Tag Archives: directing

From Page to Stage (via Rage) – a GIF Guide to get to the Fringe

Hello, lovely reader.  How’s everything with you?

I must apologise for my prolonged absence – this is about 20% due to a bit of a confidence crisis, 10% due to laziness and 70% due to being completely brain-swamped by Tumbling After, the fabulously physical show that I’m taking to the Edinburgh Fringe this year with RedBellyBlack Productions.

It’s a gorgeous show that combines all kinds of ideas and disciplines, but as a devised piece it’s been an enormous (and welcome) challenge.  Everyone’s journey from page to stage is different, and the great thing about the Fringe is that you can take almost any performance genre imaginable up there and find a receptive audience.  Comedy, theatre, spoken word and performance art (and every other sub-genre and hybrid of those) show up on the Fringe programme every year.  Isn’t it amazing that the arts hold so much variety and such a wide range of skills?  (I’M TALKING TO YOU, CAMERON, YOU UNCULTURED SWINE.)

Ahem.  Sorry.  Anyway, one thing I’ve noticed about getting ready for the Fringe this year is that, no matter which genre or sub-heading you’ve picked for your show, you go through a lot of the same stages:

Realising that your show idea is actually pretty darn good

Realising how much work this great idea is going to need

Refusing to acknowledge the huge amount of stress on the horizon

Getting into the swing of it

The first time you really and truly force yourself to look at the budget

The second, third and fourth time you look at the budget

The amazing moment when you can see how it’s all going to work

When the first cast/production team member cracks up

When it’s YOUR turn to crack up

Realising that you’ve only got a few weeks left

Still knowing, even after all the stress, that your show really is a great idea.

If you’d like to know more about Tumbling After and the magical mischief we’re getting up to, search #TumblingAfter on Twitter – there are lots of ridiculous photos and short videos to enjoy.

Have a cracking Wednesday!

What Are You Tumbling After?

Photo credit: Flickr.com
Photo credit: Flickr.com

Good morrow, dear reader.  I must begin by apologising profusely for having been absent for a whole month, which is just morally wrong.  Please forgive me.

My main excuse is that I have had pretty dreadful writer’s block, including all of the usual symptoms: staring blankly at my laptop screen, getting distracted in the middle of conversations and constantly thinking strange things like “WHERE ARE ALL THE WORDS?!”  The weirdest thing about this bout – which is also kind of reassuring – is that I know where the writer’s block has come from.  I have been trying to do too many things at once, and this metaphorical juggling act has landed me in a pile of broken plates and a lot of unfinished tasks.

A lot of the time life throws us all sorts of tasks and trials at once, and we have to prioritise accordingly.  Some people thrive under pressure of the multi-faceted kind, but for the rest of us it feels impossible to keep on top of everything, and instead we tumble after our lives with a vague sense of having forgotten something important.  In my case, it’s usually the house keys.

So what is it that you are tumbling after?  Which small duties are distracting you from chasing after what you actually want?  Do you have dreams and ambitions that you’re not fulfilling because your to do list is out of control?  Who do you want to be?  What kind of people do you want to spend your life with?  Where – if I may paraphrase the question that haunts all twenty-somethings as soon as they wake up in the morning – is your life going?

These questions and more besides are driving a lot of the collaborative work in rehearsals for Tumbling After, the devised piece that I’m directing for the Edinburgh Fringe 2015.  The cast, movement director and I are especially interested in why people choose to spend their lives with certain people.  How often are our relationships the result of sensible choices that we make with clear minds?  (Answer: rarely.)  How often are we willing to blindly fall down a hill, hoping to find love at the bottom?  (Answer: alarmingly frequently.)

It’s never easy to ask these questions, because they remind us so vividly of how much time we spend chasing after purpose, success and overall happiness.  That can be stressful.  But the unexamined life, as Socrates once said over feta and vino, is not worth living.  Examining ourselves in detail and assessing where we are in relation to what we want is not an easy thing to do, but if we don’t check in with our lifetime goal list at least once in a while, then all we are ever doing is stumbling and tumbling without knowing what we’re getting into.

