Tag Archives: drama

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).

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Aaaaaaaay Macarena!

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Good morning, and a very merry Sunday to you!  I’ve just put the kettle on.  Do you take sugar?

Last night a friend and I went to a dance performance at Sadler’s Wells.  My friend is a ballerina and all-round dance expert, whereas my knowledge of dance extends as far as the Macarena, so the experience was a new one for me.

When we left the theatre after the show, I genuinely had no idea what I thought of the piece.  I have never, ever left a theatre without having formed a strong opinion on what I’ve just seen, so I was a bit discombobulated by this turn of events.  As far as I could see, the show was an extremely well-executed performance of the bleep test, combined with some energetic writhing.  That is not an insult to the show or the performers in any way; I’m sure that to a fan of dance the piece was extraordinary.  But I am not a dance fan.  I’m a words girl.  I can’t feel anything about a show that doesn’t have any words in it.

Bizarrely, the friend I saw the show with had the opposite view.  To quote her directly, “I don’t want to hear words.  Tell me the story with your bodies!”  This confuses me slightly because she did a Drama degree…the same one that I did, in fact, which is how we met.  And there were, as I recall, a fair few words involved in that.

I love going to the theatre with people whose views are so different to mine.  I have a friend whom I go to the theatre with quite regularly, and we nearly always agree on what we like and dislike about performances, which is great.  It’s always nice to have your opinions validated by someone you like and respect.  But it’s also a lot of fun to expose yourself to the weird and wonderful, and to try to see something you care about (i.e. performance) through someone else’ eyes.  I’m not saying that everyone should love every genre of performance, but it’s good to challenge ourselves a bit from time to time.  Go and see that show you’re not so sure about, or read that book that’s had mixed reviews.

But first, have a coffee and relax a bit.  It is Sunday, after all.

Friendly Advice

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Hello, you lovely human being!  Did you change your hair?  It looks amazing.  No really, you should wear it like that more often.

I’ve talked about this a lot before, but friends are absolutely ace, aren’t they?  (As in actual friends, not the television show.  Although that is ace as well.)  They make you laugh, they inspire you, they encourage you and they accept you for who you are.  Having said all of that, friends are also the most baffling and infuriating people on the planet.  Let me explain:

I love my friends dearly, and in many ways it’s great that a lot of them are drama types.  We all root for each other when we’re doing performances or projects, we’re an outgoing bunch so we tend to have excellent nights out, and every single one of us will drop whatever we’re doing for a good game of Werewolves.  The other main things that we have in common are a tendency to be pretty  emotionally expressive, and a burning desire to analyse everything.  In some extreme cases this can lead to over-thinking, hyper-sensitivity and being a bit of a diva.  In most cases it just creates emotionally aware, interesting people who can talk over a point.  In all cases, it leads to completely contradictory pieces of advice.

This isn’t specific to my drama lot, though.  All of our friends (and human beings in general) are hard-wired to analyse things in a unique manner, and therefore take the same piece of information and come to entirely different conclusions.  For example, consider the scenario of a shopping trip.

You: Shall I buy this?  (Whatever ‘this’ actually is.  Doesn’t really matter.)
Friend 1: Yes, definitely.
Friend 2: Not yet, give it some time.  You can’t rush these things.
Friend 3: Are you sure you really want to buy that?
Friend 1: Of course she does.  Get it!
Friend 3: I don’t think you actually want this item.  I think you actually want something else but you’re hiding behind this other thing.
Friend 2: You just have to wait and see how things turn out with a completely separate item before you decide to purchase this one.
Friend 3: I’m not even sure we’re in the right shop
Friend 4: Huh?  What are we talking about?

Bit of a nightmare, isn’t it?  Advice is very complicated.  Of course it’s good to listen to your friends, and in some cases their advice may be absolutely the best thing for you, but you should always go with your instincts.  Even if you turn out to make a mistake, at least you did what you genuinely thought was best at the time.  That way it is you who takes responsibility for the consequences of your decisions, and also you who reaps the rewards of them.  Besides, the fact that your friends have such different ideas should tell you that the situation is pretty complicated.  It’s best at this stage to give up on the shopping trip and grab a coffee instead.

Speaking of which, why not treat yourself to a fancy coffee today?  You deserve a little midweek pick-me-up.  Have an amazing Wednesday.

