar is going to survive beyond this season. It’ll be incredible if he survives before the finale.

Meanwhile, at the McLeavey household, Justine discovers the money Isobel’s stolen. But before she can ground her til the age of 18, Zara and Angela arrived with a search warrant…and Brenda.
Brenda claims Troy told her he put his phone and iPad in the kitchen drawer, which she saw Colin do in the last episode. Zara finds it, and after berating Angela for not searching thoroughly in the initial sweep, Colin is taken to the station for questioning.
Since Nathan’s parents and the conversion camp leaders haven’t shown up for me to hate this episode, I shall focus my wrath on Brenda here with no shame whatsoever. What the hell is your problem, lady? You’re so desperate to seem credible you’ll get an innocent man arrested? Sure, Colin’s no angel and he wasn’t polite last week, but why should he be polite to someone who profits off exploiting and scamming grieving families? And it’s not just him, Colin’s not the only one affected by this. Justine’s been through more than anyone should and Isobel may be a scheming little brat but she’s still a kid. Holy hell this woman is a piece of work.
But as Colin is being taken out, Troy appears, causing a chair to fall. Narelle was right. His strength is building.

With bombshell after bombshell, this should be the end of episode 5, right? Haha, no.
The biggest twist of all is coming, in a house Colin is selling for his real estate job. Huh. I picked him more for an accountant. But no matter. Brad arrives, and who should be there waiting for him but Quintin. And he’s come prepared. We have our third death on the show. First Troy, then Simon, and now Brad. I guess that means we can cross him off the suspect list.

Quintin has been on many viewer’s suspect list, including my own, but now we’ve actually seen him kill someone. And he’s clearly premeditated this. He wears gloves to prevent fingerprints. He’s laid down plastic on the floor. It’s almost like he’s done this before….
There’s a massive amount of evidence here. Quintin has a background you could describe as ‘shady’. He reacted to the news of Troy’s murder by angrily kicking a chair, but he hasn’t really seemed overly torn up about it. His father told him last week he wished he’d been the one murdered instead of Troy. He works for his criminal uncle. When Dave was named a suspect, he instantly said “That’s bullshit!” He was in the area where Troy’s body was found, around the time the body was left there. He’s physically strong enough to overpower his brother, and he’s old enough to drive. He obviously attended Troy’s funeral. He knows how police investigations work. He knows how to conceal evidence, and Simon was also stabbed to death. We also know Simon had some kind of deal going on with Troy’s killer, and Dave’s gang had Brad on the payroll.

Did Quintin kill Troy? It certainly seems that way, but this is After Nightfall, and there’s 3 episodes left. Troy was strangled, not stabbed, and there’s definitely a number of people who could have been responsible. But still. This is not going to go unnoticed. A second police officer dead, and in a house attached to the McLeavey name? I think Colin needs to watch out, because there’s every chance he’ll be tied to this murder.

This is yet another episode showing the advancement the series has made this season. The music, the camera shots, the locations, the effects budget, the performances, everything has stepped up to the next level. The story is continuing, not rehashing or falling into the trap of writing without an endgame in sight. You can tell every scene is important in the overall arc. Every single moment is racing towards something, and now it’s full steam ahead on all fronts. It’s a remarkable achievement and everyone involved should be commended for what they’ve done.

I need hardly remind everyone that Season 1 had six episodes, so this time last season we were almost at the end. Here, we have 3 episodes left, and a huge amount of stories to tie up. There’s questions that need answering, and characters that need closure. If I’m honest, part of me is wondering how this is going to be accomplished in such a short amount of time, especially with no guarantee of a third season, which would have a new storyline. But I have confidence that whatever happens in the final three episodes, it’ll be worth the ride we’ve been on, and I’ll be here to write about every moment. Because if there’s one thing After Nightfall deserves, it’s to be talked about. And I’m going to give them that.

 

After Nightfall Season 2, Episode 4

We are officially halfway through the season. Have we all taken a deep breath after last night’s episode? Good. Because holy hell, was that dramatic.

Let’s begin with the elephant in the room. Colin. Specifically, his encounter with Quintin and Dave. Oh Colin, why?

“I wish it was you instead of Troy!”

The entire scene leading up to that explosion, I was suspecting Colin may say something to that effect. But all the same I was going “Don’t say it. Don’t say it.” And he said it. I don’t blame Quintin for reacting the way he did. And I never thought I’d see the day, but I’m with Dave when he says “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
This isn’t like the unforgivable scene from The Cursed Child where something very similar is said between a parent and child and it’s completely out of nowhere and out of character. I don’t like what Colin says to his son, but this scene actually works. Even leaving aside the impressive performances, this argument is justified, and Quintin isn’t exactly innocent either. He doesn’t deserve to hear what he hears from Colin, but he fans the flames.
At acting school, one of the best teachers/directors/performers in the business told my class, If something is well written, none of the characters are completely right. What does this mean in terms of our scene? Well, obviously Colin is very wrong for wishing Quintin had been murdered and saying it to his face. But Quintin is wrong for a) saying he wishes Colin wasn’t his father and b) continuing to work with Dave. And of course Dave is a criminal, but in this case he’s actually the voice of reason. I’m glad this scene was added because Colin is far from a saint. He’s a very grief-stricken man, but he’s completely absorbed in his own world. He seems to have forgotten he’s not the only one suffering because of Troy. Yes, emotions are all over the place but come on, Colin.
Let’s just forget for a moment that either Quintin or Dave could have killed Troy. Dave rightly points out Quintin has lost his brother. Troy was more than just Colin’s son. And this is something we’ve seen already with Justine (and has he even talked to Isobel about it?), which is further cemented when Colin goes into the house only to find Brenda.

It seems I was correct in my theory that Brenda is a fraud. Yay. Colin is completely justified in his anger towards her, because scammers like Brenda do exist especially in high-profile cases. They take advantage of desperate families so it was great to see her thrown out the way she was. Full props to actor Felicity Burke for selling the character so well.
But in saying that, I feel for Justine here (although I’m at a loss to why she was seemingly open to Brenda’s claims while dismissing her husband’s!). She’s trying to find something to cling to, anything at all, and Colin’s sole focus is finding Troy’s killer. Again, a completely understandable goal. But at the expense of neglecting your family’s feelings? That’s where the shades of grey come in. Good to know Colin isn’t going to be portrayed as some kind of Messiah figure.

Ok, ok, I’ve spent enough time on the first three minutes and forty seconds. Moving on to the next act. Zara is out for a jog and runs into Ursula and Viv. And do I detect the hints of a spark between the local tarot reader and the new sergeant? We know Zara recently ended a relationship, we know she’s of the LGBTQIA community, and there’s been no mention of Ursula’s sexuality (not that this has any bearing on whether the character is good or not). Could this be leading to something more? Though ethically, it would be a tricky subject. Conflict of interest and all.