We all have our own ways of sorting out our lives: mine is to sit in a rehearsal room and tell four actors where to stand.  Not the most ground-breaking approach, but it seems to be working for me.  I hope that your method is equally enjoyable.

Have a fantastic day.

The Play’s The Thing

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Cast of Tumbling After from left to right: Steven Laverty, Marietta Melrose, Kate Goodfellow, Robert Boulton

Hello, gorgeous reader!  I hope that you’re keeping warm this chilly Tuesday.

I am delighted to announce that in August I will be returning to that fabulous world of sleepless nights, excellent shows and a bajillion flyers, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  (For more information about my 2014 excursion, click here.)  This time I will be pottering up the road to Scotland with the fabulous Kate Goodfellow, producer and performer extraordinaire.

My history with Kate is a classic example of how life can take you by surprise.  Kate and I met through a mutual friend, who is herself a flipping fantastic performer (quite literally, in terms of her physical theatre training), and hit it off immediately.  We have similar senses of humour, a like-minded attitude towards theatre and a mutual appreciation of red wine.  As a result, Kate has asked me to direct her devised show Tumbling After, a story about two couples living next door to one another.

The thing about devised work – particularly when it centres around romantic relationships – is that it requires an entirely different set of skills to rehearsing a straight play.  With a normal production you have clear instructions in the form of stage directions, lines of dialogue which have been written to shape the actors’ performance and a concrete context for everyone to work within.  When you devise a show, you have starting points and end goals: stimuli in the form of images and pieces of writing, music that informs the tone of the performance, and an idea of how the story will probably play out.  I say “probably”, because when a group of people devise they are basically being encouraged to go with whatever feels natural in the rehearsals, and that can take the whole performance off in unpredictable directions.

This is, to put it mildly, a bit scary.  As a director I am very excited about the challenge of shaping a performance from scratch, but I’m also keenly aware that this is going to take a lot of work.  In terms of administration, marketing and rehearsal schedules, Kate and I are Fringe aficionados who are completely comfortable with the production’s demands, but in terms of working with the actors to create something completely unique, this is uncharted territory for all of us.

The reason why (despite the various times throughout my Drama degree when devising was asked of us bright-eyed young students) this project is so much more daunting and exciting than anything I’ve done before is that it requires a level of emotional honesty about something that we all talk about, but very rarely publicise: our love lives.

Relationships are hard.  Falling in love is exciting, but staying there takes effort.  The people we form attachments to shape, make and break us, which is something that most of us seem to accept.  For instance, a person with ongoing commitment issues may trace their problem back to an earlier, failed relationship, while someone who finds it difficult to trust their partner might attribute this difficulty to a previous infidelity committed by somebody else.  We all allow our past relationships to give us attributes and attitudes, whether or not they are good for us.  The emotional hangovers of our love lives are difficult enough to deal with, and now myself and four actors are going to try and make that premise into a show.  Crikey.

The trick when it comes to putting real life into theatre is to take what you need, but nothing else.  Over the course of this rehearsal process I will be asking the actors (and the movement director – and myself, actually) to be as honest as possible about how their own romantic histories will shape the characters and the narrative of the play.  This is not because Kate and I like to make people cry – that’s a separate issue – but because we know that putting two relationships onstage means nothing if the characters don’t come across as genuine, and their problems are not rooted in something that the actors already understand.

The play, clichéd as the notion may be, really is the thing.  I am very excited about working with such brilliant actors and a stellar movement director (who is, in fact, the person who introduced me to Kate in the first place – her name is Liz Williams, and she’s headed for great things), because I know that this is exactly the right group of people to make a scary, brilliant, challenging and emotionally demanding project with.

Plus, you know, there’ll probably be red wine somewhere down the line.

