It is plain by now that Lucy Slattery is the finest thirty-five-year-old Australian actress now working (Blanchett is forty-two and Wasikowska twenty-two but neither better than she) and the doubtless good work she does at The Smelly Cheese in her day job is, or seems to me, a kind of national tragedy.
In Shakespeare In Italy she gives us a range of emotion unavailable in any other role and bewitches us with her infinite variety (seductive, stormy, coquettish, calculating, murderous, true-hearted, treacherous, fanatical, deceitful, delectable, wounded, soft, romantic, wifely, revengeful), her howls and whispers and tempestuous, groping carnality.
But … like many talented women so placed, and aged, she is considering, lately, giving up acting. Ten years in Melbourne after a stuffed-up Taming Of The Shrew, a role that else would have made her, drove her after slim pickings home to Adelaide, where she has fifteen more performances as Julia Ascombe — which she calls ‘by far the best Shakespearean woman, ever’ – and then a tour to Sydney with it, a reading or two, and then (perhaps) oblivion.
She, I think, and others, many others, of comparable early promise add up to not so much a national tragedy as a cultural crisis. Two hundred good young actors come out of NIDA, WAPA, the VCA and the lesser acting academies every year and a hundred and ninety three end up in hotel management or waitressing or teaching. One great actor I know, Danny Mitchell, Warren’s son, assists infirm old men into showers and toilets and stands outside the door awaiting their eructations and dreams of playing Prospero.
And it’s a pity.
The solution to all this is plain: an acting school and four performing spaces in each of our fifty bigger country cities — Albury, Mt Isa, Broken Hill, Alice Springs, Port Pirie, Broome, Albany, and so on — and a contract obligating graduates to stay there for three years and tour shows round the district, and films made like ours of the better productions and sold world wide.
It is ridiculous that NIDA graduates after their final student performances fly directly to LA to audition there when we have, as Lucy shows, and Jordan Fraser-Trumble, our young Shakespeare, Oscar-worthy talent we should keep onshore.
Pray God she is still acting this time next year. I so beseech her, humbly now in prose, and will in a sonnet later.
And so it goes,