In more ways than one…
In the show Her and the Change in Me, I talk about how my journey started in performing. Without giving any spoilers away, it started around seven years ago. I received a phone call from BBC Eastenders set to supply a beer tap and a keg for the night club. (Being involved in the beer industry, either via running a pub or setting up a mobile bar has always been a source of employment) Now, I cannot begin to tell you how excited I was to get this opportunity, to go to the television program set. My other half, could not believe I was going with him to set up. I told him, “Just pretend you need me to help you.” I didn’t want to look too needy, to any possible director that may lay his eyes on me. Of course, someone was going to spot me and beg me to be in the next episode as Cats cousin! I had my hair done and bought a new jumper. The reality was, I didn’t get spotted like Lady Gaga, we ended up getting stuck in traffic for around four hours on the M25, and having a row about what to have for dinner. The next day, I went to Lakeside Shopping Center in Essex and who should walk past me? Shirley and Heather from Eastenders. As far as I was concerned, this was a sign. So I contacted the Poor School in Islington, London for an acting course. Then I had a panic attack and rang a woman called Trisha in Southend for acting classes. So, I had acting classes to go acting classes.
That day I started something I have never regretted. Of course it has had its challenges, mainly self-made. For a start, I never actually believed I was doing something, I had longed to do since a child. To some readers this is going to make me sound ancient. My favourite shows consisted of Lassie Come Home, Shirley Temple and I really thought I was Doris Day.
I remember, I had pigged out on Shirley Temple and Doris Day and started crying. My Dad asked why? And I told him because I wanted to be an actress, he said he always wanted to be a lorry driver and he got his dream job. He was of course lying, but it made me feel better at the time.
After my Eastenders escapade, I joined an extras agency to get some kind of idea of life as a performer and hopefully a wage. I was extremely lucky, my first job ever was working on John Bishops Britain with an amazing production crew. Over the next few months, I sporadically played various roles. Mainly John’s mum and a significant headmistress. I was hooked. (A quick note, I have never met John Bishop) Since then, I have tried to be involved in performing in some way or another, whilst trying to earn some kind of income. Believe me it’s not easy, the wage you earn from this type of work is not enough to put a consistent dinner on the table.
I started to live two very different lives, one the part time performer and the other a full time mum, business woman and wife. I would jump from each role in between these lives. Never really believing I was a performer, I was just someone blagging it. Too scared, to go beyond dipping my toe into an alternative world away from civvies street. In hindsight, I believe now we are all performers in any role we happen to find ourselves in, or indeed the roles we pursue.
Without getting too deep, cause I just lost myself there. We will get back to this blog. After performing at Leicester Comedy Festival I finally felt like an actress. Something changed in me, I had discovered a purpose. The menopause. I realised, performing in order to continue the menopause conversation gave me a role to fulfil. I just seem to be getting drawn deeper into this dialect, I think it is the total shock of realisation that the Menopause is such a taboo subject. Only this week, the Education Secretary has undermined the importance of this stage of a woman’s life. When he stated schools will teach girls and boys about periods but not the menopause. Why not? It appears the only time women are supported throughout this time of their life, is by other women who are also in the menopause or by their partners who equally have no one to talk too. When you consider that the average life span of a woman at the turn of the century was 50 and then in the year 2000 it was 83 it is obvious more of us are alive. Then consider, how communities have restructured – The female work force between the ages of 55-59 is the fastest growing area of employment and has increased by 18.2% over the last twenty years. Women are often finding themselves in a work position or caring for younger members of the family totally isolated from their peers. I now find it totally understandable the nodding heads of agreement from the audience members when the word isolation was mentioned in the show. At least at that point we all managed to have a laugh about it.
Believe it or not I started writing this blog with – Olivia Colman won an Oscar for best actress at the same time telling the world she used to be a cleaner. What a legend!