For more information about Tumbling After and all the nonsense we’re getting up to in rehearsals, like the company Facebook page.  More information soon!

Have a truly sublime Tuesday.

No More Drama

Hooray, it’s Monday!  A brand new week!  A fresh start!  Potentially the beginning of the best week of your life!  Joy and fuzzy feelings for all!!

Bit too cheerful?  Sorry, I’ll tone it down a bit.

Today I would like to show you the most upsetting and infuriating thing I’ve clapped eyes on since my house mate made me watch Jingle All the Way.

Here it is:

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My university is discontinuing my degree course.  What the actual hell.

Perhaps this shouldn’t bother me so much.  After all, I graduated three years ago.  I spent four years doing spinal rolls and writing essays (and drinking cider and other extracurricular activities that we don’t need to go into here).  At the end of it all I got to spend a day wearing a fancy gown and throwing my hat in the air.  In short, I got my degree.  So why do I have a problem with this?

First of all, it seems to be symptomatic of the degeneration of higher education in general.  People not being able to afford university fees means fewer applicants to previously popular courses, and eventually the courses become too expensive to justify running.  Due to the screw up with student fees (thanks a lot Clegg, you asshat), university education has gone from being something that anyone could pursue to something that requires re-mortgaging your kidneys.  This is unfair and elitist, and it can only lead to an increased class division between those who can afford university and those who cannot.  Why on earth should something as arbitrary as wealth decide your academic path?  

Secondly and more specifically, my drama degree is the bee’s knees.  I realise that I’m pretty biased about this point, but for people like me that course was the making of us.  The fourth year of the course is the main selling point of the degree, because it’s that final push in the right direction that gave us all the impetus to pursue our careers.  My Masters in Directing got me to start up Empty Photo Theatre.  A lot of the guys who took Stand-Up Comedy are still gigging now (and doing insanely well, in many cases).  My friends Laura and Jess set up the arts charity Ingeenium because of their year specialising in Applied Performance Practice, and Little Cauliflower would not exist if those guys hadn’t specialised in Contemporary Performance Practice.  

At £9,000 a year in fees, who is going to opt for a four-year course when they can just do a BA?  It’s such a shame that fear of lifelong debt is going to deprive future students of a lifelong creative passion.  Essentially, the most important thing about that four-year course is that it taught us to make our own work.  You will never find a Kent graduate sitting around waiting for the phone to ring – we get out there and we do stuff.  Dozens of excellent professional theatre companies, performers, writers, directors and producers have come out of my university.  And they are not happy about this situation:

“It’s a terrible shame that the Conservative ideal of economic viability being the presiding factor in academia has forced such a unique course that has value beyond the career it may or may not instantly provide for you.  The fourth year of specialised study at the University of Kent trained, inspired and invigorated me in ways that the previous three years of undergraduate study never did, and I know that I’m not alone in that.  My greatest fear is that great traditions within the university, such as the Monkeyshine comedy club and the week of directors’ plays, may fall casualty to this horrid decision and be lost forever.”

“It seems a shame that UKC has discontinued one of the only university courses that actually gave students an idea of the working practice of the theatre. I understand that as a qualification on a piece of paper the MDrama is next to useless and causes an endless need to explain exactly what on earth an MDrama is, however that extra year gave us the focus and work skills we needed to succeed that the general study in the other three years didn’t. The drama department at UKC however seems to have gone down hill in recent years with budget cuts, unexplained course changes and staff losses and losing the fourth year as an undergraduate seems another cut that only lessens the experience for the students.”

“I think it’s really sad, I found it to be such a fun and interesting year to specialise in one subject for a year, in something I never thought I’d even get the chance to do. It really got you to grips with a specific area and focussing on a particular topic, rather than just kind of glancing over a few areas. It’s a shame more people won’t experience that amazing and eye-opening year!

