It’s not actually my first blog, but it felt like an opportunity for a fresh start, and boy do I feel like I need one.
I’ve recently returned from a wonderful trip to New York. I went away for a week with two friends, leaving my husband at home, and spent 7 glorious days being utterly selfish about what I did and having plenty of “me-time”.
I walked for miles, I danced, I ate well, I drank (moderately), I laughed a lot, and I even cried a little – but in the good, cathartic way (apologies to the waiter that wasn’t sure what to do as I cry-laughed alone at brunch on my last day. I tipped him really well to make up for the awkwardness, but I was fine, really!). All of this time spent inside my own head led me to the glaring realisation that my life and career have been suppressing my artistic side of late.
So lets go back to the start. When I was 3, I started dance classes. Along the way I learned to sing, play the saxophone, and act (a bit). I loved it. I lived for it. And I was pretty good at it. I rushed home from school and ploughed through my homework so I could go to my dance classes. I read a LOT, I sketched (especially theatrical costumes), I painted, and I dabbled in writing. I finished school as a straight A student and went to university – choosing an academic course over performance, perhaps because it’s what I felt I should do, perhaps knowing that a career in the arts left me vulnerable to failure and judgement, perhaps thinking people would think I was crazy or delusional for ever thinking I had a chance at making a career out of performing. Perhaps I knew deep down that I didn’t have a chance. Whatever the reason, now I can’t help but wonder “what if?”.
And I absolutely loved university, but it was there that I made one of my biggest mistakes – I stopped my dance classes and singing lessons, and thus all but closed the door to a career in the arts. I moved out of my parents’ house and into a flat with a friend, and got involved with university politics. I still played my sax in the uni jazz band, but I didn’t practice enough.
After graduating, I moved to London, completed a Masters degree, started a career, and met the man who later became my husband. Now I certainly don’t regret that, but despite promising myself I would join a band or an amdram group or a dance class, somewhere along the way my career became so all-consuming that I could never guarantee I’d leave work on time to get to a rehearsal or class and I pretty much gave up.
The one thing I did continue to do was attend theatre, and my life was changed when a university friend and theatre director – one of the friends I was in NYC with last week – came to London one weekend and invited me to see Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man with him. An immersive production where you wear a mask to encourage anonymity and voyeurism, and follow the characters around, changing your perspective on the show depending who you follow, it really opened my eyes. It was a really heady atmosphere, all dark corridors, full of betrayal, jealousy, sex, murder, and some of the most incredible dancing I’ve ever seen. It made me feel something. It was full of multiple meanings and opportunities for endless interpretations and raised as many questions as it answered. And I was hooked.
I found myself back there a couple of weeks later, lying on a bed as a performer told me a story, inches from my face, crying real tears which landed on my cheek, before leading me into a cold, dark scary place where we discovered something horrific on the ground, my heart racing. I discovered the show not long before it closed, but still managed to squeeze in 11 visits in just a few weeks, and I’ve made countless friends through the show’s online community of worshippers.
A side note on the name – Two shots of happy, one shot of sad is a beautifully melancholy song, performed by Nancy Sinatra, which featured in The Drowned Man. It always really spoke to me, and the choreography that accompanied it in the show was stunning. I don’t have the heartache she sings about, but to me it’s also a realisation and acceptance that it’s ok for life to be a bit rubbish sometimes – after all, sometimes the sad times are the most inspiring, and the blues wouldn’t be the same without them – as long as there’s more happy than sad. And I guess me trying to give my artistic side a new lease of life is my second shot of happy.
Anyway, since my discovery, I’ve been trying to see more theatre, re-capture that feeling that I got at The Drowned Man, and also to make sure I don’t miss any new opportunities. I’ve seen some great productions since then, and a fair few not so great ones, but every time I’ve got in with the hope that I could be about to witness something great, and I’m thankful to Punchdrunk for making me seek out new experiences like that.
Punchdrunk is essentially why I was in New York last week. Sleep No More, which takes place at The McKittrick Hotel, is another production by Punchdrunk, and having seen it once in 2014, and a couple of times in 2015, our intrepid trio made our way across the pond to attend one of their epic New Year’s Eve parties and squeeze in a few more shows. I’ll cover these in posts over the next few days while they’re still fresh in my mind, but that brings me to where I am right now.
All that time to mull things over and analyse (and over-analyse) my visits to the McKittrick led me to the realisation that I really miss performing, and while I do genuinely enjoy my job, I want to live in a world where things are less corporate, more creative, and experiences like the ones I had last week are plentiful.
So this blog is to help me chart that – the performances that move me, and my own adventures (and misadventures) as I try to find ways to squeeze the arts back into my life.
Wish me luck!