Meanwhile we see Ryan has returned (somehow injury-free despite Leanne saying Dave nearly killed him) and wants Leanne to join him in his new life. But Leanne is afraid for hers if she left Dave. Definitely true for many people in violent relationships. Though we’ve never seen Leanne in any kind of physical danger from Dave, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine him going there. We’ve seen his temper in action. I may loathe cheaters, both in the real and fictional world, but I have to admit, there was a twinge of sympathy for her here. This storyline is definitely going to have an explosive climax.

At the hospital, Faye’s claim that she doesn’t remember her attack isn’t fooling anybody, least of all Angela. But Kobie now knows what Oscar has done. I’m not sure Oscar is going to get out of this season alive now. No joke. Also, that baby was adorable.

On the way to school the next day, Hayden confronts Wesley over his injuries. Wesley claims it was a bike accident, but Hayden doesn’t believe this. Since Wesley hasn’t been at school since the accident, the day Troy was murdered, it’s obvious he thinks they’re from Troy defending himself.
Nice and realistic touch, but Wesley has only just been introduced this season. He was never even mentioned throughout season 1. To have Wesley be the killer would be a stretch of Elastigirl proportions, plus Wayne Tunks has gone on the record saying the killer played Season 1 knowing they did it. My hope is that if this is a red herring, and I’m 110% sure it is, Wesley serves a greater purpose than just someone for Hayden to suspect. I don’t believe his wounds were from stacking it on his bike at all. I still think Kobie was involved in that because of the blood soaked shirt from Season 1.

Finally, we’re back at conversion camp where Nathan’s parents have been brought in for family counselling. Nathan’s told he’s nowhere near being cured, but if I had to hazard a guess, it seems Pat might not be as big on this idea as Ed. She’s clearly upset at her son’s sexuality, but her reaction when Nathan was abducted in Season 1 adds some weight to the idea that she isn’t entirely without reason. She shows concern when Nathan tells them about the shock therapy and Daisy’s situation, and the fact that Peter and Melinda don’t immediately deny this should raise a red flag. But then again, if she’s ok to send Nathan to conversion therapy at all there’s not a lot she can do to redeem herself. As for Ed, he’s a lost cause. I don’t care if he turns out to be Jesus. Nothing is ever going to make me like his character.
And if anybody is interested as to why I’m so fixated on Nathan and his storyline, I’ll reveal something without naming names. Nathan reminds me of someone very dear to me. My best friend in high school, who I’m still very close with, was very nearly sent to one of these horrendous places after his parents discovered he was gay by going through his phone. Thankfully he wasn’t, but it was a terrifying two weeks of not being able to contact him in any way. So that’s why Nathan evokes such strong reactions with me.

This episode feels different. There’s a spark in terms of the drama, and a shift that things are only going to get more crazy from here. The fire has been lit. Let’s see how much it will burn. Though if I’m honest, the only thing I want to see burn down is that camp.

After Nightfall. Questions, theories, suspects, clues!

I’ve done it. I’ve rewatched the entire first season, and the first three episodes of After Nightfall. Ahead of  Season 2 Episode 4 airing tomorrow, here’s a detailed look at our suspects, questions that need to be answered, theories on what’s to come, and clues you may have missed!

Season 1

Episode 1

  • As the episode opens, we see Quintin, Dave and Ryan appear to be in the area near where Troy was found. Is this a coincidence, or could they have just dumped Troy’s body?
  • In Kobie’s first appearance, Kobie is seen breaking into a car, but there’s no blood on his shirt. His timeline of that night is clearly unfinished.
  • As Ursula reads the tarot cards, Viv’s reaction indicates she knows something has happened.  Possibly she sees Troy for the first time? I freely admit to knowing literally nothing about tarot, but I’m sure the Tower card is significant.

Episode 2

  • The pathologist says Troy was killed around five hours earlier, and he’d been moved. So that would put Dave’s gang in the right place at the right time.
  • When Dave is on the phone, Leanne seems nervous. Dave only says “My nephew’s dead,” and Leanne responds ‘Troy?” Red flag or red herring? How did she immediately know it was Troy and not Quintin? However, it’s possible she knew Quintin was the one on the phone because he’s so deeply involved in Dave’s drug ring. Still, her reaction to Dave’s rage can’t be coincidental.
  • Kobie is seen washing blood from his shirt. It can’t be Troy’s, because he was strangled. And it wasn’t on his shirt when we first saw him, so whoever’s it was, it happened after his first scene when he broke into the car. And my money’s on Wesley. He’s the only character who’s had an injury consistent with that sort of bleeding, and with the timeline of Troy’s funeral being in the same week, that adds up.
  • Oscar is looking at the news sites of Troy’s death. Why would he be looking at these? He’s clearly concerned that his disturbing predatory behaviour will be discovered during any kind of investigation. Could there be more than just that? While it might be too obvious that Oscar did it, I’m not quite ready to strike him off the suspect list yet.

Episode 3

  • The iPad needs to be explained at some point. As I said before, why would Troy leave it there if it was so important? There was a huge focus on the iPad in Season 1. If this adds up to nothing, I’m not going to be very happy. Troy led his father to it, so there has to be something there.
  • Why does Isobel have a stash of money in her room and where did she get that much?
  • Kobie wasn’t surprised that Troy was dead. Clearly, he knew already. Did he come across the body or did he have something to do with it? I’d like to think not because that would be far too simple an explanation. And if it did turn out to be Kobie, I think a lot of us would feel ripped off. There has to be a better twist than that.
  • Oscar says the news site said Troy’s body was found without his bag or phone. This doesn’t seem like the kind of thing journalists are typically able to report, especially in the first few hours. How did he know this?
  • Viv knows Oscar isn’t to be trusted. She might not be able to say much, but she’s very perceptive.

Episode 4

  • What exactly happened between Nathan and Troy? Why did that relationship end? Was Nathan worried about his parents finding out? Still doesn’t seem enough reason to kill Troy over.
  • When did Kobie get hold of Troy’s phone and why? Was it before or after he was dead? I’d assume after, since he obviously knew what happened.
  • Troy was angry that Hayden gave the tip off about Dave’s drug circle. That explains why Hayden and Troy weren’t speaking that day. Probably found out while walking to school together.
  • Why does Isobel film Ryan and Leanne? How did she know about the affair? But we may have an answer as to where she got her money from. I think she’s been swiping it from Dave. As she searches the shed, she says “Where’s the money gone?” And technical question, how on earth did they not see her filming them?