Commute Like A Champion

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Good morning, dear reader.  How are you?

If you are a London-based commuter my heart goes out to you on this, the first full day of the tube strikes.  What a nightmare.  During the last strike it took me three hours on loads of horrible buses to do a forty minute journey.  In hindsight, I wish I’d just hired a Segway and had a bit of fun getting to work.

Given that public transport is not huge amounts of fun at the best of times, I have decided to compile a list of ways to improve our lot.  After all, if we are obliged to spend a couple of hours a day on trains, buses and enchanted broomsticks, we may as well have some fun with it.  You’re a very busy person and your time is precious, so don’t waste those hours being bored or annoyed.  Use the time to your advantage.

  • That is Fascinating

Music is great, but if you’re listening to a podcast by these guys, for example, you will be learning about all kinds of fascinating things just by sitting on a train.  Granted, when I listened to their podcasts on the way to work I tended to have a perpetual “surprised and intrigued” face that looked a bit odd to other people, but it’s hard to beat the feeling of having really learned something before 9am.

  • Story Time

This one might just appeal to me and my friends because we’re all silly drama types who like making stuff up, but it’s basically a fun extension of people watching: make up stories in your head (ONLY in your head) about your fellow passengers.  This one is particularly fun when there is an old lady on board, because I like to think that it’s the queen in disguise monitoring her loyal subjects.  This is especially fun when you get to “Green Park – alight here for Buckingham Palace” and the old lady gets off the train.  What more proof do you need?

  • If You Had To

Again, this is almost definitely something that my friends and I are peculiarly drawn to, but it does pass the time.  You have to select three people from the individuals in your carriage/on your bus whom you would spend the rest of your life with: marriage, kids, mortgage, everything.  (Again, this is just in your head or, if playing with friends, in VERY quiet discussions.)  The joy of this is that at each stop your selection pool changes, and the joy of playing this with male friends is that they take it incredibly seriously.

  • Magic Tricks

If you commute for long enough you learn all sorts of transferable skills.  You can essentially teach yourself Houdini-esque body contortions by boarding a train bound for Marylebone from Aylesbury before 8am, and ladies tend to get very good at applying make-up in extreme turbulence.  Think of your commute as an opportunity to hone these magic tricks of yours, and be proud of yourself for mastering them.  I personally am at Level 6: Liquid Eye Liner on the DLR.

  • Make Someone Else’s Day

This is as fun for you as it is for the other person: smile at someone (BRIEFLY – this is England, for heaven’s sake), give up your seat, help an old lady with her granny shopper or a mum with her pushchair.  It  takes two seconds and you’re making someone else happy.  Plus, you know, you can legitimately feel pretty smug for at least half an hour.

  • This is My Stop

I have actually done this one on a lift before, but one day on a tube train (two seconds before my stop, obviously), I really want to open my handbag, peer into it and say “have you got enough air in there?”  I will then close my handbag, look at the other passengers suspiciously and draw my handbag closer to myself in a fit of protective fear before sweeping off the train with a haughty sniff.

Have an absolute cracker of a Tuesday.

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.

Drama Queens and Darned Clichés

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Hello, marvellous reader!  How goes the world with you today?

As you might expect from my theatrical background, my social circle is filled with wonderful people who are passionate, intelligent and hilarious.  They are also a bunch of drama queens.  (This applies to me as well, obviously, and it’s no bad thing.)  At the end of 2013 my closest friends and I decided that this 2014 in the Year of Our Lord would also be the Year of Our Lives, and that we would make the most of every opportunity that came our way.  There would be fewer hangovers, better hair days and generally a lot less drama.

Shockingly, this has not turned out to be the case.  So far 2014 has seen some pretty massive upheavals in a lot of my friends’ lives, and although many of them are wonderful changes some of them are pretty rubbish.  Four months have flown by in a whirlwind of “what the hell just happened?”s, and at this point I think most of us would settle for a quiet sit down with a cup of tea and a good book.

It is tempting at times like this to turn to clichés: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, the only way is up (which obviously puts this song in your head for the rest of the day) and a watched egg never scrambles.  Or something.  While there is a lot of truth in these and many more well-known sayings, they can be very irritating.

