Making ethical decisions in art and life

Last weekend, I went to audition for a friend’s play with my flatmate. We were both pretty excited; it was outside of any society because it had been deemed ‘too controversial’, and it was exciting to think that we could endorse work that wasn’t too affiliated with the university itself, an independent project.

However, when I arrived, I was struck with fear- there would be a physical movement section, which isn’t exactly my forte, but more than that the initial read-throughs of monologues didn’t seem promising. The writing was good, and the topic an interesting one to explore, but there was a major problem… the piece was sending across some very mixed messages. Without going into too much detail, the piece clearly aimed to tackle themes of communication whilst examining animal cruelty, by drawing parallels between a mute child and the animals. Whilst this was a very valiant and well-meaning attempt to address these issues, what came across instead was a direct comparison between a disabled child… and an animal. The writer was inspired by ‘A Glass Menagerie’, someone said, but all it takes is a quick google to understand that ‘A Glass Menagerie’ uses objects to display facets of a physically disabled person’s personality, whereas this used a disabled person to put across a message about animal cruelty. Furthermore, this child ‘communicated’ in a non-conventional way through art, which seemed to me a romanticisation of the reality- in a world of sign language, phones, electronic interpreters and speech therapy, giving a child an artistic outlet as their only form of expression seemed like it was limiting the voices of disabled people and of disability awareness further. I did the audition and resolved to turn the part down in the unlikely event of a recall.

I got a recall.

My world went into a spiral as I had less than 24 hours to decide whether or not to take it. I’d promised myself, and the people around me, that I wouldn’t. But there was a fundamental problem… I don’t get recalls all that often, and I’m not too proud to admit that. Maybe because I don’t perform well in an audition environment, maybe I’m not the right fit for a part, or maybe I’m just not cut out for this profession: for whatever reason, offers for parts come once in a blue moon, and it felt like a betrayal of myself to turn this down. What if this was my shot? This was a character that fit me perfectly, a show that was going to the Fringe! What if I was holding myself back for nothing and the script wasn’t all that bad? I slept on it, and decided to turn up to the recall. If I didn’t get the part, it was no longer my problem, but whilst I was there I could voice my concerns and if I didn’t get a chance to and got the part, I’d refuse to take the part until I’d read the script and seen that everything was in order.

I started walking up the hill to where the auditions were being held, my stomach churning. I had serious reservations about the whole thing, but couldn’t turn back now, surely? As many of you who regularly read this blog will know, disability awareness is something very close to my heart, both mental and physical. Many friends of mine suffer from anxiety and depression; I have a friend with a visual impairment; I was in a relationship with an autistic man for over a year. I’ve had to watch them all be misrepresented in one way or another, and even though my ex is not in my life anymore, I could feel the weight of his judgement as I kept on walking. I could edit the script; I could talk to members of the nonverbal community, make sure I was doing them justice; but how could I rid the piece of problems when the issue lay at the heart of the play’s key metaphor?

When I was sixteen, I auditioned for Moana. Yes, that Moana. They sent out an open casting call and my mum urged me to go for it. I felt distinctly uncomfortable- I’m a white British woman, it wasn’t fair for me to be auditioning for a Polynesian princess! But my mother, hard-wired to see what’s right for me as ‘right’, persuaded me: I had voiceover experience, perhaps that would be enough; it was good audition experience; I might as well give it a try. To this day, I don’t think she truly understands the way I would have been ripped to shreds by audiences everywhere, or that I would have completely deserved it. I breathed a sigh of relief when I never heard back, and another when I heard who had got the part: a talented Polynesian young woman with a beautiful voice, Auli’i Cravalho.

I reached the top of the hill and approached the building where the auditions were held. As I walked in, two benches of women were sat in exercise wear, ready for the physical theatre part of the audition. I walked over to the monologues again, re-reading them, and felt my throat close as a wave of wordless emotion washed over me. I had to make a decision. Now. The door to the audition room opened. Panicked, I ran to the bathroom and slammed the cubicle door behind me. I spent a moment collecting myself, breathing evenly, talking aloud to myself to figure out what the hell I wanted to do next. So I texted my flatmate, who was very patient, and I found all my answers from within.

