Head Above Water

We went to the seaside today just because it was nice and sunny and we wanted to.

I feel a bit stuck. Like my feet are sort of wedged in the sand and it’s gone between my toes and I’m wiping and cleaning and washing and the sand isn’t moving. I haven’t blogged much this year, if at all. One small messy review of Girls and Boys. I have also written one review for Noises Off. I’m about to do a press night review for Exeunt. Have written a couple of things for zines. Trying to stretch some muscles. My head is buried in an essay right now, an essay of mostly overblown metaphors and kind of ridiculous thoughts. 

I realised that I love things quite deeply and it is only when I love something that I write. I kind of think of everything I write as a little segment of my soul that’s carved out and placed on a dinner table for people to spit back out if they don’t like it. If they don’t understand it. If it’s actually just a bit undercooked.

Confidence knocked a little bit lately but also gained as well. Showing writing, hiding writing, sharing writing. Letting myself wear those tight trousers that hug my waist. Should probably be writing more – taking every opportunity to tell people exactly what I think because they should care exactly what I thought and it matters it matters it matters. So often coming out of shows ready to write reviews, but the words don’t get written. Sitting down to write starts to feel like the tide going out – all the words are being sucked away and I can’t catch them fast enough. I have really tried to not let rejection get to me, in all the ways it shows its ugly head, but yet it still seemingly sleeps under my bed at night, ready to wake me in the morning to remind me it exists. Stuck, stuck, stuck.

A friend’s lyrics sort of play back in my head, ‘She played a song at the foot of my bed / I don’t know where it came from / But it touched the base of the huge mountain she’s trying to scale’. Her lyrics are much better than that, but I don’t have the memory to conjure them. Dad says I analyse things when I feel them, like really feel them. Which is true. I’ve stopped caring so much about mark schemes and more about how I can find room to lodge another writer inside my heart. Reading endless essays about writing and crafting and learning and it’s helping piece by piece but I’m finding it hard to make a whole. Not sure what shape it takes yet. Not sure if my body my soul fits into that shape yet.

(I’m being quite purposefully poetic. It makes it easier to impress people.)

Still sort of stretching my muscles. Moving my toes around in the wet sand. I’m waiting for the tide to come back in. It has to, because the moon pulls it back.  Whatever I show you is not perfect, and it is not professional. But it is me, trying. I have to let it go a little bit too. Not everything is world shattering, life altering, career ending, race finishing, prize giving, apocalypse causing. 

We went to the seaside today just because we wanted to and I think I should probably just write because I want to and because it’s nice and sunny and I enjoy it a lot, even when it is hard.




I’m a student so my life functions in three month intervals with some space in between. This one has had a couple of Weird clouds hanging over it. This is a bit about thinking back and also about looking forward – so basically exactly what New Years is (duh eve)

Just as I was coming back to university all the Harvey Weinstein stuff started coming out. I haven’t spoken very publicly about any of this, even to my very small following, because it all feels a bit much.

still too wary to talk, still wanting to support, still feeling vulnerable, still needing some kind of reassurance, still feeling rage, still feeling inevitability, still detaching, still cutting myself off from it

I spoke to my mum about it a bit. I have had a few tentative online chats about it. Don’t want to get stuff wrong, but still it feels like the cloud has gotten heavier. That sounds…really bad. What I think I mean is, it’s always been in my thoughts. It’s always been in lots of people’s thoughts because it’s everyday and everywhere. Now it’s in Guardian articles and hashtags. Not a bad thing. Just a heavier, denser cloud.

The rain is coming

So I’ve really felt that cloud this term. It’s on my phone every single day. When I lost my phone for a while, it didn’t leave, but I did stop seeing it. And even though my mental health hit rock bottom, at least for a moment the tweeting and the articles and the debates and the misogyny was hidden. When I came back to it, I felt more angry, and more capable.

I feel, a little bit, powerful. I feel, a lot, empowered. I feel, most of all, supported.

I filter my feed so that there’s no cis men.
It’s the rest of us.
And we all love each other so much.

I see folk who I look up to, and have done for this whole year

Maddy, Meg, Lyn, Vicky, Ava, Emily, Alice, Anna, Clara, Helen, Joesph, Evie, Ella, Mitski, Anya, Alice, Kate, Safura, Kia Yee, Anna, Lilith, Florence, Esme, Steffi, Ellice, Hebe, Bryony, Emma, Cara, Helen, Hetty, Arifa, Gabbi, Kath, Charlotte, Hannah, Amy, Stella, Olivia, Selina, Zarina, Gabrielle, Leanne, Meg, Ciara, Annie, Izzy

We are a collective forcefield. Lots of those names don’t know who I am – that’s okay. It’s about visibility. I think.

