En route to tonight’s performance of Girl from Nowhere – a one woman play written and performed by the hugely talented (and sickeningly young) Victoria Rigby at Theatre 503 in Battersea, I was disappointed to read a less than positive review about the play. Fortunately, however, it was the review and not the play that was absolute rubbish.
Victoria Rigby’s performance as Jeanie Hogan, a failed rock star in the late 60s in America – who narrates the play from her childhood bedroom against a backdrop of her mother shouting at her – was gritty and engaging. From the moment the flame-haired actress (literally) screamed her way onto the stage she held the audience rapt with her powerful stage presence. Her acting was both believable and emotive, her singing voice and guitar skills faultless. When the play drew to a close I found myself wishing it was the end of the first half rather than the whole performance.
What struck me most (and I mean this in an entirely non-patronising way-at 32 I’m hardly on the scrap heap myself!) was how ageless Rigby’s performance was. She played the part of Jeanie with a rawness that both belied and transcended her real age.
In short, Girl From Nowhere was so impressive, punchy and brave a performance I felt moved to write this review and, in doing so, attempt to discredit the review I read earlier – which, whilst not wholly negative was still, in my opinion, an unfair portrayal of a talented lady whose star must surely be in its ascendance. It’s hard enough to make it in this business as it is, so it’s only right to give credit where it’s undeniably due.
Last week I read about a one-woman play that was both written and performed by a girl in her early twenties*. Instead of thinking ‘wow, that’s an impressive amount of talent at such a young age’ I’m ashamed to admit my first default reaction was ‘urgh, some people have all the luck.’ And that’s not an isolated incident. Friends’ promotions, publications, engagements and luxury holidays (to name but a few life events) have often left me cold – not because I’m so hard-hearted I can’t be happy for them, but because I can’t help but compare myself to them, and always end up feeling inadequate.
Comparison is the enemy of success. When you spend all your time comparing yourself to others you get paralysed by the fear of failure. I’ve only just found the courage to openly admit to myself I’ve been doing this for years, and begin to acknowledge that it’s not only unhealthy but also downright silly. If we obsess enough over others’ successes we may well be able to emulate them, but the pursuit of that goal can destroy all the good things in our own lives. Is it really worth that?
When we reach the pearly gates at the end of our lives wouldn’t it be better to stand up and say with pride we took our own path in life, rather than following others’? Each one of us was made unique, with different strengths and weaknesses. Why try to fit a square peg in a round hole? I can only be me. And what I’m finally coming to realise is that being me is just fine. No, not fine. Being me is great 🙂
*In light of the above I’m going to see this play tonight. It’s time to buck the comparison trend and support a fellow female writer 🙂
Oh hello, Doldrums, I wasn’t expecting to meet you again quite so soon after our last underwhelming encounter. But here you are at every junction and fork in the road, my little friends the inner critic and the procrastination monkey sitting stoically by your side.
So, what’s it to be this time, Doldrums? Because you really have done the not-good-enough theme to death now. What’s that? Oh, you’re playing the even-if-you-were-good-enough-so-are-loads-of-others card. I see. At least you’re showing some originality for once. Top marks for that.
Yes, I suppose you’re right, Doldrums, there are a great many talented writers out there who are already taking a slice of the pie, and the laws of physics (or maths? I never was good at those subjects) would decree the pie is getting smaller. And yes, it’s probably also true to say that – talent or no talent – my chances of getting anywhere near the pie in the first place are slim.
But you know what, Doldrums? I just read a news headline about a girl who is dying of cancer at 29. So whilst there is breath in my thirty three year old body I will NOT give up on this dream of mine-despite what you, my critic and my monkey might do to try and change my mind. Until next time…
Today is a sad day, because it is the day that Stephen Sutton – the inspirational 19 year old who raised more than £3 million for the Teenage Cancer Trust whilst battling the disease himself – finally lost his fight and passed away.
What Stephen achieved in the short time he had far exceeded what most people achieve in a lifetime. Instead of turning his back on life as his body marched inexorably towards its tragic and untimely demise, Stephen made sure he squeezed every last drop out of the time he had left. Not only that, he turned his plight on its head and used it to help others in the same position. How many 19 year olds have the maturity and drive to do something like that? In fact, how many people of any age do? He also ignored the ignorant trolls who came forward when he was released from hospital after showing signs of improvement and accused him of being a ‘fake’ and lying about the seriousness of his condition – refusing to rise to their vicious bait about giving people their money back (something I for one would certainly have handled far less graciously).
