Today, day 17 of the Fringe, I cancelled my show. I had my excuses all lined up, projectile vomiting, stomach cramps, fever. I thought about telling the truth; that I was exhausted, couldn’t stop crying and couldn’t face another day of pretending that I was OK and that this was OK, but I didn’t want to seem unprofessional. As it turns out, I didn’t need any reasons or excuses, my venue thanked me for letting them know and hung up the phone.
The irony of journalists and reviewers celebrating the importance of shows talking about and exploring Mental Health, whilst finding myself in the eye of a perfect storm of mental health destruction, is not lost on me.
I arrived at this festival excited to be a part of a melting pot of joyous creativity. After 3years and a heck of a lot of hard work, bold brave steps and incredible sacrifice, I have made my first show; a massive achievement that I was proud of and excited about sharing. I am not an idiot, I am at the beginning of my journey and I have a long way to go, but I thought that there was still a place for me here. 16 shows later, my joy has gone, my self-belief has gone, I am exhausted and I feel that this place is not for the likes of me, not one bit.
I have paid handsomely to be a part of this experience, financially and emotionally. On top of funding the creation of my work, I have paid for venue hire, posters, flyers, travel, accommodation and affording to eat. As well as performing my show I need to work 12hour days producing and flyering. Let’s be honest, this is way too much work for one person. Realistically, if you want to compete in an over saturated market place you need a team of people and a lot of money.
In a vain attempt to get my show noticed, I have spent countless hours researching and emailing venues, producers and reviewers. As I stand in the street flyering, dressed as the glorious idiot ‘Deirdre’ (who my show is all about), I am stared through, avoided and sneered at, peoples first response is to say ‘no’ not waiting to hear that I just wanted to tell them that they look great today. I have been screamed at, barged past and ignored.
As I look at all the faces of people going by, people do not look happy, people do not appear to be having a good time. Here at this incredible festival, teeming with creativity and expression, people look jaded, tired and run down. I find myself asking why we are here, what we are doing to ourselves and each other and the implications this environment has on the creation of work and the arts as a whole?
It feels impossibly hard not to be drawn in to the vortex of success questing; stars, reviews, audience numbers, stars, more stars. Today in favour of my own humanity and sanity, I have decided to stop.
- I do not make work to win stars
- I do not make work for reviewers
- I do not make work to be successful
- I do not make work so that I can win
- I do not make work so that people will approve of me
I make work because I am trying to communicate something. I am drawn to making theatre, comedy, what ever it is that I do, because it nurtures my humanity, it connects me with what it means to be alive. This is my journey and I am proud of every step I take on it. I am as proud of my failure as I am of my success and I will not let this festival take that away from me.
Maybe it’s just because it’s my first fringe, maybe I am just upset because I’m not winning. It’s certainly not all bad, I have learned an immense amount, I have enjoyed some amazing experiences and made some wonderful connections during my time here. However, I cannot help looking and laughing at the hypocrisy of a festival that proudly celebrates work about Mental Health amidst a culture that is so very unhealthy. Perhaps now is a perfect time to seriously consider what we can all do to make the art of making art, a healthier one for us all.