JUDITH LUCY, someone who surely needs no introduction, is bringing her latest show, Nothing Fancy, to Canberra for one night in August. Revered for her dry, laconic and sharply perceptive comedy (exacted often at her own expense), her latest show is a chance to catch up on what she’s been up to and what she’s been thinking about over the last three years. And that covers, in her words, “everything from our politicians to the fact if you’re a woman over 40 you never have to buy soap or candles because that’s just what people give you; so a bit of everything.”
When I caught up with Judith she’d just finished a run of shows in her hometown of Perth. She’s already toured the show to Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney. “So it’s going to be as tight as a drum by the time it gets to Canberra,” Judith assured me. Not known for her flamboyance, I wondered what had been stripped back in this show for it to be called Nothing Fancy. “A lot of my other shows have had a narrative or I’ve chucked a song or a dance in, not that I can do either of those kind of things with any kind of competence, and this time I just thought, let’s just do a really straight forward stand-up show… it is pretty much just gags.”
Judith has had a diverse career across TV, radio and film, but only last year did she feature in her own TV project, Judith Lucy’s Spiritual Journey. This saw her on a quest to discover something to believe in and enabled her to meet many different people, from those who believed they channelled aliens, to Buddhist and Catholic nuns, to an ex-AFL footballer with a disciplined meditation practice.
Her journey has provided plenty of fodder for Nothing Fancy, enough fodder in fact that she’s turning it into a book. But did she find something to believe in? “Well,” responded Judith, “I used to be this incredibly dismissive atheist who just thought it was all bullshit and if you believed in anything you were insane. I guess I’m a long way from being that person now.” And as for the book, the deadline is imminent. “I am supposedly finishing that off by about Monday. So that’s not making me feel stressed at all,” Judith joked. “It is my answer to Eat, Pray, Love and it is indeed going to be called Drink, Smoke, Pass Out.”
Judith enjoys performing in Canberra. “Look, this is going to sound pretty sucky but it is absolutely true. I have generally found the audiences in Canberra really good because they’re really smart. They probably read stuff into my jokes that aren’t really there, god bless them. I’ve always had a good time doing shows in Canberra.”
For a small slice of Canberra’s population, the last five years of the ARC CINEMA screening program has been a romance worthy of any celluloid reel. This singular silver screen has been an oasis for cinephiles across the region who don’t always want to watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster or yet more Oscar-bait, seeking further afield in their viewing habits to exotic locales in Asia or the world of art house cinema. Not that Arc is an art house cinema, as Head Cinema Programmer Quentin Turnour corrected me with a pedagogical (and strictly metaphorical) ruffle of his feathers. “The Arc is a Screen Culture Program – that is, it reflects the work of the [National Film and Sound Archive], Australian and world cinema, and whatever passes through the film festivals.” In other words, it plays everything that marketing boards for Hollywood would immediately ablate as ‘small-interest’ and the usually doom-laden term, ‘unprofitable’.
Quentin, whom devout attendees of Arc will recognise as the guy who gives the always erudite and incisive speech before most film screenings, (often dropping enough cinema-flavoured names to make David Thomson’s epic, The New Biographical Dictionary Of Film, a redundant reference point), is adamant that cinema right now is going through the most significant change since 1927, when The Jazz Singer introduced sound to the screen. In a very short breadth of time, Arc Cinema will most likely be one of the last places an Australian can to go to the movies and actually watch a film as opposed to a digital projection.
Aptly enough, amongst the celebratory screenings Arc is hosting to welcome its own quinquennial birthday, the cinema will demonstrate the powers of its brand new DCP digital camera with a double screening of Singin’ In The Rain, in both its original 35mm reel and digital. I mention this must be an exciting time for Arc – to be turning five and on the cusp of the digital revolution – but Quentin is less enthusiastic, going so far as to argue that perhaps the age of cinema as a real photo-dramatic possibility is already coming to an end. He cites the blockbuster culture post-Star Wars, as well as a tendency towards more conservative narration, as the main perpetrators of this decline, giving me a slight paternalistic frown when I come to the defence of George Lucas’ sci-fi masterpiece. However, he remains more optimistic regarding the future of Arc itself, hoping that one day there might be another theatre with more content spanning beyond just film.
For now, though, Arc remains a bastion for anyone who loves art house, world cinema or the vast vault of cinema’s rich history, and will hopefully only go on to greater things with larger audiences for many years to come.
Arc Cinema will celebrate its birthday with special screenings beginning Saturday August 4. General admission tickets are $11/$9 with $5 weekday matinees. Bookings on (02) 6248 2000. Visit http://www.nfsa.gov.au/arc/for full programme.
Most working Canberrans have a better opportunity to combine a serious creative pursuit with an unrelated career than anyone anywhere else in the country. Or anywhere in the world for that matter. So why don’t more of us do it?