I prefer to be realistic (not something that many people associate with my way of thinking, but never mind): you really genuinely never know what life is going to do, and when things are tough you can be sure that they will not stay that way forever.  This too shall pass, as the old lady said when her bus approached at an alarming speed.  The dramas and difficulties that abound among friendship groups are not the end of the world, and although I’m the last person to enjoy remembering sad times, it is comforting to know that you and your friends have come through arguments, worries and social crises many times before.  It’s not necessarily super fun to look back on them, but they show you that you will get through these ones as well.  No matter what is going on, there is always more love between you and your friends than there is drama.  I think that might be the weirdest and most saccharine thing I’ve ever said.  I need to watch some Frankie Boyle stand up or something…

Have a beautiful Tuesday.

We Could Totally Go on Countdown

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Hello, dear reader!  Are you having a nice Sunday?

My birthday party was yesterday, and it was marvellous.  Lots of friends, Cards Against Humanity and an unholy amount of cake at my house followed by taking over a pub garden for the evening make for a pretty perfect Saturday.  On the trip from my house to the pub we were definitely “those people” on the tube who were being a bit too noisy, but we were also handing out cake to strangers, so I like to think that we balanced ourselves out in terms of transport karma.

One of my favourite things about my wider social circle is that pretty much all of my friends get along with each other, regardless of external factors.  My siblings get on with my uni friends, and my friends from school get on with the person who stole my tricycle at nursery school (and has somehow become one of my closest friends in just twenty-two years).  Last night I sat in a pub garden and looked at my friends chatting, drinking, and climbing on the garden furniture, and I realised how lucky I am to have so many people in my life who like each other (and me, hopefully).

Something else occurred to me about my friends last night: none of us are where we thought we would be at this age.  Geographically we are all pretty much where we expected to find ourselves (i.e. in London), but in terms of career stuff and personal lives I think our mid-twenties have caught us entirely by surprise.  That’s not a bad thing, but it’s interesting to look at our trajectories since university (for example) and see how far we’ve strayed from our original ambitions.  We are, like Moss caught up in the dark underworld of Countdown, not exactly who or where we thought we would be.

I think that that’s amazing, particularly because so many of my nearest and dearest are drama types who could feasibly have been forced to abandon their dreams because of discouragement, money and other nasty things.  Thankfully none of us have, and if anything we are more enthusiastic about our dreams now that we’ve lived in the real world for a bit.  We know more about how we’re going to get where we want to be.

Now, how does one go about being on Countdown?…

I hope you have the kind of Sunday dinner that would make Gordon Ramsey weep with joy.

Stuff We Are Apparently Too Young For

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Good morning, dear reader.  Are those shoes new?  They look ace.

First of all, I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has contacted me to tell me how much they enjoy reading this blog.  I am truly touched by the support I’ve received, and I hope that future posts will prove equally entertaining.  One of the posts that I’ve received most praise for is this one about stuff my generation is too old to do, so I’ve decided to try the opposite approach and talk about things that people in their twenties are supposedly too young to do.  (And yes, I know I’ve stolen the idea from an episode of How I Met Your Mother.)  I think that this list might cause a bit more controversy, because I know for a fact that my friends do some or all of these things, but this list is according to society’s expectations of our generation more than our actual preferences.  I personally think that most of these are fine for us to do, but apparently I’m just old before my time.

1) Go to bed before 9pm

As recently as 2011 I regularly stayed up talking nonsense with my friends until the unsociable hours of the morning, but these days I can rarely stay awake past pumpkin-transformation time.  Occasionally a night out will go on too long and I will accidentally see the sun rise, but in general my attitude seems to have done a complete one eighty since childhood.  Fifteen years ago, I would rage against the injustice of being sent to bed before 9pm.  Present day, I grumble morosely if my social life obliges me to be out of the house after 9pm.  I think I’m still tired after fours years of being a Drama student.

2) Wear slippers

Between the Spiderman/Thomas the Tank Engine/Bagpuss footwear phase of early childhood and the fluffy shufflers of old age, there is no socially acceptable footwear for those of us who like to keep our feet toasty while we potter around the house.  But d’you know what?  Socially acceptable be damned: I wear slipper socks most days and very few people have to see them.  I’m wearing my favourite pair right now, in fact.  They’re pink and stripy.  Take that, society.

