Free writing (using dreams as prompts)

‘Thanks,’ I murmured gratefully, clasping my hands around the scalding coffee- a medium mocha, my usual. Irvin smiled at my desperation for a quick hit of caffeine- the unicorn’s blood of this century. He checked his watch once, before gesturing with his head that we venture down the hill. He glanced around furtively, his talon-like hands bringing his own drink- an iced frappe laced with sugarplum fairy syrup for an extra kick- to his thin, greenish lips.

Once we were thoroughly curtained by the thick shrubbery of the college campus, he turned to me and continued our conversation.

‘I just, I guess I find it hard to choose. I feel like I shouldn’t have to.’

‘I don’t think you should. You know it’s all bullshit, right? All this having to “pick a side”, it’s nonsense.’

‘Yeah, I try and reason with myself, logically, that you’re right.’ His turtledove wings ruffled with agitation. ‘So I accept this part of myself, and then I… I realise I don’t want to be tied down, which should be fine, except then I end up playing into the stereotype that bisexuals are easy.’

I stared at him from the corner of my eye. ‘Does Tern know you feel that way?’

His eyes canvassed the landscape as if it would give him any indication of what to reply. Not that this was at all unlikely- legends told that certain types of tree would whisper thoughts into the ears of passing wood-fairies, and perhaps Irvin was no exception. Whether the wood gave him any answers was unclear, as he retained a look of consternation when he said, ‘Not exactly. We’re trying to work through it. But I guess I like keeping my options open.’ He smiled apologetically, but his fathomless eyes betrayed little emotion.

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A ramble about Imposters Syndrome and Taking my Time

The other day, I saw a really interesting video from Nathan Zed where he spoke about the pressure on young people today to ‘make it’ as quickly as possible, and it got me thinking about my relationship with my own work ethic and the achievements of others around me.

The truth is, I’m horribly competitive, and I always have been, and I think that contributes in part to what I can only describe as imposters syndrome- a constant sensation of feeling that you’re not actually remotely talented in the field you’ve chosen, or that everyone thinks you’re a fake. Whilst I rarely feel like anyone thinks I’m a fraud, I’m often plagued by worries that I’ve only got this far in the field of drama through a series of unlikely flukes, all carried by my intelligence, one thing (without being pig-headed) that I know I can rely on. Some people find it hard to cope with becoming the underdog when they go to university and realise that their school’s ‘top of the class’ is the university equivalent of ‘average’. I’m lucky in that I’ve never really been the shining star of drama- I was never afforded the main parts in primary school, and in secondary we only ever did musicals, and because I can’t sing, the parts were never mine. I was the child that everyone thought should be a writer; the teenager whose talents were wasted in theatre and better suited to a career in law; but this was all I ever wanted to do.

A couple of my friends have started theatre companies this year, and although my overwhelming reaction has been one of absolute pride and joy, there’s also been a lingering sense of doubt in the back of my head: why haven’t I done the same? Why haven’t I collected the resources around me and channelled them into creating something with staying power outside of the bubble of university?

The reasons are, I realised, tied to a number of things: the people they know, their requisite skills, the fact I prioritise my degree work (and it’s paying off). Beyond this, one kernel of truth remains crystal clear throughout all this: they probably aren’t thinking about what everyone else is doing.

I love my imposters syndrome because it drives me to push forward, to stay hungry, and to trick me into believing that my tenacity is the only way I will ever make it in this world. I also know for a fact that it deceives me into believing I’m not good enough and that that is the only thing that’s holding me back from achieving everything I want to achieve.

Part of the problem as well, I guess, is that I don’t quite know what I’m aiming for. Other people have much clearer goals as to what they want to do once graduated, but my field of vision is much wider. I used to just want to act, plain and simple; now, there isn’t enough time in the universe for all the ideas I want to fulfil, the dreams I want to achieve. That does make pinning down a life plan slightly harder to accomplish, though.

All this musing about what drives me forward got me thinking about what this is all for. Nathan is right: there is no such thing as ‘make it’, there’s no point killing yourself over something in search of a goal which, once reached, melts into ephemerality. And yet I can’t slow down. I don’t want to. So who am I doing this for? It could be that I do all this to make my family proud, but it took them a long time to come around to being proud of me following my dreams: for years my mum tried to convince me to use my drama skills within another area, but she now respects me for knowing what I want to do. I doubt my mum would be impressed of my youtube channel, and I kept my blog a secret for years because I knew she wouldn’t approve of my talking to strangers on the internet. And I know that no matter what I do, as long as I am happy, my family will be too.

Potentially, I cannot deal with the idea that I’m destined for anything less than greatness, however you define that- and that’s an issue in and of itself. The opposite of the ‘participation sticker’ generation, I feel like I’ve been told I’m special and unique all my life and adulthood is here for me to…prove it. And while that’s probably a part of it, I also know that by default, the way I live my life is going to give me a sense of satisfaction at the end of it- by saying no to nothing, by always being willing to take that leap of faith and risk loss in exchange for experience.

