Off the Boards: Jaime Hadwen
Artists are accustomed to long periods of unemployment and uncertainty as they wait for the next big opportunity, but many talented young people who began their careers in Rockhampton were looking forward to a successful and busy 2020.
That is, of course, until the threat of coronavirus forced the closure of public venues from the smallest of chic bars to the largest of our nation’s theatre houses.
This is the second interview with one of Rockhampton’s exports who is facing an uncertain future “off the boards”.
Jaime Hadwen was looking forward to spending four days over Easter with her parents in Sydney, as she prepared for the launch of her pet project two years in the making.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put paid to both plans for now, but that won’t stop Ms Hadwen’s characteristically sunny outlook.
“I did just say to someone the other day, “Well, this is everyday life for me.”,” she said.
“I don’t have a nine-to-five gig where I do the same thing every week and sometimes I don’t know when my next job will be; my life can change immediately with one audition or phone call.”
“I feel like I’m coping well because I was already at a point in my career I was having to go out and make my own work.”
The latest work in question was a cabaret show based on the works of beloved Australian songstress Olivia Newton-John.
Ms Hadwen had dates and venues locked in – “I was looking forward to finally sharing my new creation” – but they were cancelled three weeks ago after the Federal Government closed performance spaces in an attempt to halt the spread of coronavirus.
In the 11 years since she graduated from Rockhampton Grammar School, Ms Hadwen’s considerable talents have gained her recognition from theatre fans around the world.
She honed her craft here in Rockhampton where she said she was taught by the “best of the best”, and inspired by her parents.
The Olivia Newton John show was being produced by fellow RGS alumnus Fraser Orford.
She went from playing the lead role of Sandy in Grease at the Pilbeam Theatre, under the watchful eye of RGS’ director Jan Kennedy – whom Hadwen described as her “mother hen” – to playing the same role travelling the world, aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.
Subsequent dream roles included Cinderella in Bonnie Lythgoe’s pantomime, Kira in Hayes Theatre’s Xanadu (on rollerskates), and as Agnetha in the world premiere and Australian tour of Muriel’s Wedding – The Musical.
In a device which took ABBA’s presence in the movie a step forward, its iconic band members were present throughout the narrative, encouraging Muriel to steal her Dad’s cash and to abandon Rhonda in her hour of need; one reviewer called it “a delicious idea, brilliantly realised”.
Ms Hadwen travelled last year with Muriel’s Wedding from its original season in Sydney to the Lyric Theatre in Melbourne where it received rave reviews and was hailed a smash hit.
So how does Rocky’s own blonde bombshell keep her spirits up and those of other artists around her during a time of lockdown?
“We are all reaching out to each other for support and being super creative,” she said.
“I’ve created an online live streaming event weeknights at 6pm called Storytime.
“I read three books to children all over Australia for 15 minutes to give their parents or guardians a little time out.”
She also keeps busy chasing monologues and scenes for future auditions, practising her self-taping skills and trying to read and exercise every day.
But for someone who describes her number one highlight over the past years as becoming an auntie to 18-month-old Karter, and doesn’t know if she’ll see her family again this year, the upcoming months will surely be a trial.
“I still have to pay rent in Coogee, a beautiful coastal suburb, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but I do miss my family,” she said.
“I think the arts are going to bring everyone back together after this huge life experience and we’ll find a way to make people reflect on this time in a compassionate way.
“We are story tellers.”