“It’s a complete shame and I feel very sorry for prospective students who will miss out on the invaluable fourth year that myself and many others benefited from immensely. It’s a year in which you are able to fully explore, deepen, and develop your specialist skills in either directing, producing, dramaturgy etc. that will make you stand out amongst fellow students from other theatre courses when you graduate.”

“I am saddened to learn that the course I gave four years of my life and many thousands of pounds to is being stopped. I don’t know if it saddens me because of the experience I had there – if only for the fourth year specialism, which is the one year I really felt as if I learnt a great deal and was given the opportunity to develop and grow, creatively and intellectually. It was also the year which I felt genuinely benefited me in terms of career progression, particularly for the contacts – and friends – I made along the way. But I fear that, selfishly, one of the main reasons it saddens me is that it may diminish the value of my degree. I fear it will go from “oh you went to Kent, that’s quite good for drama isn’t it?” to “Kent? I never even knew they did a drama degree” in a matter of short years. I know, realistically, that this will not hamper my future job prospects; no one will probably even ask where I went to uni, nor have an opinion of it if I tell them. But I’d like to think that those four years of hard work has a lasting value outside of my own development at that time. After all, it cost me enough.”

“It seems we’re seeing the repercussions of our government’s attitude towards the arts. The sad thing is, at the current extortionate prices, even I’d think twice about taking the course, and that’s coming from someone who has benefited immensely from it. Remember when we voted in that guy who swore he’d not raise the fees and then he stabbed us all in the back? At least Cameron and Clegg listened to us we turned out in huge numbers to march on the capital to voice our disapproval. Oh well, so long as the government gets its way, what does it matter if the arts get swept to the side and young people lose faith in democracy.”

“It’s a crying shame. UKC offered a unique course that appealed to such a wide range of potential Drama Students. The chance to choose a specialism in the last year makes the course feel focused and personal. UKC will now join the countless other universities offering a generic Drama and Theatre Studies MA. How is it going to stand out from the crowd? And how are its future students going to stand out from the crowd?  The four year course also offered another unique opportunity to it’s students. It kept then together for longer! I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many strong theatre companies are formed at UKC. Would The Noise Next Door have started if we’d only had three years? Would Little Bulb? Would Spun Glass Theatre? Would Accidental Collective? Would Wide Eyed Theatre? Would we have all developed into the varied theatre makers we are without our final specialisms?  What’s happening to Dr. Oliver Double? He’s the only Doctor of Comedy and a superb lecturer and inspiration. If UKC stop doing the final year stand-up specialism aren’t they wasting this unique asset? Ollie’s course has produced so many excellent comedians: Jimmy McGhie, Tiernan Douieb, Laura Lexx, two of Pappy’s, two of The Noise Next Door and many more besides. All these people are working in the industry that their final year trained them for! And for a drama degree that’s rare! It seems to me that in dropping the four year MDrama UKC are throwing away the thing that has made them and their students special.”

“As a graduate of the reputable MDrama & theatre studies degree at UKC, I’m really disappointed to hear of its discontinuation. Having the opportunity to gain further experience and to specialise in your area of choice is something that a BA simply doesn’t offer you. The specialism was, for myself and many of my peers, the stand out reason for applying to Kent, and it really set itself apart from competitor institutions. Admittedly, higher education faces more pressure than ever with the rise of fees and cuts in funding, but I feel giving into this pressure is a real disappointment for students, lecturers, alumni and of course prospective students.” 

“It’s sad to learn of the end of pre-professional practice at UKC. As someone who partook in the programme, studying stand-up, I found the resources and almost one on one tuition astounding. To be able to specialise practically at a high level with accomplished tutors in arts is something of an enigma amongst many theory-heavy courses on offer today. In terms of employment, university allows you to present the best version of yourself. It’s not to say that specialist skills can’t be learnt on the job, but being able to do so in a safe and progressive learning environment was well worth the time, money and fun!”

