Friday, June 27, 2014


Last night (Thursday) the endlessly fascinating Cate Blanchett was in conversation with Anne Summers, feminist, thinker, writer, publicist in front of a sell out house at the Sydney Theatre. The house was very much predominantly female, perhaps as much as 70-80%, with the rest made up of gays and otherwise arty fellows, and the odd husband here and there.

                                                                        (my pic)

It was, for me at least, a rare occasion to see someone of such success and huge fame talking freely, as freely as freely is, about life, career, arts, feminism, and things Australian, not that she hasn't been outspoken before on issues she cares about.  But Anne Summers is a good and gentle foil, and the promise of some genuine insight into Cate Blanchett was well fulfilled.

It was interesting to watch and wonder where performance started and stopped, and perhaps during questions from the floor there was an extra bit of naturalness that crept into her voice, and style, with hints you were really at home with her, or she with you. But that's unfair, to suggest she was any more acting than any of us act all day every day, playing our roles, at home, at work, wherever. The content was never in doubt, always her, and generous and genuine. Most generous.

                                                           (from the twittersphere)

She spoke about her career. How as a young girl she was taken with her mother to see the Mikado starring the "louch" Frank Thring. (Never heard of him? Yes, you have as the first four seconds of this might remind you.) Mid performance the Mikado's black moustache fell to the stage and looking down at it Frank decried 'Damn this cheap Japanese merchandise' and on with the show. She was, she said, thrilled by the risk and danger.

Of a career path that means taking what interested her, not what may or may not be perceived to be the calculated right career path - her first role as understudy to (the great) Kerry Walker.

She spoke of the nerves. Always there are nerves. Shitting bricks, like tonight. And of the need to not see beyond the moment, never looking through the play to the end, and thinking in the wings waiting an entrance 'All I have to do is walk over there and sit in that chair" and it would begin - the interaction with the other players which was all it was about.

She spoke of the search for perfection and the never ending doubt about what's been done. About seeing the world through the eyes of the characters, people you often didn't even like, but who had a perspective and view that needed to be considered. I've often wondered why actors, not all  but many, had seemed to have achieved such worldly wisdom. Here was a clue: they had been many people in many situations, many lives in one.

She takes inspiration from watching children play and interact with honesty and innocence.

She loves and thrives on language, and turns to the dictionary when searching for the elusive. Just what does the word 'must' really mean?

She and Andrew raise the boys, letting them into the wonders of the stage and the arts when appropriate, while domesticity and schooling goes on as normal, even dealing with internet porn well before she ever dreamed she would need.

She abhorred the sexism dished out onto Julia Gillard, who regardless of politics or circumstance would never have been the subject of such filth if she had been male.

She spoke of the years running the Sydney Theatre Company. She answered questions from the floor with humour and honesty.

She gave her time freely, and for that Anne Summers made a donation in her name to the Children's Hospital Randwick, and about six or eight children of varying age came on stage at the end (including the delicious little girl of perhaps four who had her routine well worked out, and peering into the auditorium went through a little dance routine, arms arched over her head for a slow full turn and bow, oblivious to anyone else on the stage, especially Ms Blanchett) and presented her with gifts and flowers.

She restores your faith, makes you proud, and betters the world. Cate Blanchett.

Saturday update: This isn't the 90 minutes we got, but in just three minutes, you get a good idea of what she says, and how well she says it. It is under the Murdoch banner, please forgive. She did.


David said...

Our equivalent is the sublime Emma Thompson, who gave a wonderful interview about a film she's just produced. The sincerity never faltered, and it was couched in such eloquent terms.

wanderer said...

Glenda Jackson!

David said...

who unfortunately made a rather weak MP for Hampstead and Highgate (or was it just Highgate?), just occasionally coming out with eloquent words, but actually achieving very little. And I don't think she's trodden the boards since her Medea several decades back.