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.

Fold, Scrunch or…

 

My life turned into a joke at the weekend – literally!

We’ve all heard that old gag about the person being in a public toilet cubicle and the person in the next cubicle says “Hello?”

And the gag teller replies with ‘Hello’ and starts conversing with the other cubicle dweller only to be talked over, as it turns out other cubicle dweller is on the phone.

Well there was me at the weekend having to quickly and unexpectedly use a public convenience.

There was I, sitting, all systems operating, so to speak, when I discovered there was no toilet paper in the holder!

EEEEK! I was definitely in a bit of a pickle.

Then I heard someone take up residence in the next cubicle!  Brilliant! Saved!

I enquired with a hesitant but loud enough “Hello?”

My voice echoed off the 1970s tiling.

No response.

I repeated “Hello?” this time a bit louder.

Silence.

I thought “Bitch is ignoring me”.

And then a few seconds later came the sound I longed to hear as she said “Hello?”

Relief flooded over me and with thankfulness I said “Oh hi, do you have any toilet paper in that cubicle you can spare?”

But the end of my sentence was cut off as she said “Hi, yeh, I’m here, I’m just in the toilet, I’ll meet you at Coles in a minute.” into her phone, and continued to have a full blown conversation while sitting on the potty!

Bitch.

There I was, totally alone, no handbag (and resultant residue of tissues and receipts that may have come in handy) and no idea of how to get out of the situation.

Let’s just say that I’m now intimate with the number and quality of layers of paper it takes to make up a loo roll tube.

The difference between this event being a disaster and an amusing anecdote is mindset. Over the years I’ve trained my mind to look for the humour in everything as I scan life for material in writing and performing stand-up comedy, but the by-product is the discovery of how wonderful a humorous re-frame of life can be in coping with life’s lumps and bumps.

Both laughter and tears are responses to stressful situations – they each release tension in either one way or another. If we choose to respond in tears and sadness it closes down our options and leaves us without choice, a victim of circumstance.

If we choose laughter (which can also involve tears, but of a different kind) it takes away the power the situation may have had over us, we keep our sovereignty of life and we retain the ability to make positive choices in how to get under, over, past or through the situation with significantly less stress and sadness.

And that includes being stuck in a ‘situation’ in a toilet cubicle with no toilet paper. I felt a bit like Indiana Jones in that cubicle. I thought, ‘what would Indy do?’ And you can bet I was also thinking “Possible comedy material!” – after all, most comedy is born out of someone else’s pain!

So, after all that, I have one question for you;

Do you fold, scrunch… or scrape?

I conduct courses and workshops teaching how to speak with  influence and authority, and to develop your powers of humour and comedy for pleasure, public speaking and life coping skills.

The next Comedy Course for Beginners starts in Adelaide on 15 October – email me on maggie@funnyfarm.net.au for details

The next workshop The Power of Comedy in Business will take place in Melbourne on 25 October – for details click this link  

I Close My Eyes and Jump

angel-81392_1280Goodness gracious what a week!

I had always imagined that when days arrive that will change my life, they would be huge and dramatic. Maybe fireworks and heavenly choirs, marching bands and trumpets, a boom or two of thunder and lightning splitting the sky.

But what really happened was an unprecedented overwhelming wave of peace, and then deep, deep inside I heard a quiet, loving voice say very firmly “No, enough. It is time now”.

And the decision that had to be made wasn’t scary. I have no doubts about the way forward, and indeed it seems to be the most natural, normal thing in the world.

So, what actually happened is that this week I resigned from my well-paid job to devote my life to coaching and training, to helping people get happy (and therefore successful) quickly and easily, and to have fun doing it using a combination of comedy and cutting edge science (for those that don’t know me I’m also an actor and comedian).

Just to re-emphasise, on Tuesday I had a six-figure, relatively safe government job, and now, after I work my notice, in about 3.5 weeks time I’ll be working for my own business Elegant Concepts Group.

What I’ve done goes against all conventional wisdom. Women my age (52) find it increasingly difficult to get decent work in the corporate sector, and those who tread cautiously would say that it really isn’t the time to be striking out on one’s own.

However, here’s the crux of the matter; for the past 30-odd years – most of my working life – I’ve been suppressing who I really am in order to fit into the ‘corporate box’. I’ve been living a double life; appearing on stage either in theatre or comedy in the evening and by day I’ve been hiding my true passions to fit in with everyone else, and in the process I’ve been exhausting myself physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have also been disappointing myself for not standing up for whatever oddity I feel I must be.

I have often looked with envy at people who love their 9 to 5 jobs and wished for some of the peace of mind they seem to have. But maybe they too are hiding their passions in some way to fit in with what our society asks of us. I know that for me, as I’ve got older, it has been increasingly difficult.

