Saturday, 26 November 2016

Liar, Liar, pants on fire

Do you remember the film Liar, Liar? It starred Jim Carrey as a man whose son's birthday wish was that his dad would stop lying.

It's an interesting concept isn't it lying? I mean we all do it. To other people ("no I didn't notice that the bin was full otherwise I would have emptied it!"), to ourselves ("I'm not drunk, I've barely had anything to drink"), to the stranger on the street ("no I'm sorry I don't have any change") In fact lying is a part of life.  When does a lie become more sinister though? When do we cross the line?

Recently I've been in receipt of a couple of lies, and to be clear I'm not talking about the regular student lies ("my alarm didn't go off", "TFL is a nightmare", "of course I've learnt my lines"), but much more considered lies.  Now as I wrote in an earlier blog I believe that the concept of truth is complicated. We can all have our own interpretation of an event. We can all believe that we're saying our truth - so then what constitutes a lie?

I think that a wilful misrepresentation of someone would constitute a lie. Blaming others for your own shortcomings; but then here's the rub - how do you defend yourself against a lie? It invariably comes down to your word against somebody else's? Who's to say which person is telling the truth? How do you protect your reputation without sounding pathetic?

When I first opened the college I got into lots of internet forum discussions about my plans for this new concept in drama training, and even though I was sure that I knew what I was talking about - I got randomly called a liar.  Just a few months ago, a similar thing happened, and it didn't matter how many facts I presented to substantiate my 'case' (in this instance I was saying how Drama UK would be folding any day, and I was attempting to reassure someone that I had never attempted to apply for membership. However this other person was adamant that I must have applied....not only that but also that I therefore must have taken an anti-Drama UK stance because we had been unsuccessful in our (non existent) application) the person that I was discussing it with was 100% sure that they were right??

We're currently in the middle of the mother of all 'he said, she said' lies at the moment with the ongoing saga of the IICSA. The infamous inquiry which was supposed to be the government finally truly investigating all the allegations of institutional child sex abuse in the UK. Well at this moment in time it's reading like a workshop for a new Ray Cooney farce. I mean they can't even find someone to chair the damn thing effectively. Evidence is being dismissed or in many cases lost, before things can be investigated. Then worse of all, slowly one by one, the support groups are leaving the inquiry - and they're leaving because they just know - that once again their word is not going to be heard. They are going to be called out as liars.

I've seen a National organisation be embroiled in a scandal, and I've seen how effectively they managed to sweep it under the carpet.  Accusations weren't even investigated. Evidence was lost.  The media wouldn't touch it, and injunctions were being issued left, right and centre. The establishment (whoever 'they' might be) looked after their own.  What they definitely didn't do, was to look after the interest of the 'child(ren)'.

This isn't lying though is it? This is denial? Or is it something much more sinister that's rippling under the fabric of our society? Is this a reality - but one that nobody wants to face?

What society needs is a big old BS detector.  Someone needs to go onto Dragon's Den with a contraption that's more compact than a regular metal detector, but is as accurate as one of the really expensive ones. The polygraph can be beaten (. . . I mean someone should really tell those people on the Jeremy Kyle show about some tricks/drugs that could help them to beat that little 'ole machine) - so a BS detector is the answer.

With that in mind, we could all stick with the rubbish everyday lies. The ones that we shouldn't say - but we do ("sorry I was late, the bus didn't turn up" aka "I just wanted to finish watching a really good programme" or "just checking that you got my email, it's just that my server's been playing up" aka "I emailed you days ago, why the hell aren't you answering me?"), but when it came to the important things like protecting a person's reputation . . . or the other side of that coin exposing the case of the paedophile rings that are being given a tacet permission to continue in our society. . . . the ability to truly trash a person's reputation. . . we simply turn on the BS detector, project the findings on a huge display, and all move on with our lives, with lessons learnt, and the appropriate punishment given.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016


Wow....everything gets 'a day' now doesn't it? Every illness has 'a day', practically every job has 'a day'? What is that about? Is it a hashtag thing? Does 'a day' work? Today is #lovetheatreday will somebody see that hashtag today that has never been to the theatre and think 'I know...I'll give it a go. . . after all they all seem to love enough to give it a hashtag?'

Then who am I to talk about hashtags? I based the entire Mental Health Charter around the hashtag #time4change (I mean I even used 4 instead of for. . . cos that's how things rock in the 140 character world called Twitter)

Originally this blog was going to be about so many thoughts - how it scares me that people are advertising courses just as a 'West End thing' theatre stops and starts within a few postcodes? How sad that is, when some of the most creative, exciting stuff happens way outside London. How I didn't think that that was healthy for young professionals - as if that's the only goal, then the majority will fail...and what does that mean to them?

Then I was going to write this about how interesting I'm finding it at the moment, seeing phrases that I categorically know were 'created' by the incredible advertising gentleman called Toby Richards who had donated his time to The MTA back in the day because he believed in our being in common usage throughout the industry. How back then I disagreed with Toby over so many of them, as I just didn't think that they 'worked'...but then I remembered that he was a marketing guru for a reason, and I wouldn't allow him to come in and change some of my music. In other words, we all have strengths, and the strongest people are the ones that recognise their weaknesses and work with them.

Then I was going to write a blog about boundaries, and about how important I consider it to be that staff and students don't confuse socialising with networking and vice versa. How strict boundaries should be in place to protect staff AND students from mixed messages that can confuse studio dynamics.

However, one thing just kept coming into my's Christmas. Christmas is definitely coming. On Monday I started rehearsing this year's panto. . . so I KNOW that it's Christmas very soon.
However, Christmas could maybe even should be hashtagged #crises. Christmas is one of those times when you can be surrounded by people - yet feel so alone. The worse feeling of all.

Actors, musicians, techies up and down the UK will be in 'strange' cities this Christmas, cooking the turkey or nut roast with their panto families, as it seems easier than attempting the Christmas commute, and all the dangers that that entails e.g. will 'work on the line', mean that you're sat on a replacement bus, when you should be on stage for the Boxing Day matinee?

There is no sadder time than seeing everyone so happy, so optimistic for their future, when you are personally struggling.

UK Productions, one of the countries more prolific panto companies has signed the #time4change charter - hopefully, their staff have already received the charter, so people that are already experiencing some mental health difficulties have had warning flags raised.
Some regional theatres e.g. The Nuffield, Wakefield Theatre Royal - have already signed the charter. Meaning that their 'guests' this Christmas, will have easy access to information on mental health crises centres in that area. These things over time WILL make a difference. They are the start of a much bigger conversation.

Then all those thoughts led me to this. . . the crux of this blog...where are all the other colleges? Why is there a resistance to signing up for #time4change? Are people really just so politically driven to think that because another college came up with the initiative they couldn't join up? Or are people thinking that they've got this sussed already? Are your 'policies' really working? The evidence would honestly suggest otherwise.

More and more evidence is being sent or delivered to me about how there already is a mental health crisis in our colleges. We know that you're inundated with people needing your services. We know (as one person told me) that it's like a Tsunami.  Let's face it, we know that the colleges expanded without a thought to pastoral provision, and now everyone is talking about Mental Health, students are using the opportunity of breaking away from home to start to explore their own, deep seated concerns.  Please let's work together and create the most supportive, safe environment for ALL drama and technical study students in the UK. Let's not make this about politics...let's just accept and act on the fact that it's #time4change.

I want to sit in a room with ALL the other colleges and thrash out a plan that could help everyone make the most of their resources, whilst supporting students and staff.

You have to be in it to win it. Rubbish phrase....I know....but our strength here could be in our numbers. Now what was that about recognises weaknesses and working with them?