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Being an adult in this world means being an active citizen of a global society. Every choice every single one of us makes has an impact, and it is completely within our control to decide what we choose to be a part of, and what we’d rather not associate ourselves with. Every action, of kindness or malevolence, has a direct impact on the whole globe. We often feel that we are unable to change the world, or that we have no choice in what negative forces we are a part of. But I firmly believe that refusing to participate is as much a political action as participation. As great as this opportunity may have been for me, the potential harm it could cause was too great for me to pledge myself to it. I am by no means innocent- the Moana audition was a massive mistake and I can only thank god that Disney really wanted to do right by the Polynesian community and apologise sincerely for my actions. I hope that with a few more years of experience under my belt, I can make decisions about everything in my life- my vote, my daily habits, my relationships, and my career- that align with my moral compass; I hope I can do right by as many people as possible, and try to do wrong to none.

Will you?

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Free-writing to music

Hi guys! Sorry this is a bit late, I am in a really intense period in my rehearsals for my degree. If you’re missing me on this blog (or if you’re interested in what studying drama is like, and what University of Exeter in particular has to offer), you can check out my blog for my ‘staging the text’ module here.

Now to business! Here’s a little something I wrote whilst free writing to The Now Generation by Public Service Broadcasting. For anyone who doesn’t know, free writing is just writing in a stream of consciousness style without pausing to edit; its great for getting ideas flowing. Listen here and if you feel inspired, post what you write in the comments, or if you make a post about it, send me a link! Enjoy!

Archaism lives in the fibres of every melody we make. We cant understand this history until we look back, but all we can see as far back as history goes is typing typing typing. Humans sitting in front of machines, trying to comprehend and control and being controlled by their very desires. Pixels reaching out from the screen teasing serotonin from our fingers as we click click click and then work work work so we can click click click again. Hamsters in cages. There’s a certain beauty to it. Isn’t there? That’s what we’re told.

Archaism though. Back to archaism. We need to unravel these zeros and ones to figure out where this all started. Is it interwoven into DNA? Or is it something we can change? Who’ll ever find out when theres still clicking.

Goodbyes.

A couple of months ago, I wrote this post briefly mentioning the summer job I’d started. Time to revisit that topic, as that job has now come to a close. Not just because I’m going back to Exeter; because the place itself is closing. I’ve known this all along, but it still comes as a bit of a shock. I’m finding it hard to put into words what this place has come to mean to me in such a short space of time. I still remember being shown around and meeting people. They bent over backwards trying to be friendly and integrate me into the group; a few days in, I got invited to a film night and I wracked my brains trying to remember the last time a group of people were so actively determined to make me feel at home. I realised I had never experienced this. I mean no disrespect to my friends in that regard; just that any friendship group I’ve had has always slightly randomly fallen together, and I’ve never broken into an already-established group with such ease and such a sense of belonging. There isn’t a typical person that they take in either: we’re all pretty quirky, but there were plenty of people there who can (and do) find my indomitable energy exhausting and grating; yet there were people there who were ten times more energetic than me, and were just as much a part of the family as anyone else. I mentioned this to someone yesterday, and he told me that he’d always wanted to cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance, because more likely than not, most people who ended up working there had been made to feel ashamed of the person that they are, and that shouldn’t be the case, because they’re all, without a doubt, fantastic.

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All photos and featured image property of Laura Blakemore.

I’m historically bad at goodbyes. I’ve had lots of them, and I always try to draw them out as long as I can. I remember the last day of primary school, which felt so raw at the time, but then everyone I knew went to the same secondary school, so it wasn’t really goodbye; even so, I still have the notebook of messages people wrote me. Saying goodbye to the team behind Chloe’s Closet was hard; I couldn’t really fathom that such a big part of my life could possibly be over. When I had to say goodbye to my favourite drama teacher, I remember it didn’t sink in fully till the bell rang for the end of her final day, and that was the first time I remember crying in a way that felt almost animalistic; I was howling for a hollow feeling that reverberated through my entire being. On my last day of school, I wasn’t even there, I was working on a short film; I was too focused on new beginnings to worry about high school ending. My first breakup was a blur; but my second I held onto the promise of friendship for as long as I could before I was forced to let go.

Yesterday was different.

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I welled up at several different occasions that day, but it still hasn’t quite hit me, and I’m not sure why. Maybe because today just feels like a day off. Maybe because I’ve still got three more shifts and plans in place. Maybe because it feels like this has been the most wonderful dream and I’m still in that blurry place before I wake up properly and get hit by a pang of loss. I don’t know. I’m scared for when it really hits me, though. I don’t want to think about it.