This is messy. I hope I don’t make anyone angry – this is one of those posts that feels fragile. Feels tired. Sorry if it’s not quite right.

But then there’s also like another, brighter cloud which tails off of the heavy one. I think because of the people who have come forward about being assaulted and harassed, I have learned to look at the women and non binary people in my life and love them a whole lot more, and learn from them, and admire them, and be there for them, and open myself up to them a bit more

I am constantly filled with pride when I look at all of them. Even if they are far more successful than me, and run theatres and magazines and write plays. I’m proud of myself too. I published at least one blog post every month this year. I’ve never done that before!

I’ve also gone through some real shit since September. I dipped super low, and then I came back out of it. I’ve hurt people but I have also been hurt. What goes around comes around. I let myself be vulnerable in ways I haven’t let myself be before – I’m still learning when that’s useful and when it’s damaging. It’s a slow process. It’s a growing cloud.

I am also very lucky. I know that. Will never not know that. I hope next year I can give and help and promote better.

Allow communication. Cut out negative people. Allow forgiveness. Take no shit. Value yourself. Raise each other up. Give back. Take time. Be generous. Share carefully.

This isn’t meant to be life-affirming.


Stop apologising.

Right. Yes.

Good and Bad eh. Have done and written some of my best stuff this year – theatrical and not theatrical. In 2018 I will improve and grow along with everyone beside me. I absolutely hate New Years, but this felt needed. It’ll probably be mostly the same next year. I’m excited to see new shows and listen to new music (Vampire Weekend LP4 LETS GO) and write new plays and blog posts

Okay cool, this is cheesy and shit now but !! Cathartic.

See ya in 2018

Jenny Holzer: SOFTER at Blenheim Palace

if he survives he’ll confirm for future generations how beauty was dying like beauty in flames  

gently we go into the night. hands clasped, umbrella up, pebbles turn. I have waited for this since I saw your words on my screen. I have waited for this since you were made visible, and they helped me keep writing. rejuvenated a love of art, of protest, of public accusation. you have been planted in my sternum for over 1000 days. here I return to you and the art. become a part of history, your history.

i ran to the one who fell wanting to take her away but she was already gone

about a month ago I went to mac in Birmingham to see jenny holzer give a talk on her art. I had seen an exhibition of her work for the first time in that gallery, two months before. we arrived far too early, and I am sweating, mostly the pores in my hands, and I wipe them continuously on my jeans. sitting the café about fifteen minutes before it starts, I see a familiar face in my eyeline. she’s familiar from phone screens and art books. as she walks away, I run up and tell Holzer that    that    I’m not sure what   I’m not too sure what I said to her.   How do you tell someone that you’ve never met that they helped you understand art and feminism and that their words founded your voice with you? you can’t. so you stumble and blush instead. she curtsies when I tell her I love her work. it’s not enough, can never tell her how much. after her talk, I ask a question and she chuckles – ‘I can’t possibly answer that in one sitting, that’s a very good question’. she smiles. I am on the edge of my cushioned seat. she hears me, she sees me. this is enough.

on the threshold he slaughters us and time

at Blenheim Palace, Jenny Holzer exhibits a piece called SOFTER. It accompanies a wider gallery installation in the palace. although I can see the glowing pink LEDs inside the huge stone palace it is too late to go in. I book the exhibition for later in the month on the way home. suddenly, the outside of the palace is lit up. we stand in the courtyard and are surrounded by words. words that jump through the rain and run under our feet to rest for half a second on the palace walls. I am shocked. I didn’t think it would be this huge, this all-encompassing. my heart lifts. I am seeing the words that hold steady in my mind, the medium that resonates around my frontal lobe. the silence is most oppressive here. the courtyard swallows noise and so no one is heard, just the occasional sound of gravel and birds.

i bandage it with the voice of reason that was not affected by proximate desolation

this is not completely true. as I stand next to a young family, a young boy and girl play and scream beside me.  their laughter carries with an odd echo. I read about Syrian children, first hand accounts of running under tables and away from bombs. I feel so acutely disconnected.

i bandage it with veins whose warm blood has not yet been spilled on the surface of our sacred soil

the happiness of being there, with holzer’s work begins to wear off as I keep reading the words. it’s interviews, poems, and prose from war veterans, soldiers, victims, children, doctors. it is   harrowing. it is so    immense. it does what it has to. with each rolling credit for bullets wounds and bomb shelters my heart falters slightly more. its dark and I search for my mum. we hold each other in the middle of the courtyard.    I am so sad.   I am so sad.    I am so helpless.    I am so complicit.

the houses on the left are burning, the houses on the right are burning

we leave the courtyard slowly. it has been two hours. the night is cold. we sip soup. this isn’t fair, and mum doesn’t want to have it, it feels weird, it feels gratuitous, it is wrong. we drink anyhow. I film the projections. after an hour or so I feel invasive.

huddled in a gateway on the side where the shadow falls, terrified he cannot become a shadow, he listens

write about war and colonialism and refugees and project it on a palace built on blood money and war victories and housed Churchill as a child.




stories of massacre on stone walls

a brightly lit funeral

next to me, a woman cackles in the night. defence mechanism.


