I realised I never did a post about the experience of performing my ‘Jean Luc Picard and Me,’ my one woman autobiographical show. Nor the aftermath in which Patrick Stewart helicoptered down to the theatre, and told me that he was so proud of me he would make me both a mutant (a cool one not like, Toad) and the new chief communications officer of the Enterprise.
The week before the show was filled with sweaty dreams, heart palpitations and last minute run throughs in the car, shower and on the toilet. It got to the point where I would recite my show without even noticing I was talking out loud. On the street. In a public bathroom. Talking to myself about Star Trek. I was like a really specific crazy person.
I got addicted to googling wikihow pages on stagefright. I read them all the time.
I had a small panic attack at a hairdressers and tried to find ‘the perfect outfit.’ I thought looking professional would make me feel somehow more professional. Or at least looking more science fictionesque would make me feel better equipped to talk about Star Trek for an hour.
I bought silver shoes. Coz you know. Space. But the shoes hurt my feet, and I hated all clothes everywhere.
I wept in a H & M changing room.
I wept in a Topshop changing room.
I looked at the queue for the Primark changing room. And wept.
Hotel Chocolate was celebrating its birthday so I drank some free prosecco at the shop, and then wept into their bourbons.
I was in such a state that I nearly spent £90 on some silver leggings from American Apparel, which did nothing for…. any part of my body.
In the end I settled on a green dress from House of Fraser, which towed the line between feminine, and ‘aliens are green, right?’
I made my boyfriend watch Les Mis the day before the show. He didn’t seem to like it. He said Eddie Redmayne’s face confused him. It didn’t make sense. I sang ‘on my own,’ and wept.
I spent the day of the show rehearsing with Jade, my delightful friend who is in training to be a musical prodigy of technical and musical proportions. We worked out sound, lighting, and how I could wear no shoes on stage if I felt more comfortable that way. I did.
I bounced around from calm, to nervous, to sick, to calm, to hysterical but I tried my best to think of the positive. I allowed myself only two negative thoughts. And they were specifically non show related. One was about resident parking schemes (WTF George Ferguson) and another was about a co-op apple (so shit).
I tried to think of the day the same way I did my marathon. The only way to push through was to distract and encourage myself, and one negative thought would have sent the whole thing spiralling into a chasm of nervous vomit.
One negative thought would invite the little voice in my head, the little devil that tells me I’m a big old fuck up, to speak. This voice/devil would then seize control of my (mind) floor, and take all my good thoughts hostage with his massive shame gun, before turning on a projection entitled ‘Every moment where you put yourself out there and got knocked back.’ He would force my good thoughts to watch it, and they would be like crying, and weeping, and be ‘please no, not the time she swallowed 20p in a McDonalds and nearly choked to death. We still don’t know why she wanted to see what 20p tasted like.’
The first image: the time I tried to kiss a guy, and he was like ‘oh, no thanks.’
The next image: The time I entered a roller skating race and fell on my face at the start, and everyone laughed.
The last image: The time I thought I could do a show about Star Trek…
I thought about kittens, apple crumble, fish sticks and all the brave women I admire who have done things a thousand times scarier than this. Bryony Kimmings, Amanda Palmer, Marina Abramovic, Lake Bell, Maria Bamford, Lorelai Gilmore…
It seemed to work.
About two hours before doors, after all the tech rehearsals were done, myself, Jade and my writing partner Tom (who kindly lend me his projector) went for pizza. I kept checking my phone. 1 hour 54 minutes to go. I asked for distraction. That we didn’t talk about the show. We listed what our last meals would be. Beginning, middle, end, with two sides and two drinks (one boozy and one non boozy.) Tom is a vegetarian but wanted a wizard to give him salmon, because wizards can make salmon that has not died in order to feed you. I wanted macaroni and cheese with pulled pork on top. Jade wanted her mums sweet potato cheesy mash. I also wanted her mums sweet potato cheesy mash.
I had told everyone who was coming, who I knew, to sort of leave me alone until after the show. But in a nice way. I have always encouraged people to use their initiative and google any necessary information about the venue, time, length of performance, or best place to grab some food a few days before or the morning/afternoon of the show. Anything up to a few hours before will result in the wrong answer from me, as my brain is putty. And you will get confused as to how to get to the venue. And I have to concentrate on show stuff. Like pizza. My sister did text me and ask what time I would be there with a ‘I know you hate it when people ask this.’ Which made me laugh.
I had exactly one small glass of white wine, about forty minutes before the show. I had rehearsed two days prior with this exact measurement of wine, just to see if it would help calm the nerves. It did. Science.
Myself, Jade and Tom listened to St Vincent and danced on theatres benches whilst people filed in downstairs. I hid backstage listening to Mike Birbiglia perform ‘My Girlfriends Boyfriend’ on my headphones, as the audience came into the theatre. I could recognise the peaks and troughs of my friends laughs through the door, but I just wanted to feel like I was in a bubble. A vacuum. Nothing but me, a stage, and lights in my eyes that stop me from seeing the details in the audiences eyes.
I love Mike Birbiglia’s style of storytelling. I first came across him on This American Life, and it has been massively inspirational to me in terms of style and delivery. He just tells personal stories so bloody well. He makes it look so easy, when you know he has put thought into every gesticulation, volume drop and moment of silence. I highly recommend watching his movie ‘Sleepwalk with me,’ and buying some of his comedy albums. I also highly recommend pickles. They are great.
The show started. And then, in the dark, I crawled onto the stage, avoiding my shoes which I had decided I didn’t need, and I began to fight with the the paper mache head of Jean Luc Picard I had made three months prior. It all went by so fast. There was one fuck up. Some of the show is powerpoint led, and I skipped past a slide too quickly. I said ‘opps,’ but my mind blanked after for 5 seconds. I felt my nerves start to seize control. I felt them grappling at my brain, my lungs, my ankles, like tentacles. I felt the little devil start to show my reel of failure. And then I remembered the most important thing I learnt from wikihow.
To breathe. Breathe deep. Breathe good.
And I did.
People laughed. I didn’t cry. I got applause. I sort of bowed and ran off stage. And then I hid. And then kept clapping. So I went out again and did another bow. And then I drank wine. A river of wine.
I felt like I went on stage, and blacked out for an hour. It was all so quick. And then I thought.
I need to do that again.
And I will.