Australian Theatre History. The Australian Performing Group at the Pram Factory

Jude Kuring

As remembered by Soosie Adshead

 

Jude Kuring banged on my front door (very loudly as was her want).  "Soos, you want to design a play at the Pram?" she said.  Having plotted many design projects with Kuring and having realised that the conceptual component meant a great deal more to us than the actualisation, on account of nothing ever materialised, this question was a bit of a challenge.  Did I want to design a play again? ever? Did I want to take up drinking at the Albion?  Did I want to hang about at the Pram Factory? Maybe/maybe not. "Come and see Graham then okay?  At least talk to him."  So I did.

 

And without really giving it too much thought, I gave up a perfectly satisfactory social life, sleep, good food, clean living, and began working on A Night in Rio and Other Bummers.  I had around three and six to do the whole thing.

 

And of course there was a cast of thousands, lots of costumes and a multi purpose set.  I did it. It worked. It was the most challenging, exciting thing I had ever done at that point and so I kept on giving up sleep, food, real life, and kept at it.  At various stages I hated that place, and the people - passionately.  Usually when I was about to collapse from exhaustion.  At other times it was so exciting, so fulfilling, so meaningful, you couldn't imagine it not being that way forever.  But it changed.  I changed. We all changed.  Some stayed, some went.  Now it doesn't exist.  As is the way of a great idea that got too great.

 

But right through it all Jude, well Jude just kept knitting.  She knitted her way through collective meetings - vast unwieldy meetings where some said nothing, some said very little, and some got exactly what they wanted.

 

What I wanted was a scarf - just a warm throw around the neck scarf.  But the knitting grew and grew until it became dangerous.

 

Then there was Dimboola.  Well Dimboola was a nightmare for some of us, we were bored to distraction and it went on and on and on... Lozza (Laurel Frank)and I took turns with the lighting and sound.  We'd sit in the box occasionally twiddling a bit of equipment and talking in a whisper although there really was no need because the cast and audience were mostly raucous.  But you could get caught - you never knew when a pall of silence would suddenly overcome the audience so we whispered our way through six weeks.  And Jude kept knitting (she was the mother of the bride ) and knitting.

 

Occasionally Lozza and I would note that Jude was asleep - onstage - in the middle of it all.  Eventually someone would give her a nudge.  She was an extremely skilled sleeper.  She could do it anytime, anywhere, no matter the noise or the chaos around her.  I really envied her that skill.

 

She unnerved people, even some of the Pram Factory people.  She would make loud, raucous statements in the dressing room - announcing people's sexual bias, (while never verbalising her own) who was doing what with who.

 

She would shriek and yell, performing offstage and on.

 

And when at rest had a beautiful deep rich voice.  She was tall and handsome and had beautiful hands.  She could make anything she put her mind to with those hands.  Tiny intricate things.  Big complex things.  And she had an extraordinary collection of bits and pieces.  For any occasion, for any idea that might manifest at any time.  And she had dress ups, lots of dress ups.

 

She was a wonderful person to be around.  She was wild, exceptionally bright, alarming and loved attention, lots of it.

 

Sometimes we would go to Jimmy Watson’s on warm Saturday mornings and it would be packed.  Jude would be dressed in immaculate from head to toe. She would sit on the floor of the courtyard, long legs stretched out. Getting in everyone's way, getting abused and ignoring it all.  She drank claret in those days and she was skilled at that too.  A look of horror would cross someone's face (some poor innocent person having a wine, carting the shopping, enjoying the Saturday camaraderie that was Watson’s) everyone would strain to look through the crowd trying to see what was happening.

 

And there was the death scene.

 

Slowly, very slowly, a thin red trickle would slide down her chin. And it kept coming, and coming, until it reached the crotch of her trousers.  She could hold a lot of wine in her mouth.  She would keep it up until a whole mouthful had been dribbled down her front.

 

Quick get some help.  A terrible, terrible injury.  Horror at Watson’s.  Oh my god, look at that.  The first time it worked.  After the third or time people got bored.  After the fifth time people were not impressed.

 

A bleed out at eleven every Saturday.  She never tired of doing it.

 

Claude (as some people called her then) got thru a lot of clothes, quite a lot.

 

When she was good she was very, very good, a brilliant actor, a raconteur, so clever, so talented. So fragile. Why didn't you stop me doing that, why didn't you? she would say to me after a particularly tacky piece of behaviour, why didn't you?  But she was unstoppable.  And she was my best friend and I loved her.  But I couldn't stop her.



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