Episode 5

  • Could Nathan’s parents have had something to do with Troy’s death? If they’re willing to pack their son off to a torture camp anything’s possible. Also, strangulation indicates that Troy’s murder may have been on impulse rather than premeditation. We’ve heard almost nothing from Pat Kelty so far, but she was very quick to say Nathan wasn’t involved.
  • In the final scene, you can see Troy speak to Viv. I’m no lip reader but I can tell he uses the words “…killed me”. Viv’s reaction suggests that Troy may very well have just revealed his killer to her. But I’m a little skeptical, because she really can’t communicate sufficiently with anyone. If I was killed, came back as a ghost and could communicate with people, you better believe I’d be snitching first thing.

Episode 6

  • It may open with a dream, but we can start piecing the timeline together. Troy and Hayden walked to school together that morning, where he and Hayden likely had an argument over Hayden’s tip off. That’s probably how Troy ended up alone, and likely not long before he was killed.
  • If I had to take an educated guess, I’d say Isobel stole the phone to send the video to Dave, so he wouldn’t recognise the number. But why she did this at all is a complete mystery.
  • Why did Kobie bury Troy’s phone where the body was found?
  • Oscar’s horrified reaction to what he’s done to Faye indicates that he’s not as violent as we’ve been led to believe. But he certainly has a temper, and a tendency to lash out.
  • Troy’s killer also killed Simon, who seemed to have some sort of corrupt arrangement with them. Also, we know the killer is old enough to drive.

Season 2

Episode 1

  • Zara is tough as nails, and carrying a lot of anger. Why is this?
  • What’s Wesley’s role in the story and how did he get injured? I suspect Kobie, but I could be wrong.
  • We know Viv lost a child because Colin mentioned it in episode 5. I think Kate will be important later on.
  • Colin’s aunt Narelle is likely going to play a role in finding Troy’s killer, since she shares the family gift.
  • This is likely just a coincidence, but funeral attendee Harper Smith shares the same last name as Yardley, Nathan’s love interest. Hmmm.
  • Troy’s strength is building. Does this mean he’ll soon be able to talk to Colin?
  • If Troy’s killer is at the funeral, that REALLY cuts down the suspect list (I think we can safely assume the new characters of Season 2 weren’t involved!) leaving us with Colin, Justine, Isobel, Quintin, Viv, Dave, Margie, Pat, Kobie, Hayden, Grace, Xavier, Ursula. Apparently Oscar was meant to make an appearance but the actor was unavailable.
    I’ll leave a list of the suspects down below and whether or not I think they could have done it, but this is huge.

Episode 2

  • I’d love to see more about Zara and what makes her tick. She’s one of the most interesting characters in Season 2, and that’s saying a lot.
  • Will Maddie be able to tell Kobie what really happened to Faye? Or is she too young and traumatised by what she saw?
  • For reasons I discussed last week, I firmly believe Brenda is a fraud.
  • Now that Hayden and Colin are working together, what’s going to happen? Is Colin going to wind up in trouble with the law for taking matters into his own hands?

Episode 3

  • Brad is off Dave’s payroll. And does his comment “I’ll be forced to tell (Zara) what you’ve been up to” mean more than just the drug dealing? Either way, Dave no longer has a shield to hide behind. This can’t end well.
  • Why does Angela have this drinking problem? And what exactly is the nature of her relationship with her ex-husband?
  • We see a softer side to Zara in this episode. Could her tough exterior merely be a coverup? And she’s a fan of tarot, so that could be a help or a hindrance.
  • I believe there’s going to be some kind of revolt/escape attempt at the camp. Nathan should have no shortage of allies to help him, and what he’s already gone through is motivation enough, let alone his new roommate Daisy.
  • Oscar is seeming less likely to have killed Troy. He sure is a coward, but his terror and denial seemed genuine. However, he’s a skilled liar.
  • Faye has woken up. What does she remember?

Now, we must ask the question,

Who Killed Troy McLeavey?

  • We know it can’t be Colin because he can see Troy, as the creators have confirmed.
  • It can’t be Viv because she can see Troy and her severe disability makes it impossible.
  • I highly doubt Isobel was involved because she’s so small. How could she possibly overpower Troy? Also, we know Troy’s killer can drive, and while Isobel may be a devious little brat, I highly doubt she can pull that one off.
  • I don’t think it was Justine because of how distraught she is.
  • As for Quintin, he’s done nothing to really alleviate my suspicion. He’s always been in trouble, according to Justine, and he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. Could he have killed Troy? He certainly has the physical ability, the means and the opportunity. But he’s still Troy’s brother, so it’s not so simple.
  • Ursula I’m honestly not sure about but from what we’ve seen of her, why would she do something that would rip her family apart?
  • Hayden appears to be off the list. He loved Troy too much and the texts he sent indicate he wasn’t aware Troy was dead. Also, Colin is working with him, so Hayden seems unlikely.
  • Unlikely to be Grace or Xavier. Grace found the body and why would Xavier suggest a tryst in the area where he dumped a body if he’d done it?
  • It can’t be Faye. She’s pregnant.
  • I REALLY hope it’s not Kobie because that would be an infuriatingly obvious solution, and so far the series has strongly hinted he wasn’t actively involved.
  • It can’t be Nathan. He’s stuck at the camp, and honestly he just seems too gentle for that kind of violence. I know, I know, I’m biased because he’s my favourite character. But still!
  • It can’t be Angela. She recognised Troy when she arrived at the crime scene.
  • It can’t have been Simon. He was murdered by Troy’s killer and that would make for a phenomenally stupid way out.
  • What motivation could Margie have for killing her son’s boyfriend? I never thought she was likely but appearances can be deceiving.
  • Were the Keltys involved? They had a motivation, and the cutaway to Pat at Troy’s funeral when Narelle said Troy has unfinished business can’t mean nothing. Especially with what they’ve done to Nathan.
  • Dave’s gang seem to have been in the area around the time Troy’s body was abandoned there.
  • Brad might have been involved. We know he’s corrupt, and he seems genuinely concerned about Zara’s vow to change the local force.
  • Leanne and Ryan have been acting very suspiciously throughout the series. They are firmly on the list of suspects. Is it possible Troy caught them together and he had to be silenced?

So, what do you think? Did I miss anything? Who do you think killed Troy? The answers are on the way, but there’s still time to speculate. Let me know in the comments, and watch out for my review of episode 4!

After Nightfall Season 2 Episode 3

Spoilers are below with no shame whatsoever.

While I’m well aware that After Nightfall doesn’t name their episodes, if the creators can give me the rather awesome nickname ‘Superfan’,  I can name inanimate web series. I’m calling this installment Momentum, for reasons that will soon become dazzlingly clear.

We open on a hilariously upbeat dinner with Dave, Quintin, Amaia and Leanne (who’s still not popular), when Brad enters and announces he’s out of the deal. Apparently he’s more afraid of Zara than Dave (hehe) and nobody is pleased about this.