“In a nutshell I think losing the MDrama would be losing a big part of why a lot of people choose Kent to do drama. The ability to specialise for a whole year in something you find genuinely interesting without incurring the costs and lack of funding for a full masters was a huge draw. Also it sent Kent apart, showed that for however long a time the department really cared about taking a standard drama course in a new individual direction, one personal to the student. Now it will fall into the category of ‘another uni that does a 3 year BA in drama’. It’s reflective that for whatever reason, drama at Kent is changing, it’s falling into line with everywhere else and perhaps may indicate that people involved in the course don’t care about it as much as others that preceded them did. Or maybe they just got less funding. What do I know? I’m just a drama graduate.”

I realise at this stage that there’s nothing we can do about the discontinuation of the MDrama course at Kent.  Having said that, can we all agree that enough’s enough now?  This has to stop.  We cannot keep accepting the funding cuts and political decisions that are ruining our education system, particularly in the arts.  I hate to think of future drama students missing out on the life-changing year of education that inspired me and so many others to work in the arts.  Who knows what kind of side-splitting comedy or eye-opening theatre we will miss out on in future because the students who would have made it never discovered their passion?

I’m calling you out, David Cameron.  You’ve got to stop spoiling stuff.  If I were feeling particularly immature and petty, I might even tell you to do this.

Thanks for reading what turned out to be a pretty hefty piece.  Have a beautiful Monday, and I promise that tomorrow’s blog will be much more cheerful (and shorter).

Get That Poncho Away From Me

Hello, dear reader!  How’s the world with you today?  I hope you’ve remembered your umbrella.

So I am now ankle-deep in rehearsals for the Edinburgh Fringe, and already I have started to rediscover some of the things that inevitably happen in the run up to a show, including issues with rehearsal schedules, quandaries about the best place to buy lunch and realising that the script I’ve printed isn’t the most recent version (“Um, Vicki…didn’t we change that line?” “Oh shit, yeah we did…ok, cross that out.”  “It’s ok Vicks, don’t worry.”  “I DO worry!  This is UNACCEPTABLE!”)

It’s almost impossible to avoid hitting a few clichés when you work in the performing arts, but as a director there are a few traditional tendencies that I’m very keen to avoid.  Basically, I’m desperately trying not to turn into this guy from Friends:

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“You are BAD ACTORS!  This is a TERRIBLE play!!”

Here are a few directing dramas which I sincerely hope don’t make an appearance in the run up to Chris is Dead:

Sleeping with the Star
The “casting couch” cliché is well-known in the film and theatre industries, but I think we can safely avoid this one for three reasons: firstly, I cast this show over a year ago, and there was absolutely no funny business involved at that point.  Secondly, everyone involved with this show is technically taken, so we won’t be looking for anything romantic inside the rehearsal room, and thirdly these people are all good friends who know each other far too well (and have seen each other in far too many compromising situations) to find each other attractive.

Being a Diva
We have a running joke in rehearsals that I refer to the actors as “my talking props”, which I have never and will never do with any serious intent.   Having said that, directors are under a lot of pressure to bring a show together and make all of the elements work, so it’s understandable that sometimes there’s a bit of egotism or drama queenishness involved.  I am very lucky because I know for certain that my cast and operations manager will tell me in no uncertain terms if they think I am heading that way.

Being a Tyrant
As a fairly maternal and “scary-eyed” (not my words) director, the few strict rules I have laid down tend to be followed to the letter.  These are, I hope, all fairly straightforward and reasonable: no alcohol before rehearsals, let us know in advance if you know you’re going to be late, don’t turn up unprepared.  Some directors (myself included) have a natural propensity to take control of situations, but I think that it’s important to keep the balance between laying down sensible laws and throwing your weight around for the sake of it.

Dressing Like an Eejit
It makes sense for directors as well as actors to wear sensible, practical rehearsal clothing.  Today, for instance, I will be rocking the “trainers and ancient jumper” look.  If you ever see me wearing a poncho and beret, you have my permission to shoot.

