On the Couch with Chrissie Shaw

Arts Review On the Couch Chrissie ShawWho is Chrissie Shaw?
A Canberra-based actor, musician and writer of new works for theatre.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
I wouldn’t do a great deal differently, but I would like to be able to get the work that I do to the major cities, to be supported in doing that. I have had more success in getting my theatre works to Melbourne than to Sydney, and particularly with BIJOU my current show, I would like to take this to both Melbourne and Sydney, and of course, beyond. Regional touring has been my thing, as that is where I am best known and have toured several shows in the country. I am very happy that at my age I can be so engaged and active in doing the things that I love and do best: conducting choirs, making theatre, performing for children and for adults. My children’s show(s) are in fact seen in Sydney now more than anywhere else, but I would love to bring the ‘grown-up’ shows to Sydney.

Who inspires you and why?
I am inspired by older people I know who are still engaged in activities that are creative and world-conscious. I am inspired by some performing artists and creators of theatre and other performance. I am inspired by young people who have a world-view and a desire to make a positive difference in whatever field.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I marched in all the anti-bomb and anti-Vietnam-War marches in the 60s and 70s; I was in a wonderful production at the New Theatre called On Stage Vietnam in 1966/7… the Vietnam War ended, but there has never been an end to war. Now we are fouling our nest to a point of no return… and I have come to the conclusion that what I can do is continue what I am doing, bringing music and live theatre to people, children particularly, helping people sing together, enhancing lives that way. It’s a small difference maybe, but it’s what I can do.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I like exploring new places, but I have a love for the cottages at Swan Haven, on Swan Lake near Sussex Inlet. My family used to go there every year, and just after my mother died, my father, my daughter and I spent a Christmas holiday there, in grief, but comforted by the beauty of the place.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
The National Gallery of Australia, and the National Portrait Gallery. The Botanic Gardens, and now of course, the Visitors’ Centre at the National Arboretum. The best place for a coffee and beautiful view.

What are you currently reading?
I am reading several things at once: Where Song Began by Tim Low, and BILL by Scott Bevan are uppermost, but in times of mental stress which is nearly always, I relax by doing Cryptic Crosswords.

What are you currently listening to?
ABC Classic FM, ABC Baroque and Beyond CDs. ABC Swoon CDs, and Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks.

Happiness is?
Being alive and keeping on doing what you are doing. It is not a goal, it is now.

What does the future hold for you?
Well, I am 71 years old, and I am hoping I have a longer future ahead of me than my mum and my gran… so I intend to keep ‘playing’, keep doing theatre till I can’t remember the lines any more, and then I think I’ll sit on a street corner and play my accordion for coins in the hat. And spend time with my daughter and brothers in Sydney. Go to lots of concerts, some theatre that I think is worth going to… and sing in a choir.

Chrissie Shaw’s performing career began at the University of Sydney and the New Theatre in the 1960s. Throughout the 70s and 80s, she toured around Australia with Pipi Storm Theatre Company, doing group-devised shows and workshops for children.

A resident of Canberra since the late 80s, Chrissie has worked as an actor/musician in many productions including TAU Theatre, Canberra Theatre Company, Women On A Shoestring, The Street Theatre, Social Division, CIA/Stopera, Jigsaw Theatre Company and A Bunch of Posers. She has produced, composed music for, written and performed in a number of independent shows – all premiering in Canberra and touring extensively.

Theatre credits include: Smugglers Beware!, The Dresses, The Not Too Late Show, Carburetta and Dummy Half, Rose above the Odds, Trip to the Light Fantastic, About Face, Footprints on the Wind, Drumming on Water, The Keeper: A Gothic Tale of Light and Dark, Gran’s Bag, Flotsam and Jetsam, Rolling Home, and Lawrie and Shirley. Her latest show, Bijou – A Cabaret of Secrets and Seduction premiered at Canberra’s The Street Theatre in 2013, touring to Riverside Theatres Parramatta and Regional NSW.

Chrissie has won numerous awards including: ACT MEAA Green Room Award (1998 & 2013), Edna Ryan Arts Award (2001), and Canberra Critics’ Circle Awards (Drumming on Water – 2006, Lawrie and Shirley – 2012, Bijou – 2013). She was short-listed for the 1998 Australian Centre For Cultural Studies Award, and was a finalist in the ACT Senior Australian of the Year in 2005.

Bijou – A Cabaret of Secrets and Seduction will play a return season at The Street Theatre from 16 – 20 September 2015. For more information, visit: www.thestreet.org.au for details.

Image: Chrissie Shaw