A logical conclusion to draw would be that life is meaningless, and that this is how I, along with much of the human race, cope with that chaotic vastness which renders us all into insignificance.

I’ll leave you with another video that spurred this idea on, this time from Daniel J. Layton:

The death of small-scale theatres.

Today, I was planning to write a review on a production I saw in the ‘From Devon With Love’ festival. I sat down with my notes, and felt compelled to put them to one side. It wasn’t what I wanted to write about, from my heart.

Yesterday, I went to a talk by the infamous Charles Dance. He spoke about Game of Thrones, his new ventures into directing, and his decades-long career. I arrived late, with one minute to spare before the doors closed, sprinting down the stairs (in heeled boots) to find my friends near the front. I cursed myself for letting this talk creep up on me, for not thinking of a good question to ask him, to make this worth my while. Then, during his description of his theatrical beginnings, it hit me- repertory theatre! An almost-dead tradition in the UK- how are young actors supposed to break into the industry without that starting leg-up?

For anyone unfamiliar, repertory theatres were highly local theatres where young actors learnt their skills. They’d put on six shows in six weeks, non-stop, meeting people and making connections. These institutions survived from heavy subsidisation from the government. Once Thatcher’s government came into power, this subsidy was stripped away, and without it, the non-commercial theatres like rep theatres died. Now, there is only a smattering of rep theatres left, mostly in bigger cities, making seeing affordable professional theatre a distant dream for audiences in remote or rural areas, and cutting off an essential starting point for actors from all over the country.

With this in mind, I asked Charles what he’d recommend we do. The answers he and Don Boyd gave were not surprising, but important to hear from a successful actors mouth- start your own theatre company, or work in Fringe theatre.

This gave me a sense of security in a very insecure industry, and meant I could start to formulate a plan of where to go from here. Only to have that ripped from under me less than 24 hours later.

The Bikeshed Theatre is closing.

All over my twitter feed, and in my emails, but it wasn’t until I broke the news to fellow drama students that it really began to sink in.

The Bikeshed is many things: a quirky cellar with an aesthetic I grew into and came home to; a maker of killer cocktails; a bastion of excellent emerging theatre; and a playground for emerging artists to develop their craft- today’s answer to a rep.

I’d always imagined having an incredible idea for a production, and taking it to the Bikeshed, finding new ways of working where I have people to catch me when I fall. That’s what the spirit of theatre is. It’s not hostile glares at thirty women in a queue who all look like you. It’s not creating a ‘brand’ for yourself to market your personality. It’s about collaboration, active listening, a big heart and a way of seeing the world that is off-the-beaten-track. It’s the space used for a profession that relies on empathy above all else.

As of March 31st, a light will go out in Exeter, a shining star of culture. A place that attracted people from all over the South-West to come and watch new work sprout from the soil beneath us. A place to escape from the polished package of touring companies and mainstream musicals- a place to see the crazy and the bizarre for people who didn’t have the budget to hire out the Northcott. A place that actually brought together students and artists with the rest of the community, to share a common culture, no matter where you came from.

This is not a blog post about the Bikeshed. That ship has sailed- they have deliberated on how best to carry on and have eventually reached this conclusion. I admire them for their commitment to their vision and their willingness to prioritise integrity over artificial longevity.

This is a post about small-scale alternative theatre venues. Because I am scared for them.

In the world we live in, things are only worth how much money they will make you. It turns out, unfortunately, that theatre won’t make you that much, making it hard to convince investors.

What we can do, as ordinary people, is prove them wrong.

Prove to them that our theatres are valuable institutions and that we won’t let them die.

Do whatever you can. Go to your local theatre, even if all you can afford is a pint, buy it, because whatever you can give will help prove that these places are worth pouring money into.

For those of you who live in Exeter, spend some time in Bikeshed while you still can. Buy a drink, see a show, or just spend an evening playing board games. If the Boat Shed manages to take off, don’t hesitate to show your support.

To all of the staff at Bikeshed, thank you for making my time in Exeter a special one. I’ve only been volunteering there for a few months, but the time I’ve spent there has been invaluable. I remember coming to Exeter, and being concerned about the lack of theatre, tv and radio in the area.

Thank you for changing my mind.

How to support the Bikeshed from here on in: https://www.bikeshedtheatre.co.uk/news/faqs/

Recommendations (eg- my super talented friends)

Hi guys, and a happy new year to all of you!!

Unfortunately, Tuesday 2nd (or rather, the early hours of Wednesday 3rd) has caught me in something of a rut, creatively speaking. I meant to write this earlier today but due to poor time management-related reasons, I decided to frantically look at today’s daily prompt before heading out to a friend’s party. Seeing as I had reservations about, well, ‘reservation’ as a topic, I resolved to find something to talk about from this party.