On the other side of town (possibly?)  Angela has been drinking again and gone to visit her ex husband. Their interaction is…how can I put this? If this was a rom-com I’d be predicting a reunion. Jokes aside, there’s a history here. And whether or not we learn anything about it remains to be seen. But for the record, I’d like to know more.

Meanwhile a devastated Hayden is compiling a suspect list complete with motivations, and Zara visits Ursula for a tarot card reading. Apparently her new job isn’t going to be as easy as she thinks (I wonder who could have predicted that?).

At conversion camp we see with great relief (or was that just me?) that Nathan appears to have survived his shock “treatment” relatively unscathed. OK, physically he seems alright but psychologically? That’s season 3 AND the epilogue. But he has a new roommate, a terrified young girl named Daisy. And no, you’re not imagining the double meaning behind the words “Enjoy your new roommate!” Please God, let the kids revolt or escape or something. This conversion camp is sickening and the fact that they exist in the real world is beyond horrifying.

In the last episode Justine was visited by Brenda, a TV psychic who claims Troy sent her. And I am immediately calling BS for several reasons.

1. She claims Troy is talking to her. Troy hasn’t even talked to his Dad. He did say a few words to Viv in Episode 5 of Season 1 but that’s literally it and we never heard them.

2. We can’t see Troy in this scene, yet she says Troy is there. Whenever Troy’s ghost is there we sure as hell know about it.

3. From the production photos we saw while Season 2 was being filmed, there’s going to be a seance. And Brenda is nowhere to be seen. But we did get an image of Troy glaring at her while she’s apparently talking to Colin in what I assume is next weeks episode. Call me an obsessive overanalyser but this is what I think. I guess we’ll see what happens next.

And now comes the moment we were waiting for. Colin finally confronts Oscar, but is interrupted by a frantic text from Isobel. And finally, Faye wakes up in the hospital.

Why do I call this episode Momentum? Because the build up is reaching breaking point. There’s a new sergeant who knows what she’s doing and wants to crack down on corruption. Dave’s gang no longer has any shield from the police. Hayden and Colin have teamed up and they’re not going to back down. That much is clear. There’s nothing more powerful than someone with nothing left to lose, and Colin fits that description to a T. He’s not going to tolerate timewasters and he won’t let anything stand in his way.  Nathan has potential allies at the camp and if they work together, as I highly suspect they will, they have a chance to get out. There’s still so much we don’t know about Isobel, Leanne, Wesley and the rest of the McCleaveys. That includes Troy. Oscar has been exposed to several people now, and with Faye regaining consciousness I can’t see any way out for him. Mystery upon mystery, so many subplots in a very complicated story that need to be resolved.

Which is why before next week’s episode, I’m going to be doing an interlude blog. This will be a cohesive, in-depth look at the suspects, clues and potential red herrings. So dear readers, if you don’t mind I will leave you here as I have to go re-watch the entire series so far. Poor me.

Although before I go, there’s one tiny thing I wish we’d gotten in this episode. And that’s Colin giving Oscar a black eye. Regardless of whether he’s the killer or not, the guy is a complete freak of nature. I would have been just fine with that. But with that said, we have five more episodes to go and I’m sure at least one punch will be thrown by the end.

After Nightfall Season 2, Episodes 1 & 2

Warning: Graphic content. Also, plenty of spoilers abound in the following. Proceed at your own risk.

Clearly, Troy’s ghost and I need to have a serious talk.

The first season of After Nightfall has been, in a word, successful. It’s won more awards around the world than you can poke a stick at, and now we’re back with season 2, which has more episodes, more characters, and a bigger budget thanks to a crowd funding campaign. All these combine into making Season 2 look like it’s going to be even better than Season 1, if you can believe it!

First a quick recap (or you can read my review of Season 1 by clicking here, here, here, here and here)

In the season 1 finale, Colin managed to unlock Troy’s iPad. Nathan and Yardley were caught kissing at conversion camp, with the Naylor couple promising to ‘step up’ therapy. Dave discovered Leanne’s affair thanks to Isobel. Hayden, Grace and Xavier found Kobie burying Troy’s phone where his body was discovered. A heavily pregnant Faye was attacked and seriously injured by Oscar. And lead detective Simon was murdered by Troy’s killer.

Episode 1 opens with a new character. Zara is the new sergeant at the station, and we meet her as she’s leaving her distraught partner. Instantly, you know this is not a woman you want to cross. She means business.

But the main feature of this episode is Troy’s funeral, and Angela is convinced the killer is among the mourners. While we don’t see any of the service, it doesn’t matter. This setting is a perfect way to introduce several new characters. Being added to the roll call is Colin’s sister Renee McCleavey (who is at odds with mum Viv), Colin’s Aunt Narelle who shares the family ESP gene, Angela’s ex-husband Ian, and mysterious school student Wesley, who has obviously come off worse in a fight. There’s also mention of another McCleavey sibling. Kate. This can be no coincidence, given that Colin asked Viv in Season 1 how she coped with losing a child. I think Kate might be appearing in some way sooner or later. Red herrings are a given in a murder mystery, but there’s one thing Wayne Tunks doesn’t do and that’s gratuitous plot holes. Thank God.

(P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, a certain Harper Smith appears at Troy’s funeral. You may recognise the actor. She knows nothing other than the two pages of the script from that day!)

Inside the church, Troy’s ghost stands by his casket, seen by Viv, Colin and Narelle, who tells Colin that Troy has unfinished business. I quite agree.
Also, shout out to the beautiful music performed by the multi-talented Kristina Benton, who plays Ursula in the series!

Moving on to Episode 2, and Troy continues to linger. Sort of a strange thing to comment on, but massive props to the makeup artist for adding the strangulation marks on Troy’s neck. A very effective touch!

We cut to the park, where Sergeant Zara confronts Brad and Angela, both drinking off-duty. She promises there’s going to be a lot of changes, including a crackdown on corruption. And from the look she gives Brad, I’d say she’s onto him. Good. Barbara Gouskos give a very powerful performance in the few minutes she’s been on screen. I’m very keen to see what her character is all about, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find there’s more to her than meets the eye.

Meanwhile, Kobie hounds his little sister for information on Faye’s attacker, but she’s not telling anything yet. Which, honestly, given her age and what she witnessed makes perfect sense. I’m just wondering why she hasn’t been interviewed by the authorities, yet, but the season is still young!

Over at Dave’s, we meet Amaia, the newest member of Dave’s gang. Leanne is still around, but Dave’s justifiably giving her the cold shoulder. And currently there’s no word on Ryan, but I’d be surprised if he still has a face at this point.

