Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"Just Be Yourself"

When I was little my mum always used to dole out the same piece of advice whenever I was stressing about something I had to do in front of people: Just be yourself. As soon as I would hear this I would be crippled by anxiety: I didn't know how to do that because I didn't know who 'myself' was. My mum was always baffled by her strange, apparently alien, daughter, who seemed to be making a meal out of what to her was the most basic and fundamental of tasks. Why couldn't I just walk into a room like a 'normal' person without twitching obsessively at my clothes and shrinking into myself, or talking in a weird put-on voice and using words that I didn't really understand the meaning of? Admittedly my mum snapping at me "everybody's noticing you fidgeting with your dress like that" did not make matters any better, although in retrospect I can see that all she was trying to do was snap me out of what was, to her, a strange and unhealthy self-consciousness.

I was round at Pete Saunders' place today, rehearsing with him in his shed (don't knock it, he's got a proper studio set up in there, complete with PA system and a Roland keyboard with all the boy-toy piano voices you could ever desire, including a 'scat vocal' one which kept him happily amused for hours today), and when we stopped for lunch we were discussing the things we learn with more years performance experience and I was saying that newer performers are less able to be themselves on stage. Then I realised something: that the quest to learn how to be myself - onstage and therefore consequentially offstage - was probably the drive that started me performing in the first place.

Is it because I didn't know what to do when my mother instructed me to "just be myself" that I became a performer at all?

I suggested to Pete that all performers do it because they are secretly looking for an answer to the question "How do I be myself?" Pete disagreed - he said that the thing that probably drove him into performing when he was a teenager was a desire to escape the need to answer the question "Who am I?" altogether.

So there you have it. The difference between male and female performers. And/or possibly the difference between males and females full stop. The girls are looking for an answer to the question "who am I?" and the boys are looking for a way to avoid ever having to answer it.

Deep. (Or possibly not.)


1 comment:

Gorilla Bananas said...

Speaking as a former circus ape, what drove me to perform was the question: Where are the bananas? That and the money.