Geraldine Turner, musical theatre star and actor extraordinaire, comments airily, after relating some horrendous early memories: “I love dogs more than people. You know where you are with dogs.” And after devouring this immensely readable memoir, one can understand why.
Turner was born and raised in suburban Brisbane and extreme parental violence. Little Geb learned to endure – and of course to love – a mother who makes Gypsy’s monstrous Mama Rose look like Mother Theresa. Turner’s unflinching recollections of being in the eye of this unending storm of dysfunction is all the more effective for the absence of self-pity. As she notes much further on when offered a role of stupendous difficulty: “‘I can do that,’ I say, without really thinking. If I did, I’d throw up.” True.
Turner’s Turn is actually many turns, personal and professional, that make a life and career which encompasses the growth from ho-hum to greatness that is contemporary Australian showbiz.
Her references range from Cyd Charisse and Yvonne de Carlo to “Steve”, who is Sondheim, and “Hal” who is – well, there’s only ever been one Hal. She once played a singing pineapple and has taken innumerable roles by the scruff and made them hers. She “adores” many and many more are “great”, yet this virtual history of 50+ years of Australian theatre is so much more than a gushing luvvy’s reminiscences. Turner is resolute in recounting the good, the hilarious and the absolutely awful events which have made her. It’s beautifully written and engrossing. Also wise: “You do reach a stage in your life when you must accept you are a grown up. You must stop blaming things that happen on your upbringing. You must step up and take responsibility for your failings. Yet you cannot rip out your past…” True. Good advice.
Turner’s Turn By Geraldine Turner
New Holland Publishing, PB, 256pp, $29.99