I felt very strange during the celebrations yesterday. As much as I’m a part of the team, they’ve all known each other longer than I have. I suppose it’s like living in a town that you call home, but the neighbours have known each other’s families for years before you were even born. So there was a sense of being separate, of not being privy to a special kind of grief. Apart, yet a part.

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I can’t begin to articulate what this place has done for me. Before I started, I was aimless, looking for a distraction, and expecting to spend most of my summer in a fairly uninspiring job, if I managed to get a job at all. Instead, I spent my days running round having the time of my life, and getting to spend that time with such wonderful people that my heart bursts just thinking about them. I felt creatively renewed, I’ve written loads of poetry and been motivated to start writing for my novel again. I also feel more free to write on here. For a long time, I had no inspiration and resorted to using prompts. The truth is, I’ve always been honest on here, and the things that were happening in my life were not things I wanted to be honest about, so I bottled up everything and refused to let it spill onto the page. Now I feel like I have nothing holding me back.

And I think that’s why I’m not as sad as I’d usually be. Because I’ve met so many people, and had so many experiences, and that’s not going to end. I won’t let it. I refuse to let these beautiful people out of my life. Even if they play a smaller part, they’ll never fade away.

“Everything ends, and it’s always sad. But everything begins again too, and that’s always happy. Be happy.”

 

I have a hello poetry site!!

For those of you who are unfamiliar, hello poetry is a content-moderated website where you can apply to have your poetry posted. I applied and have been invited on!! I’m really excited because I want to put all of my old poetry somewhere, as well as any new poems I write. I recently lost six months worth of poetry and that really made me realise how important it is to save it somewhere permanent. With that in mind, I thought I’d share it all with you!!

I’m going to try and post a poem, old or new, every Sunday.

Please check it out, and leave some feedback!!

https://hellopoetry.com/welshshortbread/

‘You’- Dodie Clark

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you may have noticed that youtuber Dodie Clark’s new EP has skyrocketed to number 5 in the charts, 30 places higher than last November’s release. I am generally a massive fan of Dodie and her candid cuteness, but this EP has been particularly great. It’s versatile, emotional, and beautifully crafted. I’ve been playing it on repeat over the last few days, so I thought I might put all that streaming to good use and write a sort of review!!

Let’s start with the album art- continuing with the ‘Dodie yellow’ trend was definitely a good move, and the scrabble title is just so cute! I love how the design is kind of sketched, it kind of sums up Dodie’s music style: there’s something honest about it, with a sheen of professionalism she’s earnt in the last few years.


Now the EP itself:

In the middle- What a great way to start the EP. It’s funky, it’s impossible to not dance to it! I also love how cheeky it is- it’s like she’s sharing a secret with you, she’s totally aware how unconventional it is for someone with her kind of image to be writing a song about a threesome. When this song comes on, it just makes me feel weirdly confident- it’s a definite ‘dancing round your kitchen’ tune!

You’ve got so much in common, talk about your taste in women

6/10- the fact this song follows such an upbeat song just makes it hit even harder. The lonely desperation in the first line alone hits me straight in the chest like a freight train. The strings especially are beautiful. There’s something resigned about the way she sings, like she’s accepted that this is just how things work. This song just makes me think of all the times I’ve felt out of place. I think it hits me really hard right now because I feel slightly disjointed from every group of people I spend my time with: there’s no one I know who can really understand all the aspects of me at once; not friends from home, or uni, or work, or my family, they all know parts of me but not the whole picture. It also encapsulates the nagging voice in the back of your head which overanalyses every reaction anyone ever has to anything you say- the fear that you’re too loud, or quiet, or boring, or just not enough. But there is a note of hope to be found in this song- the chorus of voices, sung by fans from all over the world (myself included), reminds me that everyone has moments where they feel like a 6/10, and that just because that’s how you feel, it doesn’t make it true.

What goes on behind the words? Is there pity for the plain girl?

Instrumental- this is such a clever idea for an interlude. It has a definite ‘la la land’ feel and it shows off Dodie’s musical talent. All in all, it’s just really pretty.

You- This song absolutely merits being the title of the EP. I have been listening to it on repeat before the EP even came out. I love how Parisian it feels! And it’s a lovely way of acknowledging a messy end to a relationship. This is one I relate to a lot; it’s nostalgic, without being delusional, celebratory, but only in a past sense. Above all, it’s accepting, and just feels like the best way to write about an old relationship and the art of healing over.