Have an incredibly amusing Thursday.

Life Is Not A Rehearsal (Except Today)

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Hello!  Welcome to what I hope will be the best Wednesday of your life so far.

This evening my theatre company is putting on a show called Date Night (don’t worry, this isn’t a marketing ploy), and so today will mostly be spent rehearsing, folding programmes and having a fight with the sound effects.  The reason that I bring the event up (apart from the fact that I’m excited about it) is that I think I’ve finally realised what I love so much about theatre.

I am, as you may possibly perhaps potentially have noticed from previous posts, not so good at relinquishing control.  Having said that, like most people I also hugely enjoy the spontaneous, unpredictable and wonderful moments that life throws at us from time to time.  (Case in point: you might be in a confusing on/off relationship, get sick of it, go travelling to focus on yourself for a while and then receive a life-changing declaration of undying love from said on/off person.  True story, although sadly not mine.)  Being a theatre director gives me the best of both worlds: I can dictate the terms of the performance, but I have absolutely no control over what happens on the night.  The actors can do what they like on stage, and I will not be able to stop them – not that I’d want to, of course.  They’re flipping brilliant at what they do.

I think that it’s incredibly important to find activities that bring out and reconcile the most juxtaposing aspects of our personalities.  I am incredibly lucky to have found a way to make something positive out of the fact that I simply MUST be in control at all times, AND want to be pleasantly surprised by life.  Not asking much, am I?  But if we’re honest with ourselves, we all hold opposing views simultaneously, and we are all trying to find ways to work them out all of the time.  There are pessimistic romance-cynics who really want to be swept off their feet, and frantically career-minded professionals who would love to be stay at home parents one day.  Everyone is capable of having these contradictions in their minds, and I know that it can be frustrating, but I think that we can all find ways to make those bizarre contrasts work for us.  Besides, life is too short to get ourselves in a tangle about having contradictory views.  Life is really not a rehearsal (except mine today, which literally is).

To summarise, you are allowed to feel more than one way about life, love and controversial issues.  You are all the more interesting for being able to see more than one side of an argument, and that’s saying something, because you are pretty blimming fascinating already.

I hope your commute today is the swiftest and least stressful it’s ever been.

Actors are Awesome

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Good morning, you fabulous human being!  I hope that you’ve started your weekend with a decent lie-in.  As you can tell from the time that this post was published, I did not have a lie-in myself.  This is not a problem, partly because I really like mornings (sunshine!  Coffee!  Optimism!  More coffee!!) but mainly because I’ve got an early rehearsal.  My actors are a lovely bunch with a pretty good understanding of my eccentricities, but it would be a bit awkward if they turned up and found their director still in her pyjamas.

We are rehearsing for a show on Wednesday called Date Night, which is a series of three short pieces about relationships and how bad Generation Y is at them.  (Apparently my generation is called that, but I don’t know why.  Pun not intended.)  Anyway, since I wrote all three pieces it would be a bit weird of me to start talking about them, so I’ll talk about the actors instead.  They’re brilliant.

Actors in general are a fascinating bunch of people, and wider society thinks that it’s got the whole lot of them pegged.  Wider society is missing out.  Actors have lots of things in common: passion for performance, a desire to create empathetic experiences with an audience, a clear speaking voice and the ability to memorise enormous chunks of dialogue.  But each actor is unique in the same way that human beings are, and they are blimming fascinating.

No matter how obvious I think a script is or how clearly I’ve imagined a character, there is always an actor out there who can turn my ideas on their head.  It’s actually the main reason that I enjoy writing so much: our minds are full of strange, complicated thought processes – to quote the great Bill Bailey “my mind is unravelling like a tapestry with some angry kittens!” – but we only get one mind each.  I am limited by my capacity to be be just one person, so whatever I write will be likewise limited.  I can imagine situations and write characters, but it is the actors who take the scripts and make them work.  The dialogue needs their unravelling tapestry minds as well as mine.

