The email invite just appeared in my inbox; a free taster session with Class Act Drama School. Though I had looked into amateur dramatics last summer and again a few weeks ago, it still ended up at the back of my mind, but watching my students perform in drama lessons had reawakened the performing bug. Besides, I was morphing into one of those over-enthusiastic behind-stage mums; hanging in the wings wishing it was me in front of the class acting a part.
(Fast forward to yesterday evening)
There I was preparing to walk into the unknown. Wrestling with my willpower, I armed myself in knee-high riding boots with gloves, and hit out against the treacherous weather. I made my way into the main Custard Factory reception; a creative landmark in the city where Marion, the school’s administrator called out to me. Shielding her cropped do under my umbrella, she revealed all about her surprise visitors which made her a tad late. Her grandchildren – aged three and five – who the stalk (her daughter) dropped off at her ankles. Understandably, she came in wet and slightly rattled, but extremely chatty which made me breathe a sigh of relief – I’d be safe with her, I thought.
In the foyer I was met with cautious eyes and faces in hands as they waited for Marion to get herself together. In the meantime, I met everyone’s eyes with a warm smile – I do that well, but I also get schooled on first encounters when one of the other students bounds towards me imparting a firm, self-assured handshake as he asks for my name. His was cool, but will stay anon. Mine was too, he replied, but it’s really not. More common than cool, but note to self: I must try that sometime.
Pleasantries over, we’re hanging around in a circle and get straight into a warm-up. We’re told to resist ‘acting’ with others and have scenarios to enact while we’re striding in all directions about the studio. “You’re hot.” I bend over as if sun stricken and puff out air trying to cool myself down. “You’ve won a million pounds, go spend it.” ‘Oh, this item looks gorgeous,’ I thought, while I fondled the net curtains as though they were the most exquisite mink coat ever, while looking into an imaginary mirror like, ‘My darling, that is your colour!’ I smiled at the store assistant on my way out with my bags. Did I mention we carried those heavy bags in absolute blustering wind and had to act that too? And so it continued when I was in a jungle crouching low and pushing back crowded foliage overhead, and Naomi Gayle on a concrete catwalk.
Acting, while completely oblivious to outsiders came more naturally than I imagined, and from here we were thrown into partners to improvise some of the wackiest stories I’ve come across. Bizarre scenarios like being a baby octopus whose mother has to teach it how to use all eight tentacles; a police officer who has to get an unwilling driver out of the car to open their boot and show me this dead body that happened to stuff itself in there. “Err madam, it will only take a few minutes,” was not convincing enough to get that boot open and quite frankly, I’m glad, as then I’d have to act alarmed when I’m not even sure how to get to that point of expression in real life! (Does my nonchalance even allow it?)
Most of the session was spent completely improvised, even when we did have time to rehearse, which made it one of the most freeing activities I’ve done outside of sports. You’re inclined to over-think to impress the rest but while you’re stuck in your own mind, the drama is live and rolling. As we were told by tutor Claire, it’s about tapping into that childlike state – an analogy I’ve heard several times before. Children do first, think later. This is what makes their play so wonderful. Over-thinking as an actor can be a performance killer but so can it be in everyday life. Linking this to a thought I had earlier that weekend, I know I have an debilitating habit of putting judgement before creativity, and then, still expect to deliver perfection, or something comparable to.
Last night though, I stopped being Vicky for two hours and embodied perhaps 15 or so different characters with their own conflicts and quirks. Having put a desire of mine into fruition, I left the drama studio beaming as I surprised myself with how expressive I can be.
Next pursuit: Pole dancing/ Aerial silks/ Aerial yoga
Do you find that you often put judgement/ criticism before creativity? How do you counteract this unhelpful way of thinking? Share with me.