Well, there were plenty of things that I had a discussion about: Wicca, Catholicism, and some arseholes from school, to name a few. But nothing had been explored in enough depth that I felt I could say something more about on here. Of course, there’s always the self-serving option of gushing for 500 words about how much I love and adore my friends and how I’m so lucky I happened across a group as kind and interesting as them whilst I was in school (unlike most people I know, who barely talk to their school friends as they have little in common anymore). However, I would hope by now that they all know my enduring love for them without me having to wax poetic about it on a public platform. And that is when it hit me- I often find myself talking about my friends the way I see them first and foremost: kind, intelligent, witty people. But they are also sort of super talented.

Like, unfairly so.

I do have some incredibly intellectual friends who are accomplished enough to be at Oxford and Cambridge, respectively (you know who you are), but for this post I’m going to focus on a few friends who are actively creating in a somewhat public sense. So, without further ado, time to shamelessly plug my friends and their art.

(But seriously though, where does their talent come from???)

Ella

ella

Ella is one of the most mental people I know, and that is reflected in her art (in a good way, I promise). She is an abstract painter who’s instagram story is usually the only one worth watching. Based in Manchester and currently studying Art History, Ella has her own business selling her unique art on her etsy page (link opens in a new tab).

ella art 1

Therapy

Ella’s art style combines poetry, gore and sex-positive feminist critique to create a violent, kaleidoscopic externalisation of her mind. I don’t really know a lot about art, but I’ve never seen anything quite like it before, and I’m kind of thrilled to be in the presence of such a human cornucopia of ideas.

ella art 2

Vagina Dentata

Instagram

Etsy

Poetry

Amy

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Amy and I share the same passion for acting and have followed through on that passion in different ways. Amy is currently studying History in Royal Holloway in London (aka the drama capital of the UK) and if you’re in the London area you should definitely make the effort to go and see her! Amy is currently working with the Holloway Players, a students group which makes loads of theatre.

amy 2

If London is a little far-flung for you, have no fear, because Amy also works in Cardiff! During the university holidays, she does plenty of work with UCAN, a theatre group for young people that focuses on accessibility for visually-impaired people and disability awareness. Whilst unfortunately I haven’t seen her in London, I have had the pleasure of  seeing her onstage in Cardiff, and she is honestly spectacular.

Amber

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Amber is studying Music at Cardiff University, and I don’t think I know someone as wholeheartedly nerdy about the different styles of music that she loves and loathes (seriously, I couldn’t name any of them, on account of being an uncultured swine).

amber 2

Amber is seriously dedicated, and because she’s doing an academic course she spends half her life writing essays about music too! She does loads of classical concerts with the symphony orchestra, but is also in the university’s jazz choir.

Emily

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Emily is a self-proclaimed bibliophile and is studying English Literature in Birmingham. Like me, she’s kept up a blog for a considerable amount of time (unlike mine, hers has at least some form of coherent structure). She combines her love of reading with her skills in non-fiction to create a blog dedicated to her bookshelf. Combining reviews with interviews and author profiles, her blog is a must-read for anyone looking for book recommendations.

As long as I’ve known her, Em has also been a dancer. Traditionally a ballet dancer, she has recently branched out to do ‘acrobatic rock and roll’!

Blog

Hope you all enjoyed finding out a little bit more about some of my super-talented friends, see you next time!

I’m scared.

I came home for Christmas last weekend, and it turns out this year we only have three weeks for some reason. So I came back with a lot to do: a blog to prepare, an essay to write, a study abroad application to fill out, preparations for next term and… a play to conceive. That’s the hope, anyway. The deadline for applications for T3 shows is in late January, and I began to try and figure out how I could possibly plan a devising, improv-based piece and structure it enough now, while I have time, so I’m not stuck floundering at the stern of the ship I’m sailing. And that’s when it hit me: I’m scared. Scared in a way I have never truly been before. Because how do I ensure that I do right by my ideas when I’ve never done this before?

In first year, my aim was clear: I wanted to act, and I was completely uninterested in doing anything else, thank you very much. So I did. I acted my little socks off, in theatre, TV and radio, and by and large it went rather well. This year, I did come in with the intention of directing, but I didn’t know where to start- what do I need to do to convince someone I’d be a good co-director? Would I even be a good co-director? Or director? Where do I even start with these things? And script-writing- is that something I can even do? I have a tonne of ideas- but they’re micro-ideas. Ideas that can fill a three minute poem, or a youtube video, or a blog post. How do I know that my idea isn’t going to flop completely?

I’m terrified of seeing this through.

What terrifies me more, undoubtedly, is that I only have two years left in this institution which I can use as a creative playground. I only have two more years of complete artistic freedom with no financial constraints, where I only need the most basic form of approval to make it go ahead. From here on out, it’s applying to grants and rejection after rejection after rejection.

I feel like I’m running out of time already. Yet there’s no way I can mentally excuse putting any of my passion projects ahead of my degree. I want to get a first. And beyond that, I feel like I owe a lot to my friends and family for supporting me when I wasn’t available, so I should make myself available to them now. I need to experience life in order to have anything to write about.

I’m just scared. Scared that this’ll all be for nothing. Scared I won’t be able to compete, that I’ll have to give up on my dream. Scared that I’ll waste my time here and now and fade away.

I’m just scared.