Author: Heather Mitchell
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Acclaimed Australian actor Heather Mitchell writes in the epilogue to her memoir, Everything and Nothing, that she is soon to appear in RBG (Suzie Miller’s play about the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg) with the Sydney Theatre Company. Mitchell attributes her affinity with the script for this one-hander, where she plays a range of roles, to many similarities between Bader Ginsberg’s life and her own. Both experienced the death of their mothers as they were about to finish school; both have been mothers of two children; both have battled with cancer.
Everything and Nothing describes the times of hope, joy and despair in all of these life experiences – as a girl, a woman and a mother (the titles of the three parts of the book).
This memoir also showcases the talents that have made Mitchell so successful as an actor on stage, television and screen. Her prodigious memory has enabled her to describe events and locations in intimate detail. Her deep empathy with others, and consequent understanding of their complex inner worlds, has enabled her to write with love and realism about the people in her life, including her son who lives with autism, and her eccentric and loving aunts.
Possessed of the ability to depict a wide range of emotions, Mitchell is unsparing in her description of the fear, rage and determination she felt when sexually assaulted. Or of the sense of peace and acceptance that comes with experiencing the death of someone who is ready to go.
The author has no inhibitions about exposing her failures, including unsuccessful attempts to please capricious casting directors. And in contrast she writes as if just in passing about the roles she did win. If you’re looking for a chronology of an actor’s roles and awards, you won’t find it in this book.
Everything and Nothing deserves many curtain calls. Keep it on hand for the times you want to be reminded that, as Mitchell says, “We continue to try to make sense of family and life, and what is before us and behind us. We maintain the need to create something out of nothing. The creative spirit is in everyone.”