3) Have a mortgage

According to high-up financial people (i.e. the ones who lost all of our money in the recession), a quarter of people under the age of thirty live with their parents, and practically nobody in that age group can afford a mortgage.  There’s also an argument to stay “free”, i.e. not tie ourselves down to long-term responsibilities, but actually this should come down to the individual’s preferences.  Some people my age are still going travelling, and some are married with children.  I personally am not ready for a mortgage, but I have friends who are and I am proud of them.  Why shouldn’t they invest in their future just because some people their age are backpacking around Thailand?  Why do we all have to be the same?

4) Play Bingo

Apparently this is an old person’s game, but I know a lot of people my age who enjoy it.  Actually, I quite fancy having a go myself.  That might be because I’m secretly hoping that it will be like the scene in The Mighty Boosh when Richard Ayoade and Noel Fielding turn up, but I’m sure it’s a fun game on its own.

5) Utter the phrase “Back in my day…”

This also applies to “When I was young…” and “Back in the good old days…”  These days we speak of are not that long ago, but I don’t have to be an old lady to know that my youth was better than the present day: children were better behaved, reality television didn’t exist and social media hadn’t ruined the art of conversation.  Obviously there are things that I quite like about the modern world: the internet is pretty handy, tolerance for different ethnic groups is better and at my age I can eat whatever I want for dinner.  (I eat vegetables Mum, don’t worry.)

I think that most adults are a secret combination of childish wishes and elderly habits; nobody my age is a straightforward grown-up.  There’s nothing to be ashamed of, though: I’m sure that the people who expect us to be taking drugs every night, renting trendy flats and eating instant noodles secretly miss owning Batman slippers.

Have a glorious Wednesday

The Polymath Problem

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Hello and happy Tuesday, lovely reader!

This morning I met up with an old friend from university.  We don’t get to see each other often enough, so inevitably our coffee mornings consist of work updates, living situation discussions, frank bemusement at the behaviour of men and excessive giggling.

Sometimes (not always), we get around to discussing our mutual passion: the arts.  This friend of mine has a lifelong passion for the arts in all its forms: she is a wonderful baker of lovely cakes, she dances, makes amazing craft stuff and is, of course, a fellow Drama graduate.  She co-runs a charity called Ingeenium which does beautiful and inspiring work with vulnerable people, she is a nanny and she currently works for the government in a top-secret, slightly scary capacity.  Oh, and she’s also studying for her PhD.  Superwoman?  I think so, but I’ve never seen her wear a cape, so it’s hard to tell.  The posh term for this friend of mine is a polymath, which sounds like something out of Red Dwarf, but is actually a real thing.  I like that word, don’t you?

This morning she and I were discussing the problem with being a polymath, although the terms we actually couched it in were more along the lines of “What are we actually DOING with our lives?”  The answer is, currently at least, loads of stuff: we are both trying to pursue careers which support as financially as well as challenge and inspire us, we feel very strongly about a lot of things but are not sure what exactly to do about them, and on top of everything the spectre of George Osborne looms menacingly, reminding us that whatever we choose to do, we will still never be able to afford a mortgage.  Do shut up, George, there’s a dear.

My friend was saying that she wishes she could just have one job and pursue one goal, but I had two concerns about this:

1) Sure, it would be amazing to know from an early age exactly what you want to do with your life, but what happens if that dream fails?  What if your one ambition in life is to become a footballer, and you contract Motor Neurone Disease?  What happens if an aspiring doctor fails their exams?  How does a person recover from the abolition of a life-long dream?

2) Pursuing more than one ambition is not only practical in terms of personal investment; it’s a really, really good idea.  Being good at lots of things is something to be proud of, and caring about lots of things makes you a more rounded human being.  Working in several domains can actually improve your skills in certain areas: having acted (a bit), I consider myself to be a more empathetic director.  Besides, there are many awesome people who can be referred to as polymaths.

Here are a few examples:

1) Mark Watson

An excellent stand-up comedian, Mark Watson has also written some brilliant books.  His writing style is engaging, unbelievably touching in some places and (predictably) very funny.  The stories are completely unique, but the characters are very true to life (terrible phrase, that, but it’s the best I can think of).  His books are novels with little or no relation to his comedy career, so much so that it took me quite a while to twig that the author of some of my favourite books was the same person I’d seen on Mock the Week.