Four public servants I know – three in their 30s – recently went from working full-time to part-time in order to make room for their literary, artistic or musical interests. They chose to have one or two weekdays set aside as ‘Creative Days’ each week and have brought their salaries down to something closer to the average Australian in order to do so. I salute them – and wonder why I hadn’t thought of it myself.
Of course, not every public servant is fortunate enough to be able to rearrange working hours and recently some have not even been fortunate enough to keep their jobs. But on the whole, the public service is an excellent place to be employed if you wish to free up time to work on a play, a canvas or your dance quintet.
The ‘traditional’ life path of the creative person is to work hard at his/her dream through post-school years, eating packet noodles, living in share houses and working casual jobs to survive. Then, if the artist is unable to turn passion into career by the age of 25, or 30 at a stretch, s/he admits defeat, knowing s/he did her best, and heads back onto the road more travelled. S/he may continue to create on weekends or holidays but nothing like s/he used to during and immediately following art school.
But why can’t creative types plug away seriously part-time, rather than casually, while also developing (albeit at a slower rate) a mortgage-paying career?
I know not everyone is a fan of the idea of permanent part-time creativity. “Bands used to just play music,” a Melbourne bartender told me after our band performed at his Fitzroy pub. “Now they’re not so good anymore.” I choose to believe he mistook us for full-time musicians and that his statement was a compliment rather than a dig. However, the bartender’s sentiment still has a ring of truth to it. I used to prefer my musicians well-practiced and shit-poor myself.
Nowadays, I think there’s a balance that could be made that would allow for greater development of talents while not condemning creative types to lives of quiet (or loud, as the case may be) desperation or to casual hackery. Yes, Creative Days are a mighty fine idea and more of us should take them.
One of the aforementioned public servants gave me some fine advice though; If you are going to retreat from full-time work to make way for a Creative Day, then make it a middling weekday rather than a Friday or a Monday. Otherwise, when you’re supposed to be creating, you’ll be drunk, hung over or down the coast instead.
We live in the Age of the Epic: a time when Batman movies are dark, intense and nearly three hours long; when fantasy series' get turned into TV shows before their author can even finish writing them; when everything is, at the very least, a trilogy. Enter an unlikely hero from an unexpected corner: Alex Broun, festival director of SHORT + SWEET and champion of the ten-minute play.
“You can't waste a secondin ten-minute theatre,” Broun says, “You can't spend half an hour setting up characters or a situation. You can't dawdle!” The hundreds of bite-sized plays Broun himself has penned show a love of the abbreviated format. “I really like that challenge of compressing the action into ten minutes; to create something that's quite complete but only takes ten minutes to tell.” Broun has been involved as a writer/director for Short + Sweet since its inception. “When I first started, I tended to overwrite. It's wonderful for me, the discipline; to be succinct and exact with every single word.”
Bringing Short + Sweet to the capital for the fourth time, Broun has run a series of workshops leading up to the festival proper. A playwriting weekend hosted by the ACT Writers Centre produced many of the plays in the final line-up. Broun adds: “I've also run actor workshops and director workshops, which are also more focused on stage acting and stage directing.”
Broun takes an egalitarian approach to the directorship that has let the contributors make the festival their own. “I think [it's] a bit of a flaw with the artistic director model that so much of our theatre runs on – where you have one person saying: ‘This is what you have to do’. [Short + Sweet is] a platform for the writers, the directors, the actors involved in the festival to present what they feel is good theatre – what they feel works and what they feel the audience will enjoy. It's a very democratic arts event.
“What that means in Short + Sweet in Canberra is you get a really broad variety of plays. One play written by a young girl from Burma, Sumon Aye, called Sealed with Blood is about the student revolutions in Burma, and about people who she knew who died in that revolution. You’ve got that, and then against that you have a play like John Lombard’s play Dracula Kidnaps Someone’s Bridesmaid.”
The festival is a true mixed bag of entertainment, with everything from the polished Top 20 bill to the experimental Wildcard programme. “When you go along to traditional theatre you've got a pretty good idea what you're going to see that evening. In Short + Sweet it's always changing,” Broun warns. “You never know what's going to happen next.”
Short + Sweet will present 30 of the best ten-minute plays from the ACT and around the world, Wednesday August 22-Saturday September 1, at the Courtyard Studio. Bookings/full programme details through www.canberratheatrecentre.com.au or on (02) 6275 2700.
Ladies and gents, set your nerd-ray to stun because it’s that time of year when the geek gets chic. This year’s NATIONAL SCIENCE WEEK features everything from robots playing James Bond tunes to Canberra’s own Nobel Prize winner in a celebration of all things inspirational in the world of science.
