As a young girl, I harboured dreams of becoming a famous actress. I would fantasise constantly of walking down the road and being “discovered” by Steven Spielberg, whisked off to Hollywood to live a life of Oscar parties, signing autographs and starring in movies with my favourite leading actors and actresses.
My reality, however, was quite different. I took up drama at school, hoping to achieve a qualification and continue on to college and maybe even join the ranks of RADA or LAMDA. My burning desire to become an actress still aflame, I joined the class at school only to soon discover that some of my bullies were in the same class.
The experience was soul-destroying. I couldn’t face two years of working at close quarters with some of the girls who had been making my life hell during my secondary years. The school failed me as they did so many other victims of bullying, my parents didn’t really comprehend what was going on, I had no support from anyone.
I gave up the class, swapped it for needlework (REALLY hated that!) and eventually ended up doing Physical Education which was a bit more manageable. Friday afternoons were double period so we’d go out ten-pin bowling or trying archery (which I loved).
I dampened down the flame of desire, went to work at 16, tried dabbling in Amdram when I was about 20, dipped in and out of writing and eventually decided to try for my A-Level in Drama & Theatre studies at a local college. I achieved a C-grade which, at the age of 27 and not having been in formal education for 11 years was quite an achievement. Buoyed by the experience, I did another two years (part-time I might add) at another local college, eventually achieving a Silver and Gold Medal for Solo Acting from the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
Afterwards, I joined a local Amdram group very well-known in Southampton who put their productions on at the famous Nuffield Theatre. The play being performed was George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and I won the role of Eliza Doolittle. To say I was ecstatic is something of an understatement. I felt vindicated that my dreams and desires weren’t just the fanciful escapist musings of an unhappy child but a real ambition. I could finally see myself as an actress and be taken seriously.
Fate’s cruel hand, intervened again though. A week before dress rehearsals, I was struck with flu and the group sacked me from the production. Another cast member had secretly been understudying me and stepped in to save the day as it were.
I can’t describe the feelings of humiliation and hurt I felt, especially as the director at the time did not have the decency to tell me face to face. I cut all ties with them and that was the year I moved away to London.
Fast forward ten years.
In my new home town in beautiful Lincolnshire where I have now been for almost four years I am now part of an amazing community of theatre lovers. I’ve been in three productions and achieved my dream of performing on stage. There is nothing like the feeling of being on stage. When I step out from behind the tabs, I feel like I’ve come home.
One of the nicest things about it is when people compliment me on my ability. The most recent production I was in was “Goodnight Mister Tom” by Michelle Magorian which the writer herself has adapted into a musical. It was hard work but a lot of fun and after the matinée performance, a lady came up to me and said, “Well done, I really liked you. You were my favourite.” To hear that was music to my ears, especially when the standard set by the rest of the cast was so high.
So, the point of this entry is this: Do not ever give up on your dreams. No matter what anyone says or does. There will be set backs, there will be discouragement. Ignore all the negativity and go for it. If I had been just that little bit stronger or had more belief in myself, I might have gone on to achieve my dream in a much bigger way.
PS – the header image is me as Detective Inspector Lestrade in Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Stolen Suspender. My first show back in 2015. Nerve racking but a lot of fun!