Stephen’s story has got me thinking about selflessness and self-awareness; two qualities Stephen had in abundance but which so many people lack. You only have to look around a busy London office or commuter train to see people complaining – about their lot in life, or about the behaviour of other people and how it’s negatively impacted on them. True, everyone needs to let off steam once in a while, but in such moments it would do us all good to take a leaf out of Stephen’s book, think about how our negative behaviour and attitudes impact upon others – instead of the other way around – and realise that we all have a choice: To stay bogged down in our daily problems without bothering to raise our heads above the selfish parapets we inhabit, or to stand up, be counted and make the changes we want to see in ourselves and those around us. Thanks to people like Stephen Sutton, I know which I plan to do.
RIP Stephen: Wherever you now are please know that your legacy will live on in the lives of all the many people you have helped and inspired xxxx
What is it about the human condition that makes it so damn hard to celebrate our achievements yet so easy to lambaste ourselves for our failures? Take my experience of today as an example: After waking at 8am still feeling exhausted from my friend’s (amazing) hen weekend I decided to have extra hour’s sleep to ensure maximum productivity for rest of day. When I re-woke up at 9am feeling good I not only wrote my morning pages for the first time in weeks, I also wrote a ‘to do’ list for the day which comprised the following:
Do physio exercises
Write short exposition scene for sitcom class homework
Devise comedy sketch show idea (as above)
Write first episode of sitcom
Write dialogue piece for tomorrow’s sitcom class (homework set by guest speaker)
Update short story competition spreadsheet
Write a new short story
Go to shops (to purchase shampoo, floss, Brita filters and dinner, should you be interested in the mechanics of my banal daily existence)
Go to gym for twenty minute cycle
By 10am I had showered, completed my physio exercises, eaten breakfast and written the exposition scene. By 11am I had come up with an idea for the sketch and put the washing on. By 1pm I’d done my shopping and been to the gym. By 2pm I’d written the dialogue piece, and by 5pm I’d written three quarters of the first episode of my sitcom. As I sit here at 8pm I’ve all but finished (bar a few closing lines) the sitcom episode, updated the short story competition spreadsheet, caught up with my best friend in the US (on the phone) and my good friend in Hawaii (on Whatsapp), and am now writing this post. But do I feel a sense of satisfaction? Not really, because of the ten things on today’s to do list, I only managed to complete nine. And that one outstanding task (writing a short story) is hanging over me like a dark cloud – so much so it may as well be a neon sign over my head saying ‘FAILURE.’ If only I’d got up at 8am and used that extra hour instead of sleeping in, my inner critic reasons, I might have ticked that final box and ended the day with a very different sign over my head: A sign that said ‘SUCCESS.’
The reason I’m sharing this is because I know I’m not alone; there are many others like me. Perhaps it would be better if we lowered our expectations of ourselves and set easier targets that guaranteed success. But, in doing that, would we not just be letting ourselves off the hook and accepting there are limits to our capability? True, it’s no fun always feeling like you’re underachieving because you don’t meet your own high targets, but at least you have the ambition to set high targets in the first place, and the inherent belief that, in exceptional circumstances, you are capable of meeting them.
I think the real answer to this conundrum lies in acceptance; of ourselves, of our abilities and, perhaps most importantly of all, of the distance between our dreams and our realities. We may not always manage to tick everything off our daily lists, but as long as we’re keeping up enough forward momentum to inch ever closer to fulfilling our potential, that might just be okay.
I don’t know about you, but I often feel life moves too fast, and that I don’t have time to do the things I want to do (at least not as well as I want to do them). It’s easy to let such thoughts paralyse us, to get caught in the mangle that is the daily grind and lose sight of our dreams and ambitions, but in doing that we are failing ourselves in the worst possible way. Because, contrary to what some of us seem to believe, we won’t be around forever. Far from it, we are on this earth for but a fleeting moment.
A wise Jewish man called Hillel the Elder once said: “If I am not for myself, who will be? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when? Say not ‘When I have free time I shall study’; for you may perhaps never have any free time.”
Despite being centuries old his message is crystal clear: None of us have the luxury of forever. If we want something we must make it happen, not in the future but RIGHT NOW. Only then will we be able to look back on our lives when the end comes and say, with joyful hearts and voices: “I have no regrets.”