10 February 2014
STAND-UP COMEDIAN WINS ARTS AWARD
At a ceremony in Mundaring last month, the inaugural Robert Juniper Award for the Arts was presented to Chris Bedding of Darlington, a stand-up comedian who specializes in improvisation, and has the unique distinction of also being the Anglican rector of Darlington and Bellevue.
Chris will use his $5000 award to attend a workshop in Canada in July, presented by Keith Johnstone, a world authority in improvisation and theatre sports. It is the first time in the 25 years of the award that it has gone to a comedian.
Chris Bedding is no ordinary comedian, however. Originally from New South Wales, from a very young age he sensed his path in life would involve some type of ministry, ‘despite coming from a family that were not even churchgoers’. It was singing in a church choir from the age of ten, and later attending a leadership course, that led him to a theology degree and also sparked an interest in musical theatre.
From performing in musicals like Fiddler on the Roof and Les Mis, he took up directing, improvisation, and stand-up comedy, and is currently performing at the Perth Fringe Festival, in Pirate Church, a satirical comedy about religion, performed by believers.
Why improvise? ‘It’s exciting,’ he explains, ‘and I’m learning so much at the moment. I enjoy its unpredictability. It’s accessible and very egalitarian – and it’s a great opportunity for people from all walks of life.’
He reveals that it also helps in his role as a priest. ‘All clergy improvise all the time, we are always looking for the right thing to say. We all improvise our way through life, but it is particularly helpful to clergy, because we often meet people at the point of crisis, which can be very confronting if you are young and inexperienced. The whole nature of improvising is responding to a crisis.
‘I try not to improvise sermons,’ he admits, ‘but on the occasions when I have, I’ve been told they were the most moving.’
Chris is looking forward to learning even more about this unique art, in Calgary in July, from a master of improvisation.
The Robert Juniper Award for the Arts is presented annually by the Trust, along with the 2013 Robert and Trish Juniper Art Prize of $1000, which was won by artist Kieran Ingram, who is currently working overseas.
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