What do you think of when you read the word “actor”, by the way?  Do you picture Kenneth Branagh, or maybe Laurence Olivier?  Does the word remind you of tortured artistry or living on a pittance?  Maybe even the idea of being a bit pretentious?  You may well be right to think of those things.  But among my social and professional sphere are a whole load of actors who have made me laugh until I’ve cried, actors who have given me chills, who have made me fall in love with their characters or made me want to run a mile.  These are people whom I have grown up with, seen first thing in the morning, spent all day in a pub with and played Monopoly with: the people I know best in the world, in fact.  But they have all managed to astonish me at some point by becoming somebody else when they’re on stage.  It’s weird (and wonderful).

You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but it’s a sensation that I don’t think I will ever become accustomed to.  I hope that I don’t.  Actors, like all people, have got the constant power to surprise you…BOO!  Ok I’m sure you were expecting that…but hey, I’m not an actor.

Have the most unapologetically awesome Saturday.

Pointless Preparation

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Hello, dear reader!  How are you getting on?

I admit that I’m a control freak (although we prefer the term “relaxationally challenged”).  It probably explains why I like directing so much, and why I enjoyed being the social secretary of a drama society when I was at university.  I like to know where I’m going, what I’m doing and when.  Unfortunately I’m not very organised, so despite my best intentions I very rarely have a clue what on earth is going on.

This weekend is a perfect example.  I have to be in several different places over the course of a few days, and I have not yet figured out transport, timings or how much clothing to pack.  (While we’re at it, what the heck have I done with my suitcase?)  One of the places I have to be is a television studio in Elstree, because tomorrow Ash and I will finally be going on Pointless.

I am, if I may use the common parlance, pooing myself a bit.  I know that this brilliant opportunity has been on the cards for a while, but because there were so many dates that Ash and I couldn’t do I sort of convinced myself that it wasn’t really going to happen.  Except now it is.  Oh crap.  I mean, oh good.

In this situation the only control I have is over my last-minute revision.  I should be poring over a map of the world learning all the countries that border Germany, or finding lists of obscure films featuring Sandra Bullock.  I will probably do both of those things later.  This morning my plan is to write this blog, dye my roots and find my favourite nail varnish.  I have never been one for sensible prioritising (or being able to find suitcases, apparently).

I think that a lot of people have this problem: when we are worried about something, we deliberately under-prepare for it so that we can always claim “well, I didn’t try very hard” if we fail.  It’s a philosophy that got me a very mixed bag of GCSE results, but given that I am knocking on twenty-five I should probably have grown out of that approach by now.

It’s a bit late at this stage to do any serious learning, but I promise I will try.  It might be too late to change my personality and become sensible, well-prepared and knowledgeable, but at times like this we have to stay optimistic.  You never know what you can achieve if you try, even just a little bit.

Ash and I have to be at the studio appallingly early tomorrow, so I will update you lovely people on our progress when we’ve finished recording.  Wish us luck!

Have a fantastic Thursday.

P.S. Ash just called me to tell that the Piccadilly line is on fire.  This does not bode well…

Let It Go (or Drop it Like it’s Hot, if You Prefer)

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Happy Friday, everyone!  Did you know that on this day in 1958 Grace Kelly gave birth to Prince Albert of Monaco?  Me neither.

As you may already know from previous blog posts, the songs from the film Frozen have been very popular in my flat of late.  The sound of my house mate wandering around singing “do you wanna build a snowman?” has become pretty normal background noise.  The other song from the film that’s had a lot of attention (and not just in our bizarre little household) is Let it Go, which was made unbelievably creepy by this kid on YouTube.  I like the song (film version, not scary children’s choir version) because it has such a simple message: let go of things that are not good for your well-being.  Fair enough.  It seems like very basic common sense, but how easy is it to actually do?  And how many of us are holding on to things that we shouldn’t?