2) Kenneth Branagh

The man can act and direct simultaneously.  I have no idea how he does it (especially given that I can barely walk and talk at the same time), but his adaptations of Shakespearean plays into films are intelligent, moving and spectacularly performed.  Since acting and directing technically fall under the same sector I suppose he’s not technically a polymath, but I think he should get bonus points for being able to realise his artistic vision (ANOTHER terrible phrase – sorry, I’ve no idea what’s happened to my cliché filter today!) within two separate roles.

3) Laura Lexx

Another friend of mine from uni, Laura is excellent at pretty much everything she puts her mind to.  It’s mildly sickening.  A formidable academic success, Laura is also an excellent writer (of blogs, plays and more), an hysterically funny stand-up comedian, a queen bee of baking and “one of those” actors.  By “one of those”, I mean those people that you see on stage and wonder how on earth other performers can bear to compete.  She’s also a very lovely person with an excellent impersonation of a dinosaur in her repertoire.

4) Hannah Barnett

Yet another superwoman that I am lucky enough to be friends with, Hannah is *deep breath* a producer, actress, stage manager, unbelievably talented guitarist and singer with the voice of a particularly well-behaved angel.  Hannah is simultaneously the most organised and most easily distracted person I know.  That takes a lot of skill.  Why do I surround myself with these sickeningly talented people?  Oh, yeah – because they’re awesome.

5) Josh Widdicombe

Putting aside the fact that I love Josh Widdicombe quite a lot anyway, he is a brilliant example of why it’s good to have many talents.  Well-known as a stand-up comedian, he is also a talented DJ who hosts a weekly show on Xfm, which he uses as a platform to promote his friends and colleagues in the comedy world.  I am a massive fan of “paying it forward”, i.e. using your experience and opportunities to help others in similar situations.  (One of my favourite things about my university year group is that even now, we still tell each other when we see jobs or opportunities on IdeasTap that we think others in the group would be interested in.)  Josh Widdicombe is substantially more successful than any of my lot are right now, but he still uses his multiple roles to help out his mates.  I think that’s brilliant.

There are dozens if not hundreds of other examples of polymaths around, including national treasures like Stephen Fry and Michael Palin, and they are all to be congratulated on their ability to pursue many dreams.  It’s wonderful to have a passion in life, but I think that being good at and enjoying several activities is a more realistic and open-minded way to live.

By the way, actors turned models and anyone turned reality television “star” (please read enormous sarcasm into the speech marks around the word star, there), do not count.  Being pretty, greedy for money or desperate for attention cannot in any way be classed as a skill.  That’s just sad, and those people need a hug/slap/stern talking to.

Have a glorious afternoon!

Now What?

Hello!  Welcome to my first blog post on SarcasTickled – a fairly silly name for what may well end up being a fairly silly blog.

As some of you may already know, I currently write blog posts for my theatre company Empty Photo, which I really enjoy, but I thought it was time for me to have a blogging platform just for me.  There are a few reasons for this:

1) I love theatre, but it’s not the only thing I want to write about.  It doesn’t seem right to carry on shoe-horning pocket philosophy, politics and other subjects into a blog about drama when I could just start my own blog and write anything.

2) My lovely house mate Aislinn has a wonderful blog which I know she really enjoys writing, and I think that it would be good for me to discipline myself to blog regularly, like she does.

3) I lost my job today, and even though I’m a bit upset, it’s really a very good thing that I hope will inspire me.

That last reason sounds a bit weird, but actually it’s true.  Since I graduated, I have tried to keep doing what I really love – writing  – as a hobby alongside earning enough money to live. So far so simple.

But earning money is all very well and good until you realise that the job you’re doing is making you unhappy, and although I really enjoyed my job, the office wasn’t for me.  The few people that I’ve spoken to since it happened (all of three hours ago) have all told me to pursue what I actually want to be doing.  What I actually want to be doing is writing.

So that’s what I’m going to do.  I may end up in another day job or I might not, but I’m going to make a real effort to write more, starting with this blog.  Hopefully I will be able to write a whole mixture of stuff: reviews, anecdotes, top ten lists and so on.

This first post is not as erudite or intriguing as (I hope) the next ones will be, but it’s a start.  One down, lots to go.