Justine’s anger at her husband is growing by the second, and then there’s an unexpected visitor to the McCleavey household. It’s Brenda, a TV psychic who claims she’s been speaking with Troy. Cue the eye roll. And it seems Colin will be the character we follow most in Season 2. He heads to Hayden’s house and reveals the data on Troy’s iPad is corrupted. And this is where, as I said above, Troy and me need to talk.
I’m not entirely sure why he’d leave his damn iPad in the cubby house where water could get to it, and if the data is unreadable. I know, I know, it could be a red herring and there’s very likely going to be an explanation of why/how this happened. But still. Also, if I was killed (touch wood) and came back as a ghost, the first thing I’d do is snitch on the murderer. However, Narelle did say Troy’s strength was building, and I’m pretty sure I saw him name names to Viv in Episode 5, so who knows?

Anyhow, Colin has officially teamed up with Hayden, and is now in possession of Troy’s phone. I’m going to go out on a limb and say we can officially strike Hayden and Colin off the suspect list but to be perfectly honest, I never thought either of them was the killer. 

And finally, we return to conversion camp, where my beloved Nathan and Yardley are being subjected to…well, there’s really no other way to put this, torture. This is why I’ve added a content warning, and I have literally never done that on anything I’ve ever written, so you know I sure as hell mean it.

Nathan and Yardley are forced to view images of gay couples and given electric shocks to ‘train’ their sexuality. I won’t lie, this is a very difficult scene to watch, and it’s even worse when you know this sort of ‘treatment’ is very real. Not since Dolores Umbridge hopped her way into Harry Potter have I ever genuinely wished to strangle a character as much as I do Peter and Melinda in this scene. Holy hell I hope they get what’s coming to them. My hat is off to the actors for their bravery and honesty, as I can’t imagine this would have been easy to film. What on earth is going to happen next?

Season 2 of After Nightfall has really taken things to the next level in every way. The story is dense and building by the episode. The world is expanding and the established characters are developing further. The plot is moving forward in unexpected ways. The atmosphere is building like a pressure-cooker. Presumably thanks to the higher budget, the cinematography has stepped up from its already impressive look, including some great split screen shots of Troy, the use of slow motion, and creative camera angles.

It’s been more than a year since we last caught up with the McCleavey family, but from what has been delivered in these first two episodes, it’s been well worth the wait. We still have six episodes left, and the possibility of a third season, so hang on tight. It’s going to be quite the ride.

 

What’s in my rehearsal bag?

I confess. Every single time I pack a bag, I can hear my Grandma’s voice in my ear. “Abbie, you might need this…Abbie, you might need that…”
Between Grandma and my mother, the two most beautiful women I know, I always left the house with far more than I intended. But given that I’m now five years out of acting school and currently working on 3 different productions, there’s a fine art to what I need to take to a rehearsal/tech week. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list, as what you’ll need to pack will vary depending on what kind of show you’re doing. And by all means, if there’s any must-have items I’ve missed, feel free to add them to the comments below!

  1.  A bag big enough to hold everything.
    Personally, I use the Bloch Bagtastic Dance Bag. It’s not too big but holds so much. It has a mesh compartment, a wet pocket, an insulated pocket, and tons of internal compartments as well. It comes in a variety of colours. I chose purple because it’s my favourite colour and I accessorised it with a pointe show keyring.  Plus, it’s sturdy and will last a long time.
  2. Water Bottle
    Do I even need to explain this one? Keep hydrated. Make sure your bottle is a big one.
  3. Dance Shoes
    Admittedly this does depend on what you’re doing, but the most common is ballet/jazz/tap/chorus.  For ballet shoes, you’ll want to bring a sewing kit along. For the show I’m doing right now, I have to have chorus heels. And for the last show I did, I had foot wraps. 
  4. Your script, a highlighter and pencil, notebook
    Always useful to have your script and writing implements to mark cues, blocking and directorial notes.
  5. Headphones
    There’s usually downtime at rehearsals, so headphones are a great idea. I’m doing a musical right now and I use the time to go over my music and harmony lines.
  6. A Jacket
    Rehearsal rooms are either a furnace or a blizzard. It seems there’s no in between. So a jacket is very advisable.
  7. Snacks
    Do you really want to black out due to lack of sustenance?
  8. Thermos full of tea, and extra tea bags
    Recently, I spent several days in the recording studio, for the original cast soundtrack of the musical I’m in right now. The show is sung through with a total of 37 songs, and we were there til 1am some nights. 
    Without my thermos full of tea, my voice would have died. Thank the vocal gods for chamomile, honey and vanilla tea. That particular blend was calming and soothing. It was the only thing that prevented vocal fatigue and kept my vocal chords warm the entire time.
  9. Eucosteamer
    Like a lot of performers, I’m a slave to the Eucosteamer. It’s great for keeping your voice clear, especially if you’re sick and have to rehearse.
  10. Therabands
    These are great for stretching and warming up.
  11. Phone Charger
    Self explanatory. Either this or a portable battery. I carry both, Because tech week, am I right?
  12. Painkillers, Band-Aids, Allergy tablets, hand sanitiser
    Having a mini first-aid kit will save you more times than you can imagine. Someone will get hurt. Someone will have a headache. Someone will have allergies. This will minimise disruption.
  13. Deodorant and a towel/wipes
    Do you really want to be that person?
  14. Tissues
    Trust me, you do NOT want to get caught without these. 

Did I miss anything? What do you always take with you in the studio? Let me know in the comments!

Men may be angry. Women are furious.

The last week has been dominated by the Gillette ad about toxic masculinity causing “men’s rights activists” to flail around in meltdown mode. They’re angry at some perceived assault on males and masculinity. They blame feminazis for their emasculation because they can’t be nice to women anymore. Me Too is a witch hunt bent on ruining people’s lives. They’re angry because NOT ALL MEN. If only those hysterical women had a real man to shut her up or put her in her place. What’s happening to this PC world where snowflakes are causing a blizzard? It’s a scary time to be a man.

They’re angry.

Here’s something for those man-babies to chew on. They may be angry. But women? We’re furious.

We’re furious because every single day we live with the very real threat of assault and violence, evidenced yet again by the latest murder. How it pains me to write those words.

In case anyone is unsure of what toxic masculinity actually is, please take a few minutes to watch this rather brilliant video explaining. Don’t worry, it’s a man talking, not a hysterical woman too emotional to understand. Go ahead. Watch it. I’ll wait.

I promise it’s worth your time

Finished? Good. So we’re all on the same page about what toxic masculinity is. Now let’s talk about the senseless tragedy this week.

Aiia Maasarwe, 22 years old, deeply intelligent, on an exchange student program to La Trobe University in Melbourne. On her way home Tuesday night she was stalked, attacked and murdered. Her body was found metres from the tram stop. Many details are still unknown but it’s clear she was also sexually assaulted and the police have described the situation as “horrendous, horrific, random, opportunistic”. An arrest has been made, and given how quickly investigators have moved and asked so strongly for public help, the violence speaks for itself.