And then I had the health scares of the past couple of months (see previous post) to bring me to very sharp awareness of the fragility and transient nature of our time here on earth.

The key has been a question of alignment. I’ve been out of alignment and not living my values, and yet that is what I ask my clients to do, to live according to their values. How can I ask that of them when I haven’t done it myself?  That non-alignment has probably been at the basis of my health and stress problems. I can hear my old Scottish mum’s voice in my head “Ye cannay be the servant of two masters.” And that’s why I’m now giving up on one and following, with such a happy heart, the other.

I have the advantage of a fabulously supportive husband, my lovely Steven, who in his own quiet way has been pointing out my fierce defence of this middling stance for some time. And now I’ve stepped out of no-man’s-land and made the commitment he is with me all the way.

So, here goes. The countdown is on. I have my methodology and content that I want, no – need – to deliver, my products for individuals and corporates are almost ready, and even in the past few days opportunities have opened up that I would never have even noticed before. The Universe responds.

I close my eyes,

I take a big breath, and

JUMP!

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!

A Generation of Stupid Girls

It occurs to me that we have succeeded in raising a generation of stupid girls.

Not that this applies to all girls, I have to say. Thankfully there remains a decent cohort of sensible, balanced young women who have self-respect aplenty, ambition for better lives and a sense of their worth in society.

Society, however, hasn’t contributed to this, though. It gives the sensible women no worth while at the same time promoting the living Bratz dolls that are better camera fodder.

I detect that one of the major changes took place when the television program ‘Sex and the City’ became popular, and a whole set of false values were sold to our girls. The importance of designer shoes, no matter your income level; the importance of promiscuity; overall the importance of materialism.

At the same time we had the rising tide of celebrities being implicitly positioned as role models via their constant presence in a material-hungry and morally vacant press, while their behaviour wasn’t really fit for anyone to witness, never mind emulate.

And so on the cusp of a new decade, forty odd years after the women’s movement began to enjoy the first fruits of its long-fought battle to gain equal rights, we have the spectacle of girls in their early teens dressing like prostitutes and calling it fashion, and by that I mean no disrespect to prostitutes – they’re women with a job to do. Could a girl dress as a welder and then be surprised when people think she’s a welder – even if she is 13?

The cult of pleasing men has reached ridiculous proportions amongst the teen and twenty something women.

We have the ‘trend’ of bisexuality displayed by young women for the viewing pleasure of their partners or any onlooker who’s passing, and we have the growing feeling that one should always accompany one’s male partner to a strip club to view the ladies, as to do otherwise would not be cool. It brings memories of University and Stuart Hood’s work on ‘women as the watched, and men as the watchers’. One can only wonder how the young woman struggling to come to terms with her own genuine lesbianism feels when she sees so many others try it ‘off the peg’ for a bit of a laugh.

I often work with young female journalists. To a woman they look like gorgeous china dolls, and I wonder what happened to all the talented female writers who don’t happen to look like that? Are they automatically discounted from the shortlist because of their looks? The same stringent quality controls are very obviously not applied to the male equivalents.

I shiver when I hear young women declare ‘I’m not a feminist’, because by saying that you are telling everyone that you do not believe that you deserve equal rights, you are negating the pain, suffering and sometimes deaths of women who walked before you in order to gain the freedoms that you take so much for granted.

Worst of all your mothers and grandmothers have allowed this to happen.

Shame on all of this. We have sold our daughters’ and granddaughters’ futures to a world where they’re held less than worthy if they don’t look like a model while achieving that PhD.

Maybe it’s more apparent to me coming from a non-Australian background, but I’m still shocked at the way a good proportion of Australian men speak about women; the utter disrespect, arrogance and ridicule that is the starting point for any interaction with the opposite sex depresses me on a regular basis. This is in contrast to the many Australian men who I know who do treat women well, who know how to be real gentle-men and have no problem with being on an equal footing with women. So how come the latter never get the limelight in this macho society. What are the Neanderthals afraid of?

I certainly never heard men speak of women like this in Europe or UK. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, but that it’s not tolerated openly in society, which is a starting point.

The hero worship of the Sam Newmans, Shane Warnes and the like is beyond belief in a supposedly modern society. Until women – especially young women – get the guts to say ‘no’ and stop playing the gender politics game to the agenda set by the Neanderthals – whether on a domestic, professional or political level – and start working together with the many men who do want to work together with us, it will remain as it is, and our daughters and granddaughters will have been cheated of their legacy – a world where they can ditch the stilettos and the diets and still feel they’re worth something.