National Science Week officially runs from Sat-Sun August 11-19 with the festival launch on Friday August 10 in Garema Place, featuring ex-Gadfly musician Phil Moriarty, science films and explosive live science performances.
Punters can get hands-on in Garema Place over lunchtime on Wed-Thu August 8-9, where Australia’s first science bike will be pedaling science. The ANU’s Scicycle – imagine science meets Pimp My Ride meets a tricycle – will also be busking and booming around Canberra’s libraries.
SCINEMA, the international science film festival, is screening free matinee sessions throughout the week at CSIRO Discovery Centre. The diverse line-up of films includes festival winner for 2012 Into the Gyre, a doco about the US research team that travelled to the gyres (hotspots) where plastics accumulate in the oceans. “This year our films have a particularly artistic flavour,” says SCINEMA director Cris Kennedy. “My favourite is a short produced by the University of Pennsylvania, Robot Quadrators Play the James Bond Theme, which is exactly like it sounds – the geeks from the Physics Department programmed a bunch of robots to play the James Bond theme.” It screens Friday August 17 at 10am, and you can check other session times at www.scinema.com.au.
If your sonic screwdriver needs a workout, the CSIRO Discovery Centre is also presenting The Science of Doctor Who. Adelaide comedian Rob Lloyd, along with a panel of chemists and physicists from Monash University and the University of Melbourne pull apart clips from the show and discuss the fact behind the science fiction. Punters are promised a complimentary Dalek extermination. Tickets for the shows on Sat/Sun August 11/12 will sell fast, so book online at www.csiro.au/discovery. Nerds rejoice – they even have the Tardis!
For those preferring less fiction in their science, the Australian Academy of Science – aka The Dome – is kicking off its Giants of Science series with Australia’s newest Nobel laureate astronomer Professor Brian Schmidt on Sunday August 11 at 10.30am. “Brian has deservedly won international recognition for his work,” says Science Week ACT Committee Chair and Academy Director of Communications Kylie Walker. “It has completely changed our understanding of the expanding universe. He’s also a proud Canberran so we can’t think of a better person to kick off our program.”
With hundreds of events around town – from debunking the forensics of CSI to trivia with ABC’s Bernie Hobbs at the National Portrait Gallery – there’s something for everyone this Science Week.
National Science Week runs Sat-Sun August 11-19 with the launch on Friday August 10 in Garema Place. Visit www.scienceweek.net.au for the full program.
The ANU School of Art’s PhotoSpace Gallery is currently hosting an exhibition of works from the 2012 Canberra Contemporary Art Space residents. SALUTE is an initiative by artist and curator Julia Boyd, who explains: “These mediums directly reflect the dynamic experience of studying at the School of Art, where all the current [Canberra Contemporary Art Space] residents did their studies. It facilitates artists being able to connect with each other after school and encourages conversations between all the artists involved in the show. It’s created a certain energy that is essential to artists continuing to create new and engaging work.”
Ruby Green’s imposing velvet panels serve as a fantastically textural background to a vibrant Australian landscape dotted with wanderers and wildlife. Hannah Bath’s candied watercolours depict familiar landscapes and counter the earthy and rusted colours found in other works. Holly Granville-Edge presents us with large photographs of domestic items ‘lost in space’, which hover artfully with a Bosch accent.
Another artist who experiments with space is Roman Stachurski, whose piece is inspired by the 1963 film The Great Escape. Roman’s tower, which makes excellent use of the gallery’s high ceiling, is capped off with a beam of light reaching down to the floor. In his words, he was inspired by “German Stalags which operated in Europe throughout the duration of the war. In particular, the words told to POWs as they entered the camps: ‘Vas du das Krieg est uber’ (‘For you the War is over’). “I took the theme Salute literally and introduced military themes into my work. There is so much beauty in manmade objects outside of their designated purpose.”
Julia Boyd’s photographs capture the ephemeral nature of the urban environments we inhabit. Julia’s technique and imagery is selected to alter the way the audience interacts with a photograph. “I aim to slow down the process of photography by working with old cameras and really appreciating the subject matter. Though the spaces I photograph are often void of any initial 'thrill factor', I aim for my work to slowly reveal itself to my viewer and for my audience to spend a bit more time looking at my pictures than they would photography that’s online or in the media.”
Patrick Larmour’s etchings seek to displace our understanding of the relationship between subject and object in art. He rewrites the function of real world objects by painting them true to life, such as his crumpled pill packet.
If art is an archive of time and place, the works in this show display this collective’s appreciation of accessible mediums and subjects close to home, encouraging us to pause and reflect. As Julia says, “The ordinary becomes really interesting – cars on the street and clothes people wear. I'm thankful someone was there to capture that.”
Salute is currently showing at the ANU Photospace Gallery until Sunday July 29. The gallery is open Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm. Free.