Going to the fringe: Lana Schwarcz Lovely Lady Lump

There is not long enough between now and the time we have to leave for the airport to get the lunchbox muffins cooked. But if I don’t do them now then when will they get done? I keep the sugar in a drawer and when I lift it out, a thin stream pours through an invisible hole. It is like sand under my feet as I hurry to get the muffins done.

We are on the home stretch now, we tell ourselves. We all cry less than we usually do.

Home, cup of tea, washing in, right then, I’m leaving, I’ll be home in time to get your dinner done.

I am taking myself into the Fringe to see Lana Schwarcz in her show Lovely Lady Lump. Walking from the car to the park, the wind is cold and the sky is grey. This is not how I remember Fringe. I’m wearing a coat instead of a sleeveless shift, I’m shivering instead of sweating, thinking about a glass of red instead of a beer. The air is thick with the smell of rain which might or not fall.

I am late. I stand in the line to collect my tickets and I try not to click my tongue or clear my throat as someone forgets his PIN, someone else can’t decide what to do instead of the sold out show, and the woman in front of me holds up her phone and says to the cashier, ‘But look! My friend sent me a message on Facebook. She said she’s paid.’

The show is a few minutes in when I sit down, and I remember my phone is not on silent. What would be worse? To rummage through my bag or take the chance that this is the night someone chooses to ring? I sit, my shoulders tense, my teeth clenched. That’s ruder still, to bring tense energy in. I think, ‘I’ll wait for a moment, and then I’ll flick the silent on.’

Soon, the warmth and the energy of her performance shuts everything out and brings me in. It is the kind of show I love. A monologue, a stand up routine, a narrative. Truth and honesty and generosity. Here’s the premise of her show: A routine mammogram shows up a lump. Suspicious. She is barely 40.

The show is funny and it’s smart. Using her voice, her body, lights, sound and video she makes us feel her pain, but doesn’t let us wallow. I cry. Twice. And then, before we leave, she makes us laugh again. I am filled with admiration for her. Not only for surviving cancer, but for making art. For making this the thing she does, the contribution that she makes.

When I come out of the tent she is performing in, the air is filled with the lemon-scented gum, and from somewhere across the park a bagpipe is warming up. I drive home to the sound of Archie Roach’s Let Love Rule, a birthday present from a wonderful friend who said, ‘I know no one listens to CDs anymore,’ and I said, ‘Well, I do.’ At home, I take off my boots and my socks. If I leave them here in the door I will not have to scramble to find them tomorrow when we leave have you got your lunch, your stuff for cricket, your saxophone.

‘How was it Mum?’

There are not supposed to be more active screens than there are humans. And just like that, I’m exhausted. I put sausages on for them and the kettle on for me. The cat rubs against my leg, the kitten nibbles at my toes. And underneath my feet, granules of sugar. So fine they feel like sand.

Split – this is nothing even approaching a review, but it potentially has spoilers

I suppose it had to happen that I would get to a day where I had nothing to say and little time left in which to say it. It’s an hour before the end of the day. All day I’ve been trying to decide what I would write about, and now here I am. I did have an idea but it will take me more than an hour to execute that idea so I will have to do that tomorrow or the day after.

I went to see Split with the Floppy Adolescent today. (I think I should say spoiler alert here, although I’m not sure that I’m actually spoiling anything, but possibly I do, so consider yourself spoiler warned.) It was his idea to see it and even though I knew it wasn’t really my bag of chips I wanted to go to the something that he suggested as a gesture of goodwill towards him so often going to the things that I suggest. (It really isn’t easy at this age, is it, finding things to go to, because I can think of heaps of things he’d love to see but as is the case with so many things, once he is at a certain age I suddenly remember how it was to be that age, and what I remember about being that age is that going out with your mum is okay, but it’s not okay if you’re out with your mum at something where lots of people are out without their mum.)

I don’t think I enjoyed Split at all. This is not to say that I don’t think it’s good – I mean, I was completely sucked in by it, that is for sure, with the opening credits and music sufficiently suspense-filled. But I knew right from the beginning that it wasn’t going to be a film that I would be glad to have seen. I avoid, whenever I can, movies that subject women to humiliation or violence or some combination of the two. I thought Split did an okay job of avoiding being overly gratuitous. But I was (am) deeply uncomfortable with the use of child sexual abuse which I thought began as opportunistic and by the end had become exploitative.

There was a beautifully poignant moment in the closing scenes which was well-directed and beautifully-acted. That moment pulled a lot of things together for me. It left me bereft because all I could think about was the deep pain that some people live with all their lives. And then I wasn’t at all sure that I’d done the right thing going to it with my teenaged boy. Judging it simply as a film, I’d give it I think 3 1/2 or 4 stars out of 5. Judging it as a film-going experience?


It is an awesome time of year in Adelaide because the festival of arts and its fringe begin. It’s a wonderful time of the year, the city is full of vibrancy and vibe, and I find it fuels my motivation to create and to work harder at my own art. (Slightly political note: I think in this state we still don’t properly acknowledge that government policy which relies so heavily on festivals is not necessarily fabbo for fostering and developing local arts and artists.)

There’s quite a bit of parenting I’m shit at, but one thing I do well is take them to stuff. I curate an excellent programme that spans the spectrum of arts experiences from visceral to cerebral, I take a couple of risks, and throw in a few of the commercial certainties. It’s great, I’m terrific, you know this, it’s great.

So I’ve spent a few hours today looking through the programmes to see what there might be that the lads and I can do together. It’s been a bit more difficult today than in previous years. One of the reasons for that is that I’ve got a slightly fuzzy brain. You see the mister was less jetlagged than expected last night so we ended up going out and when we got there I realised that because the mister is here I don’t have to be a responsible adult and I proceeded to down gin cocktails like a teenager who has just discovered west coast coolers. The main reason though is that they’ve got their own opinions about what they do and don’t want to see and when they do and don’t want to go. It’s also not so easy to find things that not only appeal to adolescents but that they are happy to go to with their mum. Nonetheless, I’ve locked a few things in and even managed to squeeze in a couple of things before the mister jets back off to his mysterious life.

I made one interesting observation while I was analysing the programme, and that is that there is an ever-diminishing number of Dave/Davo/Davids plying their comedy wares. In 2009 when I was last in the fringe there were more Dave/Davo/Davids than there were women and that included if you added up all of the women in all of the lineups. This says something more about the age demographic than it does about gender, and watching your name go so entirely out of fashion is one of the more disconcerting experiences of ageing and certainly one that no one warned me about.

And now if you’ll excuse me I need to go and shake off the last of the gin haze because I am out for dinner where I am told there will be champagne.