Educating Rita, and me

Educating Rita, and me

We love theatre, movies and TV shows because they tell our stories.

When we see ourselves and our lives reflected back at us we know we’re not alone in our experiences, we feel connection with both the story and its writer, and life, for a while, seems to make more sense.

There’s a movie called “Educating Rita,” (written by one of my favourite writers, Willie Russell!), which has meant so much to me from the first time I saw it at the movies, with my mum.

It stars Michael Caine as a university professor and Julie Walters as Rita who comes from a working class family. In Rita’s family people don’t go to University. They leave school and get a job and that’s it, and if you are a woman, you get married, have children and resign yourself to your lot in life.

Rita is a hairdresser, married to a bloke who wants her to have a baby, but she doesn’t want to. She is hungry for education and feels there is so much more to life. Her studies begin to separate her from her family, because none of the others have trodden that path and they can’t seem to understand her need to fill that hunger, that curiosity.

In one tellingly emotional scene Rita is in the pub on a Saturday night with her family and they all begin to have a sing along in the pub. You can hear Rita’s voice narrating over the top of the scene, and she looks over and she sees her mum’s face. Her mum looks so miserable, so heart-breakingly sad.

In that moment Rita realises that her mum harbours all those same feelings for getting more out of life, and that she’s squashed those feelings down to fit in with the expectations of other people. Rita realises there are tears on her mum’s face, and says, ‘Why are you crying, Mother’, to which her mum replies “There must be better songs to sing than this.”

I can remember seeing that movie for the first time with my mum. I was 22 years old. I was also in the final stages of a four-year hairdressing apprenticeship and I too felt that ache for life to be something more, to sing a better song than this. I found myself sobbing there in the cinema, because right up there on that huge screen was my experience.

Then I turned to mum and she was crying too, because she also remembered her hopes and dreams that had been halted by life, and for a few moments we weren’t divided by generations, by history, a world war and the advent of feminism. We were simply women, equal in our hopes for a life well lived.

I recently saw a production of Educating Rita here in Adelaide and it blew me away. Stunningly, simply produced, directed and acted. It was everything I’d hoped it would be.

The great news is that this production is being given another outing due to the first run being totally sold out and I cannot recommend it enough. It has Lauren Renee and James McCluskey-Garcia in the roles of Rita and Frank, with direction by Nathan Quadrio of IpSkip Productions.

It runs next week, Wednesday 19 to Sunday 23 April at The Bakehouse Theatre and tickets are only $18.

If you love to see a great story well-told, go see it.  I promise you, it’s a wonderful night of theatre.

The Highs and Lows of Comedy Festival Life

Melbourne FB cover

I’ve been in Melbourne for the last week, away from my  home city of Adelaide, with friends and colleagues Kate and Kehau performing our show Three Stuffed Mums. 

It has been an interesting, enlightening, heartwarming time in many ways – and we still have one week to go. In other ways it has really brought  home for me the absolute value of having capabilities in resilience, in self-knowledge, positive mindset and so many other things I teach people about in their day to day lives.

If you thought the life of a stand up comedian is all laughs, then think again. It probably is for that top two or three per cent in the industry who have agents and managers and publicists etc to do all that other production work for them, but for most comics at the festival we have to do all that plus perform the show itself.

A typical example is the activity of flyering. That’s where you go to hand out flyers in the street to passers by in the hope they will come to the show either that night or some other night. If you were thin-skinned then the amount of people who reject the offer of a flyer, who often won’t even meet your gaze, might cause you to crumble as it could be very disheartening. On the other hand when you realise that how people respond to you is actually mostly about them and not so much about you (unless you’re punching them – then it’s about you!)  it takes the heat off. Ah well, some people just have bad days, and some people aren’t as nice as we would like. On the other hand when you do manage to engage someone in genuine conversation it’s a real joy and lifts the spirits so much.

