Jane Fonda has been an icon nearly six decades. You might associate her with the 1968 sci-fi comedy classic Barbarella, where she played a sexy space traveller sent to save humanity.
Or perhaps you think of her bestselling workout videos from the early 80s, which allowed women (and men) to follow a workout from their homes. The Jane Fonda Workout videos were originally produced to fund her activism (with then husband Tom Hayden), but unexpectedly became so successful they propelled VHS into the booming industry it was during the 1980s and 90s (you can now buy them on in digital download or DVD from her website).
As well as being an actor, director and businesswoman, Jane is also an activist and philanthropist, and most definitely, a feminist. So when An Evening with Jane Fonda came to the Sydney Opera House at the end of August, I knew I had to go.
An Evening with Jane Fonda wasn’t a performance, but a type of stage-show where audio, images, film and a live interview were combined to bring Jane’s story to life.
The story began with an introduction by none other than the woman herself, as she reads from her autobiography – My Life So Far. And then, she appears: energetic, sophisticated and elegant in a white pant suit, this woman can do no wrong (and the audience, which included a mix of ages and genders), let her know it too!
Now for journo nerds like me, or those who just like listening to ABC’s Radio National in the morning, you would forgive me for losing my shit a little bit when Fran Kelly came out to take her seat opposite Jane.
I really enjoyed the way they spoke about certain aspects of Jane’s life and then complimented that with footage or images. They touched on her personal relationships (she’s had three husbands and her favourite ex-husband is CNN Founder, Ted Turner who owns a plethora of ranches); and her career, including what she did to make her normally stoic father, actor Henry Fonda tear up during a scene together in On Golden Pond. They spoke a lot about her activism to end the Vietnam war, which earned her an FBI file and all sorts of heartache over a photo of her taken while in North Vietnam.
And then to more recent stories, or what Jane calls her ‘third act’: Her role in the (bloody amazing) Netflix TV series, Grace and Frankie with the equally awesome, Lily Tomlin, and her advocacy in sexual health education among teenagers. Jane was, of course, hilarious and very thoughtful in her responses to Fran’s questions.
Here, I would just like to remind everyone that Jane Fonda is 80 years of age. Another reason to love her.
I laughed when Jane had no idea what Fran Kelly meant when she said ‘bloke’ – but I also found it annoying when Jane couldn’t hear Fran’s questions over everyone’s clapping (which they seemed to do after almost everything Jane said). It’s endearing at first, but then it’s just annoying.
I wondered what Jane was doing here in Australia, and yes she does have a new movie out – The Book Club with Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen. But I think she could have done this show even without having something to promote, her life is that interesting and she’s just such a magnetic person.
I did buy her book My Life So Far straight after the show, which I couldn’t put down (hence taking so long to write this blog post). A proper review of her book requires its own post, but I will say that I learnt so much from her writing – it’s thoughtful, intelligent, interesting and insightful. And despite being almost 50 years younger than her, I could relate to a lot of what she was saying.