NIDA Mum – Jane Durbridge

To celebrate Mother’s Day, we sat down with a few students whose mothers played a huge role in them choosing a performing arts career and/or training here at NIDA.

Our next chat was with second year Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) student and Tranmere (South Australia) native, Emma Kew, and her comical mother, Jane Durbridge.

Photo (L-R): Emma Kew and Jane Durbridge

Describe your mother.

EMMA: My mum is a very strong, empathetic and intelligent woman. She comes from a line of other strong women and chose to empower my younger sister and myself very early on, to take on feminist ideals and know that we could do absolutely anything. She’s also got a great sense of humour and a passion for the arts.

What do you like to do together?

EMMA: Mum and I love to go and get a coffee and just have a chat… and laugh. We go to a lot of art exhibitions, and enjoy watching plays and musicals together.

She really likes spending time with the family and encourages us to hang out as a unit – doing breakfast, lunches, dinners, whatever.

When did you first realise Emma had a talent for acting?

JANE: In her year 12 production of The Visit when she played Claire Zachanassian, but, as I didn’t really trust my impartiality, it only really hit home when she got into NIDA!

How has your mum encouraged your journey towards becoming an actor?

EMMA: From a very early age, maybe about five, she put me in drama classes because I was an attention-seeking child with a lot of energy. And over the subsequent years, she realised that I wasn’t going to stop doing the classes. I think she thought it was just a hobby, so for a while, she encouraged me to be a bit more academic and to go to uni. I went on to study psychology at the University of Adelaide, but continued acting on the side.

I also auditioned for NIDA before I finished my degree, but didn’t get in the first time. I honestly didn’t think I was ever going to get in, but I wanted to give it a crack.

Slowly but surely, it dawned on my mum that acting was actually what I wanted to do. I took a year off after uni to get some industry experience and better my chances of getting into NIDA. I then auditioned a second time. And when I finally got the call that I had been accepted, my mum was so elated. It was the first time I’d ever seen her cry for joy.

Mum doesn’t really understand the acting side of things, but she supports me in her own way. She has sent me countless articles, podcasts and little extra acting exercises that she has seen someone do. If she hears something interesting on The Graham Norton Show, she’ll tell me to watch that specific episode. She sends me reviews of shows I’m in. Just anything she thinks will make me a great actor.

What went through your mind when Emma said she wanted to be an actor?

JANE: What’s plan B?

In what ways are you like your mother? What habits or quirks have you adopted from her?

EMMA: We’re both control freaks, that’s for sure. We’re anally retentive, but have learnt to take it in our stride and channel that into being quite productive. I think we’ve also got a very silly sense of humour. We like to have a laugh and sometimes do so for hours.

We’ve both got an insane love of dogs. If any of us, my sister included, is in a really deep conversation with someone and a dog walks past, we immediately stop talking and beeline for that dog. Over Easter, for example, my mum and I were in the middle of a conversation at a café and a Greyhound walked past. She got up mid-sentence and just started patting it. And I followed.

The funny thing is though, we don’t look similar at all. I’m studying acting. Mum HATES to be in the limelight, so bizarrely, we’re more different than similar.

What part of yourself do you see in Emma?

JANE: Unfortunately very little. I often joke around and ask who her mother is.

I know there might be more than one, but name one specific moment during your artistic journey where you felt your mum really had your back.

EMMA: Probably the moment that I told her I got into NIDA. I’d initially been put on the reserve list and was told I didn’t make the cut… I was pretty devastated.

Then I got the call telling me I’d been accepted. I was home alone in the kitchen that day, making these really silly Christmas cards for my friends. Mum walked in with groceries, the very second I was saying bye to the person on the line and was close to tears. She had this look on her face… she just knew what was happening. She stood there, nodding with expectant eyes, and I said, ‘I got into NIDA.’ She started crying and kept saying how proud she was of how hard I’d worked, and how she was going to do everything to help me.

In the moment, I knew that if, for whatever reason, my acting career fell apart, this woman was going to support me, no matter what.

What would you like to tell Jane this Mother’s Day?

EMMA: I’d tell her, ‘I love you and cannot thank you enough for the support you’ve given me and my sister.’ And then I’d give her a hug and big sloppy kiss, which she’d hate.