She was talking on the phone to her sister at the time. Just trying to get home. Doing nothing wrong. Simply targeted by a random man who saw her and felt entitled to satisfy his evil lust. Rape is never about sex. It’s about power. Domination. Anger. And further evidencing toxic masculinity, the MRAs/incels have derisively “joked” that maybe the offender should have watched the Gillette ad.

Excuse me while I go throw up.

If your first reaction to a woman being raped and killed is to wail “NOT ALL MEN DO THIS DON’T TAR US ALL WITH THE SAME BRUSH YOU BITCHES WANT TO DEMONISE MEN”, your priorities as a human being SUCK. If you’re more concerned about your own feelings that the women attacked all around the world, you are part of the problem. Make no mistake, this IS the reaction of many to Aiia Maasarwe’s case and countless others. Meninists who’ve been ‘red pilled’ and their nauseating female defenders have taken to their keyboards to play the victims and somehow make this and other acts of violence against women all about them. How egotistical. Usually these guys claim they have daughters, wives, mothers. They insist they’d always step in against sexism. But any woman will tell you, so often they don’t. In fact, they’ll laugh at the “joke” about her body. High five a mate. Join in with the wolf whistling. Egg each other on.

Even worse is when an offender is described as a “good bloke” or having had his life ruined by a mistake. There was no end to such nonsense in the Brock Turner case. He was portrayed as a promising swimmer, an aspiring Olympian. His family and friends wrote glowing character references, lamenting how his life was now forever altered, painting him as the real victim while not sparing one iota of thought for the young woman he assaulted behind a dumpster. Geoff Hunt of Lockhart who murdered his 41 year old wife and their three children aged 6, 8 and 10 before turning the gun on himself was sympathised with because of his wife’s disability. And in 2018 when a grandfather killed his wife, daughter and his four grandchildren was again applauded as a great guy. A Good Bloke doesn’t murder people in cold blood or from some delusion that its better this way. These men are not pushed into anything. They are not pressured. They do not snap. They make a choice to end lives which they have no right whatsoever to do.

Not, it is not all men who behave this way. But it’s enough of them who do and enough of them who stay silent.

It’s enough of them that one woman is killed every week by a current or former partner.

It’s enough that 1 in 5 Australian women have experienced sexual violence.

It’s enough that there were millions of #metoo hashtags around the world.

It’s enough that Dr Christine Blasey-Ford is still unable to return to work because of hate mail and vicious death threats after bravely testifying to the US Senate.

It’s enough that every single woman has at least one story of a time she was attacked, demeaned, threatened, made to feel unsafe. From a terrifyingly young age.
You know how old I was the first time I recall a man making me feel uncomfortable?

Five years old.

Maybe he didn’t mean it. Maybe he was just being nice. Maybe I overreacted. But I have never forgotten the squirming of my stomach when a grown male kissed my hand and spent the rest of the day hovering while I was trying to read.

I’ve been followed by strangers on the street. Sometimes in broad daylight. Shockingly common for women. And that’s just the times I’ve noticed it. It’s entirely possible that I’ve been followed and haven’t realised. I’ve been groped. Touched. Threatened. Leered at. Catcalled (started when I was wearing high school uniforms). Propositioned. Had my path blocked. Guys asking me for my number and not handling it when I said I wasn’t single (because guys usually respect women if they’re already ‘owned’ by a man). Responses range from “Doesn’t matter. You’ll give it to me anyway,” or the classic “What, your boyfriend doesn’t let you have friends?”). I know women who’ve been threatened when refusing to give their number. Or given a fake number only to have the guy immediately call it to make sure it’s real. People pressuring me to start dating again, berating me for not wanting to. Because it’s not like I have a choice or anything, right?

From pop culture to reality, women are urged to always be smiling, available, ready to throw ourselves at the feet of white knights who pay us ‘compliments’ in the form of harassment. Blamed for ‘friend zoning’ Mr Nice Guy. Give that creepy guy a chance but if he rapes you, why did you put yourself in that situation. Dress for the pleasure of men but you’re at fault for leading them on with your clothing. Don’t be so paranoid about men wanting to attack you but for God’s sake keep an eye on your drink, and don’t walk alone. Don’t be anywhere alone. Make eye contact because otherwise you’re a bitch but how dare you lead me on with politeness and basic human decency? Here’s my Nice Guy card with eight loyalty stamps. Let’s get into bed because you owe me. If you are raped or assaulted report it straight away because waiting even a moment means it’s all made up to get money and fame from some poor man who has so much to live for. But we still won’t believe you because you drank alcohol at 18 and once had consensual sex with another person. If you come forward later why didn’t you say something sooner? It can’t have been that bad. And make sure there’s plenty of witnesses but how are they reliable because of this feminist conspiracy against men? Don’t be a prude but don’t you dare have sex because that proves you’re a whore who was asking for it. Remember to keep yourself safe but how can you be so paranoid. Do absolutely everything you can to protect yourself but please don’t be obvious about it because the poor men have such fragile egos.

It’s toxic masculinity that means women have to constantly be aware of their surroundings and alter their schedule in the name of safety. It’s toxic masculinity that led Elliot Rodger to shoot 20 people because he felt entitled to sex. It’s toxic masculinity that means the worst way to insult a man is by calling him a girl. It’s toxic masculinity that I witnessed when a male customer reduced his 3 year old son to tears for wanting to play with a bug catching net at my old retail job (“You want to be a girl?!? You aren’t playing with girl toys!”). It’s toxic masculinity that means male victims of domestic violence and sexual assault are forgotten because women are too weak and pathetic to ever be a threat to anyone.

Women are tired. So are the truly good men out there who support females. I am tired. Devastated. Furious. We cannot live our lives without the threat of assault, violence and murder. Which we are then blamed for.

We know men are better than this. We know the the patriarchy hurts men too. But if we say it we’re hysterical man-hating feminazi snowflakes who don’t know what we’re talking about.

My heart is breaking for Aiia Maasarwe, her family and the other women who experience this kind of violence. She is now another name on a tragic list.

Virginia Morse. Anita Cobby. Samantha Knight. Sian Kingi. Janine Balding. Leigh Leigh. Leanne Holland. Karmein Chan. Sheree Beasley. Ebony Simpson. Karen McKenzie and her three children. Sarah Spiers, Jane Rimmer, Ciara Glennon. Lauren Barry and Nichole Collins. Maria Korp. Jill Meagher. Masa Vukotic. Stephanie Scott. Eurydice Dixon.

Men may be angry. But women are furious. And we aren’t going to stay quiet any longer.