It’s not uncommon at large comedy or Fringe festivals to have a fairly small audience for performances. They are really not money-making exercises – more a ‘trade show’ kind of thing. A small audience for a theatre production would not have quite as much impact as it would on a comedy performance where the energy and interaction between the performer and the audience actually feeds and fuels the performance to a much greater extent. At times like those with a small group you not only have to lead in as far as it’s you doing the performance regardless of the energy offered by the audience (smaller groups can feel inhibited about being overtly demonstrative with clapping, cheering and laughing), but you also have to lead yourself with a positive and determined mindset while building the rapport with the audience. If you can inject energy, build rapport and make it ok for them to be loud then the energy tends to rise throughout your spot and the audience gets the laughs they came for. It’s like they need that permission from the person on the stage and the rest of the group to laugh out loud.

The third challenge is being away from home. I’m finding that the older I get the more of a  homebody I’m becoming. Two weeks away can seem like a huge chunk of time, but the ability to prioritise, concentrate energy on the task at hand and do the job that I’m here for actually helps to not only make the time pass quickly but also makes it more enjoyable. There’s a certainty in routine that’s satisfying and assists in self-sufficiency – and we all know that the more we get what we need from internal sources rather than external sources then the more resilient, happy and healthy we are – big bonus all round!

We’re enjoying this marvellous opportunity to play at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. We’re getting good audience numbers compared to other first time shows and we’re having a ball not only performing but connecting with our audiences and having the opportunity to connect with other comedians. The bottom line – making people laugh is a lot of fun!

Stuffed Mums Strike Again!

 

How do I describe the afternoon I’ve just experienced?

Along with my Three Stuffed Mums colleagues Kate and Kehau I spent the afternoon at Goolwa, a small town south of Adelaide at the mouth of the mighty river Murray, and had the biggest amount of fun. We were there to perform a Three Stuffed Mums show as part of ‘Just Add Water’ – the Country Arts SA Regional Centre for Culture festival that takes the arts to the regions and for a year settles in and works with the people who live locally. A main part of the festival is that projects there should leave a lasting legacy for the community.

Three Stuffed Mums project was to perform our show there and then over a period of a few weeks teach and coach local mums in standup or other ways of telling their own stories with humour. Then at the end we’ll present a showcase with the women performing their work. Today was the show and we’ll conduct the course from May to July.

It had become plain to us that women these days can feel isolated in bringing up children, and that they might not realise we all go through the same challenges. We had women coming to our shows the past two years and saying to us afterwards “Thanks! Now I feel normal!”

As far as stand up goes, this show today has to be one of the highlights of my ten year comedic career. The feeling of over 200 people cacking themselves with laughter at you is rather heady, and even more so that they were mostly women  and they knew exactly what I was talking about.

I had a ball and so did everyone else. And now we have the opportunity to pay so much forward with the course – can’t wait!

Have a great week!

On Leaving and Home

OK, get the sick bags. This one’s from the heart.
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but sometimes even the imminence of absence has the ability to focus one’s feelings.
I’m heading off today for a few weeks to Scotland for a heap of family stuff, then England and France for fun.
I always find it an emotional time leaving Adelaide, simply because for many years I only was able to come here on holiday but had to leave again after a few months.
It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that leaving here back then was an extreme sadness. I’d lived here for three years as a teenager, I went to school here and fully expected to spend the rest of my life here but at 16 my parents decided to up sticks and head back to Glasgow.
After visiting Adelaide it would be usual for me to cry all the way to Singapore. And while I love Scotland, this is the place where I always felt I fitted in. Back in Glasgow it took me to my 20s before I felt like I was starting to fit in again, but my heart was always here.
Then I came to live here eleven years ago and its everything and more I hoped for. So, visits back to my home country have an extra sweetness now. I get to see the people and places that I love, but also get to come home to the place and people I love here.
Adelaide and her people (Yes her – I really detect a huge yin energy) have given me a place. My ‘strangeness’ has been embraced and celebrated – a phenomenon I think shared by my bestie, Hawaiian comic Kehau.
I work with a fantastic bunch of people who truly have the interests of the community we serve at heart. I have a fabulous husband and family, and our little house sits in the foothills in a peaceful and friendly street. I have many likeminded friends and my life is very blessed with their presence.
I went out on the deck early this morning. While we’re still in the shadow of the hills the sun was shining on Torrens Island and all down the coastline. The sea was a silvery blue in the golden light and a wave of cirrus had scudded in strafing the blue sky with its feathers.
Adelaide is truly the most beautiful city on earth, and I’m very proud to be a Scottish Australian.