It’s a buzzing room when I arrive – bleary eyed and still shaking the dreams from my hair.

It’s been a big week already, and I’ve not had much sleep. I’m feeling a little bit worn and weathered. A little vague and displaced. This morning I am not sparkling and ready to chat to new friends, I’m not ready, yet, for the room full of luminaries – least of all my childhood girl-crush. Who, this morning, I just wanted her to tell me to Go The F**k to Sleep. And I would have obeyed. Twice as fast and urgently because, well, it’s Noni Hazelhurst.

The Currency House Arts and Public Life Breakfast is a wonderful event. It’s something I will always rearrange my life, my work and exercise regime to attend – because it nourishes and informs and flexes me . It facilitates a divide between the Arts and business – encouraging dialogue and triggering a wild and passionate response.

Noni Hazlehurst has always been a hero of mine. As a little blonde-haired girl sitting in front of the TV watching as she’s laugh her way through a song on TV – or make jokes with whichever John (Waters or Hamlin) she presented PlaySchool with. I listened to her. I looked to her and thought she was the most beautiful woman in all the world.

I still do.

Interestingly since that day there was an article released in the SMH http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/appreciate-actors-or-live-with-junk-culture-says-hazlehurst-20111026-1mjy3.html

One reponse from Paul Brennan of Woolhara stated:
“The lament of Noni Hazlehurst is hilarious. I saw two plays recently. I too was ”blown away” but by the jawdropping awfulness of both: the tedious drivel of Zebra and the stupendously misconceived The Threepenny Opera. Both definitely were junk culture masquerading as a theatre experience. Actors are puppets. They do not cure anything, fix anything or create anything. They do as they are told, walk and talk, dress up and enter and leave. Most would be lucky to get a job at the post office if ”acting” hadn’t rescued them. Simple as that.”

But, you see Paul, actors do cure things, they do fix things, they do create things. Actors provide a voice and a body to ideas and thoughts and wants we are too frightened to ask for, too weak to pursue, too distracted to fathom. Actors give voice, body, time and create a line of questioning that helps us be better humans, asks us to find our compassion and our patience or our pro-activity and action. Actors remind us of our own aging and our own fragility. Actors contribute to our cultural consciousness, our national identity, the formation of who we are.

“‘What happens if the mainstream media largely ignore the economic, emotional and intellectual value of and contribution by the arts and actors, while lauding image-focused celebrities and personalities who are primarily in the public eye because of the way they look and how much money they earn?” Hazlehurst asked. ”A cultural drought and the attendant despair of young people starved of true beauty and a sense of belonging. Junk food is bad for you, likewise junk culture.”


“Junk culture” (where any artist – not just actors – are treated as irrelevant because they are not on the cover of TV week, or sparking on a red carpet) is not just a problem of our media hungry society. Junk culture is dangerous because it is popular. It’s popular because it is easy and the freedom to scrutinize, to examine, is there. We watch and admire actors for their youth, beauty , wealth, poise, fame, power. OR… We watch them as they suffer broken hearts, marriage failure, increased cellulite and we rejoice… watching their fall… we feel a little like they are human. Either side of that voyeuristic coin- the coin sparkles.

It’s easy to admire actors – they are beautiful curious creatures – willing to explore and uncover, experiment and share. They flash and shine in foyers like silver dollars. They are animated and well groomed and expect to be/are comfortable with being looked at. I watch actors all the time – watch them talk and laugh and impersonate and interrogate. I watch them burn brightly when they are excited by an idea or a project. I admire them. I love them. And sometimes I envy them.

And I also listen to actors. I listen to their doubts and their disappointments, their rejection. I listen to their self-analysis and their self-criticism and their anger. I listen to them cry and rage. I hear their urgency. Their wants. Their passion. I know a lot about actors. I know they are sensitive workaholics. I know they are insatiable creatures and they are not to be under-estimated EVER.

But I must add, that at the moment, there may be a tendency to forget the other artists in the theatre community. And we all contribute to the creative act.

Yes – there is a playwrights movement at the moment – where many playwrights are taking their work into their own hands and directing. And even sometimes actors choosing to write – or devise – or direct themselves. And it seems that the director and the importance of a director can be lost in all this need to assert intelligence or power or legitimacy or usefulness. I value all artists equally. Actors are no more and no less important than lighting technicians, playwrights, directors, publicists. We are all working towards building culture – making art – triggering responses and change.

There were a few comments she made that really struck to the very core of me.

The first being that we are a nationa that unfortunately believes that “unless you come from overseas or you’ve made it overseas – you aren’t useful.”
The pangs in my gut when I hear yet ANOTHER friend or colleague has found it “too hard” to stay in Australia. Another email from a bright young thing asking for a reference letter so they can study in a drama school Overseas. It’s not jealousy. It’s sadness. We live entrenched and surrounded by a shrug-shouldered cultural cringe.

But above all else, the most useful reminder Noni offered – for ALL artists – not just actors – is that it’s about the work, not about promoting yourself. It’s not true that unless you are on TV, you aren’t a real actor. And it’s not true that if you are an actor (on TV) that you are walking around in diamond encrusted shoes or that you own your opening night dress. A career of any artist is a lot harder than it looks. A lot more difficult. And most don’t do it for the glamour or the money – but for the need and desire to tell stories – to offer something to an audience. All that other noise and rattle around the industry, all that celebrity obsession and lack of privacy means nothing. Especially to real actors. Fr them it is all about the work.

And those ideas buzzing and spilling out of me – all before 9am.

And that’s why the Currency House Arts and Public Life Breakfast. Sometimes I need a reminder, a top up, a reset, a re-charge so I am ready to be flung like a slingshot into the world.