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.

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