Pre-Europe: Long Haul Flight Survival

It’s lucky for the world that long-haul flights aren’t an Olympic Sport. Australia would win hands down. I’m only in my 20s, but the longest single flight I’ve ever done was Sydney to Los Angeles in 2016, and that was 15 hours. For Europe, it was 8 hours Sydney to Hong Kong, a ten hour layover, then 13 hours Hong Kong to London. It was something I really needed to be much better prepared for, because on my first long haul flight to the States, I was naive and made just about every mistake you can possibly make on a long haul.

But not this time.

1. Be Organised

I always make sure I’ve finished packing by the time I go to bed the night before a trip, including my carry-on/personal item. For things I can’t pack til leaving for the airport (like my phone, charger, toothbrush etc) I write a list of these on a post-it note and stick it to my bag. That way I’ll never forget anything. 
Don’t forget to bring a pen for the immigration forms. Check online for luggage item and liquid restrictions/regulations to save yourself unnecessary stress, and weigh your luggage before checking in. And for the love of all that’s good and holy, NEVER PACK YOUR VALUABLES IN CHECKED LUGGAGE.

2. Dress Carefully

You never want to wear anything tight or restrictive, and there’s no need to dress to the nines. Stick to stretch fabrics and light, breathable fibres like cotton and wool. Remember that planes can get extremely cold, and the airline blankets are tissue-thin, so layering is your friend here. I’d also recommend slip on shoes for security.
My first 15 hour flight to America, I wore a fairly thin biker-style jacket, a tight tank top…and skinny jeans. The less you know about the results, the better. Suffice to say, you could have poured me into a bucket about halfway.

Having learned the error of my ways, my go-to long haul flight outfit NOW is stretch hybrid pants – AKA ponte pants. They’re thicker and warmer than leggings, but just as comfortable and look incredibly stylish with just about anything. I also wear a soft cup wire-free bra, a loose cotton t-shirt, neutral coloured sneakers, and I wear a blue sweater/jumper which is 50% wool, 50% cotton. In my carry-on I’ll take a pashmina scarf as an extra layer against the downright Arctic chill after ascension. On the way to Europe I took my packable down coat as a blanket which worked wonders, even as a pillow.

3. Health and Beauty

Who here wears makeup while travelling? I never wear makeup on a flight because cabin air sucks the moisture from your skin, vampire style. Regardless of whether you do or don’t, it’s advisable to bring a bit of facial cleanser/micellar water/facial wipes to clean your skin. You’ll also want to regularly apply facial moisturiser and hand cream. I always take my contact lens case and a travel size bottle of solution so I can swap to glasses and hopefully get some shut-eye.
I’ve never been game enough to use a sheet facial mask on a flight, but I do have a small routine. As soon as I settle into my seat, I brush my hair into a low ponytail. Then I take antibacterial wipes and wipe down the tray table and armrests, and regularly use hand sanitiser, since planes are breeding grounds for germs. I’ll cleanse my skin and use face cream, hand cream and lip balm.
If you can before the flight lands, brushing your teeth is highly advisable. A fresh minty mouth always makes you feel a little bit better. And don’t forget to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Bring an empty water bottle to fill up when you pass security and get the flight attendants to fill it up during the journey.

And for everyone’s sake, don’t forget deodorant.

4. Dinner and a Show

I never step onto a flight of any kind without my phone, portable battery, charger, a good book and my headphones/iPod. You can’t be sure your entertainment system will work (hell, if there’ll even be one in the first place!) so be prepared. Noise cancelling headphones will drown out that screaming infant, a book is great when you’re tired of staring at a screen. Puzzle books are fun too. There’s usually charging ports at every seat, so take advantage of that if you bring an iPad or something. I never go anywhere without my portable phone charger though. 
I think we can all agree that plane food is one of the most abominable experiences known to mankind, so bringing your own snacks is always a good idea. 

My Carry-On

For a day bag, I used the  Pacsafe Metrosafe 100 Crossbody,  but it wasn’t quite big enough for all my flight essentials, so my carry-on bag was a foldable tote bag from Typo which was bigger, and could be packed away in my suitcase until I flew home. 
Here’s everything I took in my carry on. Again, it might seem like a lot in a list format, but it was quite minimal in real life.

Passport
Wallet 
Phone
Charger
Portable battery
Headphones
iPod
Water bottle
Hand cream
Face moisturiser
Travel size contact lens solution
Contact lens case
Glasses
Perfume (the solid kind from Lush)
Scarf
Facial wipes
Antibacterial wipes
Hand Sanitiser
Lip Balm
Hairbrush (travel size)
Hair elastics
Book
Pen
Snacks
Eye Mask

Pre-Europe: Packing Light

I’ve always considered myself a good packer. I went between my parent’s homes for 15 years, I’ve been on a lot of holidays interstate. I spent 2016 touring theatre in Australia. I’ve done New Zealand twice, I’ve been to America. But this trip was something else altogether. Five weeks, 13 countries, literally the other side of the globe, and in the dead of a European winter.

Now, we Australians know how to handle heat. When my mother and I visited Disneyland in 2016, it was 38ºC. That’s pretty standard heat, but without the humidity. The cast members, on hearing our accents, kept apologising for the weather and we just waved it off. “This is nothing!” And we meant that. Give me dry heat any day of the week. I’ll take it. But with the levels of humidity we get in Sydney, neither I nor my hair enjoy that situation.

Until I went to Europe, I had seen snow exactly twice in my life. Once when I was eight, and my Dad drove my brother and me out to a town called Oberon, located 180km from Sydney’s CBD. There were a few patches on the ground and we got to make a snowman for the only time in our lives. Then, in 2004 when I was in Year 6, we went on school camp to Canberra and the Snowy Mountains. All you need to know about that trip is I vowed I’d never go skiing again, and to this day it remains a threat I have carried out.

Childhood trauma aside, I did an immense amount of research on what to pack. Having never really had to dress for extreme cold and snow, nor having ever stayed in hostels before, I needed help. Plus, I’m just one of those people who loves researching and planning, so it was a lot of fun anyway.
I knew I’d be limited in weight and space for Topdeck, and I’ve never been one to overpack in the first place. However, I discovered there were plenty of ways I could improve on my already formidable packing abilities.

Now before I go on, a lot of the websites I looked at were advocates for packing carry-on only. As appealing as this idea can be, you also need to be realistic. For me, this was the other side of the world, in winter, 34 days, changing countries every few days…it just wasn’t going to happen. This didn’t mean that I was going to pack three suitcases containing my entire wardrobe and the kitchen sink, but I also wasn’t going to get everything I needed into seven kilograms either. Some airlines in America and Europe may allow more generous carry-on allowances, but in Australia, 7kg is standard. In this post, I’m going to go through some tips for packing light, and what I actually ended up packing.
Not packing carry-on only doesn’t mean you’re overpacking!

