“I can’t believe how much WORK goes into making a show. I mean before you got into this, I thought performers just rocked up, did their stuff and went home”. My eyes narrow, as husband adds hurriedly…”I mean I knew there was SOME extra work involved…..”
The truth is, when I started, I had no idea either what this work actually was. I hadn’t anticipated the sheer range of things I’d have to learn: from understanding box office splits, setting up a Facebook page (yep, not dubbed #mumonaniphone by my twenty-something acting classmates for nothing), to applying false eyelashes at speed. And that’s not even mentioning the big stuff – acting, singing, script-writing to a level that tells the world this is a professional job, not a mid-life vanity project. In my previous consultancy career I’d reached the point where the joy of feeling competent at pretty much everything I chose to do was a fact of life. It’s what the clients wanted and paid for. I was used to swanning into a meeting room, thinking whatever they throw at me, I’ll be able to handle it. Artists may sneer at the comfort zone, but let’s not underestimate the benefits of feeling good about yourself. In the past few years I’ve found myself wondering what part of my soul needed this new heady experience of ineptitude so badly, that I would discover how to access it in such a multitude of ways…
Business Fiona: Hang on, don’t write this, you won’t sell any tickets to your show
Artist Fiona : Yes but Paul wanted gritty reality
BF: Can’t you do gritty reality in a way that actually makes you look good?
AF: You mean be INAUTHENTIC???
BF: It’s only showbusiness. What about some tips? 6 ways to grow your audience. Subtext, like I have…
AF: I’m trying to express myself, let people know what it’s really like
BF: Bollocks, it’s all one big humble-brag…
AF: Stop being so negative. Somebody out there will get what I’m doing…won’t they??
Having experienced life on both sides of the fence, I honestly believe that artists can never feel as competent and in control as many business folk do. How could we? Always having to learn in public, courting reviews, dreading reviews. Fuelled with the restless urge to do new things, bored the minute it all feels too safe. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t control freaks. Perhaps this work turns us into control freaks. Four hours in front of Ebay wondering whether it would be OK to buy a 1991 Action Man model as a prop for a show set in the late 1960s? Is this what I gave up my BA Gold Card for? I’m striving for perfection, while being aware, and finding it vaguely exciting that in a year’s time, I’ll probably find some things so… well….not what I’d do now. So that’s the gritty reality. The relentless self-management of ineptitude as you press on, re-reading The War of Art, trying to focus on doing what is in front of you the best you can, without becoming too self-obsessed or consumed with the dark cupboard of ignorance and despair.
“Am I becoming too self-involved?” I ask husband. “You’re a performer” he replies. In other words I am, but that’s okay. At least for now.