TIMELESS – a theatrical love affair.

On 17th July 2004, when I was just 13 years old, I wrote this diary entry to myself:

‘Dear Diary,

Went to see Hair tonight at Middlesbrough Little Theatre. Words can’t describe it. I just wish I was on that stage. When I’ve left school, I am definitely going to Stockton Riverside College to do Performing Arts. I just hope that I’ll make it to the West End. Jess, if you read this in 4 or 5 years, I hope you’ll be chuffed. ’

I remember that evening as plain as day. I’d gone along to the theatre that night and I left the theatre having decided that I was going to pursue it as a career. That trip to the theatre, alongside countless others growing up, inspired me like no other experience. For just a few hours, I could lose myself in a different story to my own. Tragic tales of star-crossed lovers and murder, hopeful searches for long-lost parents and, in this case, an insight to what being an anti-war hippy was like in the midst of the Vietnam war. I left the theatre educated in new topics, I left the theatre with new songs stuck in my head but best of all, I left the theatre dreaming. I was ambitious, I had a burning passion and I’d be damned if I didn’t see it through, if I didn’t try every single little thing I could possibly think of that would get me on that stage one day.

I was a member of both Middlesbrough Youth Theatre and Teesside Operatic Society during my school years. This provided me with so many opportunities to tread the boards of ‘The Little Theatre’, to the point where it felt like a second home. I made lifelong friendships, with both cast members and the backstage crew – they still have me in for a cuppa when I come knocking!

Middlesbrough Youth Theatre was a safe space for me to express myself, both as a young actress and a teenager. It was a familiar, warm, cosy environment where I was allowed to be myself and not feel judged for it. It was a place that I could explore new ideas and feed my creativity, but it was also a place that I could fall flat on my face and pick myself back up again, without feeling like an idiot. It was sanctuary.

I feel strongly that providing this opportunity to a child growing up, especially in today’s society, is of the utmost importance. We must continue to encourage our younger generations to be open, communicative and expressive and the theatre is an excellent opportunity for a child to do just that. I will be forever grateful for Middlesbrough Youth Theatre for allowing me to do just that and I’m a firm believer that it played a key role in shaping me into the person I am today.

Theatre as a whole is an incredibly important art-form, particularly at the moment. It provides people with the opportunity to escape the outside world for a few hours. It’s  ibuprofen – it provides relief, especially in this time of political uncertainty and societal difficulty. It brings people together, young and old. It offers a chance to put aside differences and difficulties to come together for a few hours – unified.

I grew up watching show after show at Middlesbrough Little Theatre and I am still a frequent visitor today. I love coming back to Middlesbrough and supporting our home-grown talent. I love that shows transcend the years and that shows that I once adored as a child are now loved just as much by my god-daughter, my newest theatre-date. I love that I’ve gone on to play roles professionally that I first played at Youth Theatre, like fulfilling some kind of theatrical rite of passage. I love that in a world that is constantly evolving and changing, theatre is timeless.

On the evening of my West End Debut, my first performance as a cast member of Mamma Mia!, my Dad gave me that diary entry from my 13 year old self, framed to keep. A reminder of a dream coming true. Thank you Dr Theatre, I love you!

 

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15 tweets that made me feel less alone.

So I’ve not written in a while because, essentially, I’m dealing with a life thing and can’t write to share atm.
I’ve sat this evening in a pile of my own emotional shit, feeling relatively blue and giving myself a hard time about it – extremely frustrated with one’s self. Now, I’m learning to be kinder to myself when it comes to this but it’s something I’m having to learn to do and it’s a work in progress kinda thing.
So I did maybe the worst thing I could possibly do in this situation, I took to social media.
BUT. During some tough, ‘messy head’ times recently, I’ve been hugely inspired/entertained by some fantastic women. So hey, I found these tweets that I’ve spotted over the last few months and put them all in one post and I hope that if you’re out there reading this, feeling blue just like me and not sure how or what to do to get yourself out of it, aside from down a tin of G&T and gorge on some crap food whilst watching all 10 seasons of Friends, well hey… you’re not alone. There’s good people out there and hey, sometimes they feel the way you do. And they have a fuck load of faith in the Universe and you. And they’re out there, sharing their truths and guess what, you have every right to do that to.
Thanks for lifting me up when I needed it gals!
Hope I can do the same for you one day ❤️
J x
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Before you go to bed tonight, my girls…doesn’t matter who you are and what you’re like. you’ve got BDE* and that’s a fact. Don’t let ANYONE step on ya. Night. **(BDE is big dick energy)

This is a shoutout to all my ladies who muddle through work (on and off the stage) with the period pain/brain/bloat. I was wading through FOG during tonights show. My brain & body were NOT playing ball. So, Ladies, just a reminder. YOU ARE AMAZING for handling this once a month!

Backflips

One of the hardest things I’ve had to accept as I’ve grown older is that I’m not good at everything I do. I grew up being good at things, academically and artistically. I grew up being good at picking things up, throwing myself in at the deep end, being relatively good at everything I did.
Apart from gymnastics.
Don’t get me wrong, I was ok at it and I absolutely LOVED going to gym as a kid. I was part of Riverside Display Team, who I travelled around the country with. We competed at, and won on one occasion, the British Championships in Liverpool and we performed all over Europe, even at Disneyland Paris (which was mint FYI).
But I was always scared to take a leap of faith when it came to gymnastics. I mean, being afraid of heights in a team building things like a 21 man pyramid probably didn’t help. I was scared to try being a ‘top’ when it came to big balances. I was also weirdly afraid of going upside down whenever we performed outside. I don’t know why that was, maybe I felt like the sky was caving in on me or something.
I was limby, gawky and clumsy and on paper, not the perfect candidate for being part of a sturdy structure of human beings.
It took me 6 years to pluck up the courage to try for my first backflip, just a casual back handspring.  Once I achieved that, I never looked back. I can still do them today. In fact, I’ve showcased them at several dance calls, whenever the team have asked about anybody being able to do tricks. What’s absolutely hysterical is that, if I know people in my audition, they are always so surprised when I put my hand up to volunteer my acrobatic services.
I just mustn’t look like the backflipping type, whatever that is.
That feeling of surprising people, pulling out something completely unexpected, is actually such a funny, great feeling. It really makes me laugh, wholeheartedly.
Right now, in this moment whilst reflecting on that feeling, I’ve come to think that maybe that’s a similar feeling to the one we get when we break through a mould. When you completely abolish somebody’s idea of you, throw them off course, fuck the system and make a pigeon hole look a bit like Donald Trump… a stupid, shitty thing that spouts uneducated assumptions and complete nonsense to anybody that will listen. (That probably makes no sense to anybody but myself, apologies.)
And so when I dream of breaking the many moulds in existence, and setting all of the pigeon holes on fire, I hold onto that feeling that I get when somebody is surprised by my backflip. Sky’s the limit bitches. It’s not falling in on you, even when you feel upside down.