In September 2019, I started drama school training. It’s something I had been working towards for a few years and it really was a dream come true. Then came 2020.
If someone had told me this time last year that I would be back working a 9-5 muggle job having spent the best part of the year on Zoom, I would have told them to “F off”. And then asked what the hell ‘Zoom’ was.
Like most people, this year has been tough. I have seen (and experienced) ambitions shattered, opportunities stolen and hearts broken. I have confronted a collective grief like none other. Turning on the news and seeing death rates sore, loved ones lost and families forced apart. I have absorbed the sadness of my fellows artists whose plans and careers they have worked tirelessly for got put on pause.
But then I realised, that’s what I need to focus on. The pause.
It’s something I have often been told to do in my life, to “slow down”, “not get ahead of myself” and “take a breath”. As creatives we live for the future, for progression and change, for the urgency of freedom. We are taught as actors, that reflection is critical. That we must look inward, to be vulnerable and engage with the present reality. Why is it then, that when faced with an unexpected pause, we can so easily fall apart?
At times I have felt so unmotivated that even putting on my slippers or making a cup of tea is an achievement in itself. And if that’s you today – and you’ve managed to open your computer or look at your phone to read this – I see you. You have achieved survival. But I know that as artists we are not satisfied with surviving. We are not settlers, but those who keep on moving, growing.
So, when I saw my industry shut down and my post drama school graduation ideals thrown out the window, I grieved like so many of us. I mourned the life I might have had. I got furious. Why me? I got jealous. Why them? But, after some time, I realised that I had been given a gift in 2020. And that gift was time.
This time and pause for reflection has made me realise what I truly care about and what brings me joy – promoting and empowering the female voice. I found like minded people who inspire as well as challenge me and we started our own theatre company. A company called Slap ‘N’ Tickle.
I met my fellow creatives while at drama school. We were forced to go online during our third term and were challenged to see how we could still create cohesive devised work while being miles apart and never rehearsing face to face. The endless Zoom meetings may have taken a lot of getting used to but being free to speak, to feel, to share, to dance, to dare was still there. We may not be able to touch, but the connection of a collective space of artists is just as moving.
Our devised piece ‘The Meat Cabaret’ was created during the first lockdown and touches on the female form and beauty myth through a fabricated cabaret performance. Using songs, poems and dark comedy the show explores the underbelly of the female experience in the age of social media. We are currently in development of our second show, which continues our aim of promoting the female narrative.
The pause comes and goes. I may for now have to divert my plans, work a full time job and create with my company on the side but as a friend recently told me, “Lizzie, it doesn’t have to be an either or. It can be both”. And that’s hard to digest when you’ve dedicated years to developing your craft. But my friend was right. You can do both, for now. If you are someone like me who seeks permission, then here it is – take the job that pays the bills, or apply for government help but remember, this is just a pause.
I’m just starting my journey as a young creative, and though I don’t know what the future holds for us or our industry, I can safely say that the only thing holding you back from doing what you want is fear. If it is fear of rejection, buckle up and get used to it kid. If it’s fear of judgement, buckle up and... you see where I’m going. Go and do it. Convey your passion, your vision and give people the same hope that we haven’t stopped, we are just on pause. Creativity is just as infectious as Corona so put yourself out there and share it with others.
Catch Lizzie and the rest of Slap ‘N’ Tickle Theatre Company in The Space UK’s online festival with their piece ‘The Meat Cabaret’ streaming until 30th January 2021 - https://online.thespaceuk.com/e/online-thespaceuk-season-2.
Read our review of 'The Meat Cabaret’ here.