1. Get a smaller, lightweight suitcase

Some people on the Winter Spirit had a backpack, and if that works for you, great. I’m more of a suitcase girl myself, and I prefer soft ones. If you’re going on a coach trip like I did, you will likely have luggage limits in terms of dimensions and weight. For Topdeck the weight limit was 20kg, and my airline, Cathay Pacific, was 30kg.

The bag I travelled with was the Lanza Roam 68cm Expand Spin Suitcase. It measures 68cm x 41cm x 27cm, and weighs 2.6kg when empty. It also has an expandable section if you’re really in dire straits. I have a larger Flylite suitcase which came in handy while touring and moving house, but I needed something smaller for this trip. The lighter the suitcase, the more you can pack. And the smaller the suitcase, the less you can fit.
Also, it’s not a bad idea to get a bag with a distinct colour or design, or using some kind of tag to identify it at the carousel.

2. Choose clothing carefully

Every tip I’ve read about packing light comes down to one thing when talking about clothes: Choose clothes that mix and match.
I went through every item of clothing I picked to take with me and made sure they went with every other piece. Stick with solid colours rather than patterns, and neutral colours like black, grey, blue, red. You can add accessories to spice up your outfits. You’d be amazed how many outfits you can make with just a few pieces. And if you’re travelling in cold weather, your outfits will be hidden under your jacket most of the time. For me, I had a taupe down coat from Uniqlo. It was perfect.
Layering is your friend. To stay warm in Europe’s winter, I packed thermals to keep myself warm. I chose a lightweight down coat and lightweight merino wool jumpers/sweaters, and I bought wool socks from Kathmandu. Pick clothes that you can easily wash and will dry quickly. Wool is your friend, because it’s light, very warm, easily layered, and doesn’t need to be washed often. Also, think of clothes that can be dressed up or down for versatility on nice nights out.
I’m a low maintenance kind of girl, and pyjamas aren’t really important so I stuck with some cheap leggings from Supre instead of thick flannel fabric. Lightweight, comfortable and hardly take up any room
Typically for a day of sightseeing in Europe, I would wear a thermal top and leggings underneath jeans/ponte pants and a merino sweater with my down coat on top, scarf, hat, gloves. With my lined boots and wool socks, I was warm as toast. I did laundry maybe once or twice a week, and didn’t feel like I was missing anything. Be brutal when packing. If you don’t wear it in normal life, you won’t wear it on holiday. If it needs dry cleaning, ditch it. If it takes a week to dry, forget it too. Leave the heels unless you actually need them for an event or something. 2-3 pairs of shoes MAXIMUM is all you need.

Another tip I know to keep baggage weight and space down is you can wear your winter boots and coat on the plane. This has worked wonders for me in the past, but because I was flying out in the blazing Australian summer, this wasn’t an option for Europe.

3. Packing cubes are your new best friend

I wish, I wish, I WISH I’d known about packing cubes years ago. They have changed my life. I will literally never travel without them again. They’re small fabric zippered bags which serve to keep your clothes organised. They help you pack less (you’ll be amazed how much they fit when you roll your clothes!), stop you digging around in your bag for that elusive pair of socks and when you need to repack (as I did every couple of days), you just throw them in your suitcase and away you go. I had one for sweaters and tops, one for socks and underwear, one for pants and one for thermals, scarves, hats and my gloves. Just four packing cubes held everything. My down coat came with its own pouch, and I had a toiletry bag. All electronic cords stayed in the zippered section in the lid of my suitcase. I also packed a cheap laundry bag from Daiso to keep my dirty and clean clothes separate.
You can get packing cubes in different sizes all over the place. Amazon, Kathmandu, travel stores, even the $2 shop. Get a few and prepare to have your life improve.

4. Downsize toiletries and makeup

Toiletries and makeup, along with shoes can be the bane of your life. You can either decant all your toiletries into smaller bottles, buy full size once you arrive, or go with solids. For makeup, I did just fine with mineral powder, blush, brown eyeshadow, neutral pink lipstick and light eyeliner. In fairness, I don’t wear makeup much except when I’m performing. Regardless, you don’t want to be packing heavy glass foundation bottles.

I highly recommend getting a hanging toiletries bag, especially for Europe, because the bathrooms can be very tiny and there usually isn’t anywhere for the bag to go.
And for the girls, if you want to make everything easier, ditch the pads/tampons and go with a menstrual cup. For more reasons why, click here. Again, I wish to heaven I’d known about these a long time ago.

5. Whatever you do, don’t pack at the last minute.

The best thing you can do is start packing at least two days before you go. Last minute packing is stressful, and tends to lead to overpacking. If you find you’re missing something a day or so before you leave, you have time to fix this. Take the time to write a list, and stick to it!

Below, I present my packing list. In this form it may seem like a lot, but in total it weighed 9kg.
Next blog will be dedicated to the long haul flights and carry on.

My European Winter Packing List

Clothes
7 x underwear
4 x socks
3 x bras
3 x thermal tops
2 x thermal leggings
5 x merino/merino blend sweaters (1 black turtleneck, 1 red crewneck, 1 blue crewneck, 1 light blue crewneck, 1 grey turtleneck)
4 x ponte stretch pants (1 black, 1 navy blue, 1 green, 1 dark grey)
1 x skinny jeans
1 x belt
1 x blue top (for going out)
1 x black skirt (for going out, wore thermal leggings to keep warm)
2 x cotton leggings (used as pyjama pants)
1 x cotton pyjama shirt
1 x cotton t-shirt (for the flights)
1 x taupe down coat
2 x scarves
1 x merino wool gloves (these had touchscreen fingers so I could still use my phone)
2 x merino wool hats
1 x lined walking boots (could be dressed up or down for nights out)
1 x sneakers (for the flights and long travel days on the coach

Toiletries
Prescription medication
Lush solid shampoo bar
Hair conditioner (also doubled as shaving cream)
Body wash (replenished in Vienna)
Face wash (replenished in London)
SPF moisturiser
Night cream
Body lotion
Exfoliator
Deodorant
Razor
Toothbrush
Toothpaste
Body puff
Contact Lenses
Contact Solution/Case
Makeup (powder, blush, eyeshadow quad, eyeliner, lipstick, mascara, eyelash curler)

Miscellaneous
Laundry bag
Portable clothesline
Microfibre towel (a must if staying in hostels)
Plug adaptors
Chargers
Portable luggage scale
Spare padlock

https://thesavvybackpacker.com/

Dedicated to European travel, this website is brilliant. It’s full of tips, packing advice, travel guides, scam warnings, you name it. I would have been lost without it.

https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/

A great website for packing light. Literally has a list for every destination, in all weathers. They’re big fans of carry-on only, and they also have ideas for reducing toiletries, makeup etc. Great for the ladies.

Next time: Long haul flights and carry on advice