Unique duality makes Brisbane a star

If Australia were a stage and all her cities characters upon it, you just know Sydney would be the bitchy best friend.

Played by Scarlett Johansson, Sydney would be the friend who pretended to have your back – but was really plotting to steal your boyfriend/job/life.

Melbourne, as the marketing tells us, would be Zooey Deschanel. She's the art student with the owl collection who can speak five languages, but that's because she spent her childhood in her room with braces and a back support, being force fed souvlaki by an overbearing, but warm-hearted mother.

In a breakout role, Kate Upton would play Darwin. Aubrey Plaza would make a cameo as Perth. Too cool for her east coast friends, she breezes in and rolls her eyes at their antics, but cries herself to sleep at night because she just wants to belong.

As for Adelaide, Hobart and Canberra, well, every movie needs extras right?

But Brisbane? Well to play Brisbane, you need Anna Kendrick.

Only Ms Kendrick could emulate the unique duality modern day Brisbane finds itself in.

The ghosts of Queensland's chequered and slightly nutty past shine the brightest in its capital.

One only needs to walk through the centre of the CBD and that becomes clear; laneway bars one moment, brutalist style monoliths the next.

The stark 1980s buildings that stand as testament to Joh's Queensland make today's Brisbanite's cringe as much as Ms Kendrick must have when told she'd have to complete the Twilight press tours.

The girl who was nominated for every acting award under the sun for her turn in Up in the Air still had to honour her past – and stand next to people whose claim to fame was obeying the werewolf creed of removing shirts – and smile.

No matter how many times she stood next to George Clooney while being proclaimed the next big acting thing, Anna Kendrick couldn't escape where she had come from.

In that way, she is just like Brisbane; haunted and a little ashamed of the past, the city's modern residents are fervently reaching for the future.

But any city that has to tell you it has come of age still has some growing to do. It's like a child turning 18 and screaming she's an adult. Sure, she can legally drink and vote, but you're not going to trust her with your bank account. And that's just fine; it's part of the process of growing up.

And so it is for Brisbane. And the very things that make southerners and some elitist Queenslanders cringe about the south-east – it's parochialism, lack of concrete identity, mismatch of culture and ideas – is exactly what makes it so great.

But it can be a hard act to sell.

Thankfully, the job of Brisbane Marketing, the council-affiliated organisation charged with promoting the city, has been made easier by outsiders taking a chance on the city.

Driving Miss Daisy chose Brisbane to open its Australian tour. Sure the powerhouse leads – Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones – may have something to do with the almost sold out season, but the intimate nature of the Playhouse theatre makes it seem like Jessica Fletcher and Darth Vader are playing just for you.

Miss Daisy might be moving on down south, but the Bolshoi Ballet, in Brisbane for just nine days from May 30, is an Australian exclusive.

If that's not enough, Brisbane has Cavalia – essentially Cirque du Soleil with horses – coming in March 6, Legally Blonde a few days later on March 10, the Brisbane Racing Carnival in May and the Anywhere Theatre Festival that same month.

In Brisbane, you can walk from the concrete blocks of the theatre district, their very existence a tangible link to a somewhat murky past, to a bar (in this case Bacchus) made hip by its glitter draped patrons, who act as accessories to the Los Angeles based designer's vision.

You can stay at Royal on The Park, a grand Brisbane lady, whose 1969 exterior has held up much better than the cabinet Joh built around the same time, who may have had some interior work done, but she can't change her bones.

Standing in her lifts, you're reminded of who Brisbane was. Entering one of her suites, you are shown who Brisbane wants to become.

There's James Street in the Valley, a destination for the alkaline-activated-only foodies. It also caters to those who have money, but are taxed with the burden of having to look like they hate to spend it. Around the corner from there you'll find Libertine Parfumerie, where you'll be regaled with scent house tales one moment and then brought in closer to hear about a sour bitch of a woman no perfume could sweeten the next. And then 40 minutes down the road, after passing through the parts of the Sunshine State's capital that seemingly haven't changed since Joh thought it would be a good idea to be both premier and police minister, you can find Sirromet Winery – an ambitious emulation of who Brisbane wants to be.

The very confusion that forms Brisbane's identity – the bogan and the brilliant, the quaint and the queer, the unique and the ubiquitous – is the reason for the city's growth.

There is nothing that can't be tried or tested here, nothing that wouldn't fit, no idea too crazy.

Queensland elected the first Australian Labor government and then fell in love with a premier who banned street marching. It was the first state to abolish the death penalty – but has some of the harshest penalties in the nation. It bulldozed historical buildings which are still mourned but birthed a generation who are almost frenzied in their need to never forget – and to protect. All from Brisbane.

And the sooner the city learns to accept who it was, the closer it will become to learning what it is.

The author was a guest of Brisbane Marketing.


Royal on the Park

152 Alice Street, Brisbane (opposite the City Botanic Gardens)

Featuring The Walnut Room Restaurant


07 3221 3411


Driving Miss Daisy at The Playhouse, Queensland Performing Arts Centre, South Bank

Until February 24




Corner Grey and Glenelg streets, South Bank

Featuring a sophisticated and convenient post-theatre night spot


07 3364 0843


Libertine Parfumerie

181 Robertson St, Fortitude Valley

Featuring one hour Perfume Indulgence Masterclass, $39 per person


07 3216 0122


Sirromet Winery

850 Mount Cotton Rd, Mt Cotton

Featuring Cellar Door, open seven days from 9am to 4.30pm for wine tastings, casual dining and live weekend music, and Restaurant Lurleen's for fine dining lunch and dinner. Bookings recommended. Check for opening times.


07 3206 2999

For the complete insider's guide to brisbane go to www.visitbrisbane.com.au