So to round up a week of fairly self-help focused blog posts, here are some things that I think we should all let go of:

1) The Unfinished Argument
The comedian Ed Byrne talks about obsessing over things he wished he’d said in arguments that happened eighteen months ago.  The routine  strikes a chord with people because it taps into a problem that lots of us have, i.e. Post-Argument Eloquence Syndrome.  You can be left spluttering or even speechless by someone’s cutting words in the middle of a row, but hours or even days later the perfect witty response will come to you, unbidden, and usually when it’s far too late to do anything about it.  It’s frustrating that our brains don’t work fast enough to make us the Oscar Wilde of every argument, but there’s nothing we can do about it.  in the long run, it’s probably better that we can’t think of the ultimate put-down when we would have used it.  It probably makes us nicer people (even though it’s not by choice).

2) The One Who Won’t Go Away
A lot of people have an ex whom they always think of as “the one who got away”, who invariably won’t go away in terms of your thoughts and feelings.  I hate to perpetuate a cliché, but honestly, if it’s meant to be – or rather, if getting back together will ever be right for both of you – then it will probably happen.  Your job is to crack on with being a fabulous human being.  It’s not even a case of waiting for that other person; it’s about accepting that things are not what they were, and trying to move on.  Don’t try to get them out of your head just for the sake of it: get them out of your head so that you can concentrate on other things.  There’s a lot of cool stuff to think about, you know.  Like what you would call your pet dragon if you had one.  (Mine would be called Jiminy Billy Bob, and you have to ask why then we can’t be friends.)

3) Bottle It
We’ve talked about this fairly recently: you are the only person who lies awake regretting stupid things you’ve said or done.  No one who loves you or cares about you thinks about inebriated errors you’ve made or silly things you’ve said while sober: they think about nice things you’ve done for them, or times you’ve made them laugh.  I am terrible for thinking about stuff I wish I hadn’t said or done (especially after one too many ciders), but it’s not going to do anyone any good.  You and I will just have to trust that our friends still love us, and that maybe in future we can avoid drunk dialling by turning our phones off at the start of a night out.  Or, you know, by drinking less…but who am I to tell you how to wind down of an evening?

4) Opportunities Wasted
Because so many of my friends work on a freelance basis as actors, writers and suchlike, I have a lot of conversations about ‘perfect’ opportunities that they are dying to grab hold of: casting briefs that seem to have been written for them, directing placements at that brilliant fringe theatre or writing workshops with their literary idol.  We apply for these things in feverish hope that this will be the key turning point in our meandering careers, that this one thing will open doors for us and make us better practitioners, and if we don’t get them we are bitterly disappointed.  That opportunity would have been perfect for us.  Sigh.  I am no stranger to the deflated feeling that comes with professional rejection, but I don’t think that the chances we miss out on were quite right for us in the first place.  On a pretty basic level, why would you want to work for someone who hasn’t got the common sense to accept an application from someone as brilliant as you?  Don’t worry about it.  There will be other jobs and projects.

5) The Artist Previously Known As
You are not who you were ten years ago.  You are not who you were three years ago, or last month, or when you woke up this morning.  We change in tiny, seemingly inconsequential ways every time we feel or experience anything, and that’s something to be happy about.  You know when someone says something odd like “tomorrow will be a better day”?  (How do they know, by the way?  Do they have some kind of prescience that surpasses the freakish knowledge of television weather forecasters?  Very suspicious.)  It’s not tomorrow that’s going to different, or better: it’s you.  In a way, I miss being sixteen and having the time of my life at sixth form (and working my bum off for my A Levels, of course).  I know for certain that I miss being eighteen and feeling like an independent adult for the first time, and being twenty-one and discovering how much I loved directing.  I am not any of those versions of me anymore, and although it would be lovely to keep hold of the good times, we have to trust that the person we are now is all the better for having adapted.

Have a lovely day.  Maybe treat yourself to a take away coffee or something.  What the hell, you deserve it.