Whatever it was it was wonderful, but non-functional

Secret for the mad- I want to send this to everyone I know going through stuff at the moment. I love how she acknowledges that it’s not enough to just say ‘it’ll get better’, because it’s hard to believe that when someone else is saying that, especially someone who hasn’t been through what you’re going through. Also I am incredibly envious of how HIGH those high notes are. It’s truthful but really understated at the same time. The backup singing towards the end also helps to make it feel like a chorus of people supporting you through hard times.

And I get that they don’t get it, but they love you so much that you won’t regret it

Would you be so kind- I LOVE this song. If you work with me, you may have come across me singing it to myself (out of tune, naturally). The rhythm of the song is so playful, it sounds like crushing on someone as a teenager. It’s that endless optimism that comes with puppy love. But it’s not all optimistic- when Dodie originally wrote the song she thought her feelings were reciprocated, but they weren’t. This adds a tinge of irony to the upbeat melody (and relatability- how many people have you fancied who never thought of you in that way). To me, it epitomises the hopeless and the hopeful: the knowledge that these feelings will most likely not come to anything, but that you’ll ride the wave of seratonin for as long as it lasts, digging for clues of reciprocity before the cold truth eventually comes around.

Do me a favour, can your heart rate rise a little?

Long time, no see!! (Life update and very mini review)

Hi everyone!

I have (as per) been on a bit of a hiatus because life got in the way, but in the best way. I got a job!! You heard right- someone actually thought I was competent enough and that my skills were worth exchanging money for!! This might not seem like much to many of you, but considering the difficulty I’ve had getting a job in the last couple of years (due to my glaring lack of retail, hospitality, or bar experience), it’s come as such a relief to me. Plus, without going into details, it’s without a doubt going to be the most fun summer job I will ever have, EVER.

Now, for obvious legal reasons I can’t actually say WHERE I’m working, but I can talk about it in a vague and slightly infuriating way! My role is partly hospitality, but I also get to act. And I get paid?! How did this happen??

The people are absolutely lovely. Even though I had the usual anxieties (do these guys like me? Do they think I’m a nice person or an immature asshole? Am I good to work with? Aghhh), I’ve never felt so immediately accepted by a group of people. I’ve been there for about a month now, and although they all have a rapport that goes back years that I couldn’t begin to tap into, I do feel like I belong there. That doesn’t stop the weird nervousness I get every morning, but I doubt anything would be able to alleviate that. They have decided that, since ‘Ellie W’ is too difficult to say over the radio, that instead I should be called ‘War Ellie’. Apparently they were worried that I would be offended- they hadn’t figured out how violent I could be at that point, and how much that name fitted (they soon learnt).

By far the best bit of the job is the acting. It’s exhausting, but getting to dress up for a nine to five job is everything I wanted from a ‘day job’, and even though I end up sweating buckets every day, there’s honestly nowhere I’d rather be.

In other news, I met Carrie Hope Fletcher!!! She is one of my favourite YouTubers and actors and was every bit as lovely in person as she seems on YouTube! I also didn’t embarrass myself majorly, which is a first for me- I will have to make a whole other post about me meeting famous people because it’s rarely dignified.

I met her at the stage door for the Addams Family, which was amazing! I was a little skeptical at first- film or tv adaptations often have an overly simplistic plot and uninventive songs, but I thoroughly enjoyed it!! My only complaint would have been the opening number. I discussed this with my sister, who went to see the matinee show the same day, and she had the same complaint: it wasn’t incredibly energetic. Maybe it’s the pace of the song itself, but it hardly had the energy that an opening number merits. Apart from that, it was a stunning performance. Even though the plot isn’t groundbreaking, it was funny and had some great moments. The costumes were wonderful, especially the chorus’s- they all had their individual flair and character which I thought really added to the whole mise-en-scène. The special effects were incredible and the precision timing and choreography which cued and responded to the lighting and sound was really impressive. Finally, the actual talent of the cast was impressive. I hadn’t pegged Samantha Womack as a musical actor, but she was an absolute powerhouse, and when Dickon Gough (playing Lurch) came out with quite possibly the lowest note I have ever heard, I was genuinely stunned. Of course, Carrie was sensational- I will forever be envious of her vocal range!!

That’s about everything for now, but I have plenty of ideas on what to write about, so I will hopefully be back soon!

Ciao! El x