*italicised words are the projections i remember. they are not my words, or Jenny’s.

being a fangirl

I read this article and wanted to write something about being a fan.

I’m ten years old, sitting in the back of my parents Honda, listening to their CDs. It’s 2008. My dad has bought the Strokes, Adele, the Killers, the Fratellis, Vampire Weekend, and the Arctic Monkeys. I am still listening to Hannah Montana and I’m upset that we’re not allowed to play the new Kelly Clarkson song. The same year, my parents buy me a purple iPod. It is shiny and new and I can put all my favourite songs on it, and I don’t have to listen to their rubbish CDs.

It’s the summer of 2012, and I’m 14. I’ve left my purple iPod at home by accident and so I can’t listen to any of the music I like. Very Annoying. My dad lends me his iPod, and I find a song called Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa. We are staying in a place called Cape Cod so I think that’s pretty cool and I listen to it. What follows is the start of my teenage fangirl identity. Not a phase so much as a way of life, I think. I’m obsessed.

It’s November 2013, I’m 15 and oh boy am I excited. I found tickets to Vampire Weekend’s London show the week before they play. I don’t even have time to get properly excited because once we’ve arranged how I’ll get there and back home again, the day has arrived. I don’t get there very early because I don’t really know the etiquette of being a huge fan just yet. I’m quite near the back, but I think that’s okay. I’m quite small and not sure I’m ready for the huge speakers on the front rows. It’s my first experience of unadulterated joy and it’s my first experience of letting go. My shoulders unhunch from their clenched position up by my ears. I am surrounded (literally) by men over the age of 25 (Very Old in my 15 year old brain). They don’t scream the lyrics like I do, and they kind of edge away from me. It’s fine, I don’t really care, but one of them sighs really loudly and another few roll their eyes. It’s my first experience of being looked at like that. With such patronising contempt. But whatever, at least I’m enjoying seeing my favourite band.

I start a music blog in 2013 as well. It’s mainly so I can write up a lengthy, analytical, loving review of Vampire Weekend’s third LP. No-one really reads it. (If you want to, it’s here. I was 16, be kind).

I see them once more. It is Reading Festival in 2014. I’m crying and screaming so much that a boy asks if I want to go on his shoulders to see them. I look worried; I know what that sometimes means. He reassures me he likes boys so won’t try anything. I grin. Up in the air I float on clouds of love and joy. I feel like I know the people on stage. It’s strange but it isn’t unusual. I don’t think I have quite got to grips with how far this whole thing will go. Still happy, still judged.

As a teen, I am really one of the only people I know that loves them this much. That’s probably egotistical, but I don’t think that at this point, any of my friends have the obsessive personality that I do, and I begin to hide it. I look for comfort and community in other places. Twitter is just entering my world for the first time. I make a separate account, which doesn’t have my last name attached to it. I make friends. Girls, mostly. Girls who are like me and who cry when Ezra (that’s the lead singer of VW) comes on stage. We all in live totally different lives, in loads of different parts of the world. It is a cacophony of angst and love and passion. Again, no-one really knows it exists outside of us. And of course when we tweet a member of the band and they reply to us, nothing really feels better. It’s a rush that someone we think about on a daily basis acknowledges us.

I could intellectualise this and say we were different from the One Direction fans, because the music we listened to was better crafted, more intelligent, and unique. But that would be a betrayal. A betrayal to the fan base as a community of young women and a betrayal to all the other girls who dedicated their hearts to a different band.

By 2016, I can tell you everything and anything about this band. I can tell you that they sing about a chandelier in their third album because they feel the weight of the success of their first album which had a chandelier on it. I can tell you how many side projects the bassist has put out since 2013. I can tell you who Hannah Hunt is (a name of a track on the third album). I can tell how much they got sued for when they used a polaroid they found in their house for the second album’s cover. (They were found out when the woman in the polaroid saw her own face on her daughter’s newest CD).

When I visit New York for the first time I go on a tour of the city, guided by VWs spots and inspirations (I made the tour myself, having mapped it out weeks before). I know every word to every song and every back story so well and the city is so interwoven with their sounds and songs that it feels like home.


This is quite weird to write about. I don’t think it’s very interesting, but I think it is genuine and it’s a part of my life I didn’t share with many people.

I don’t think my appreciation and love of their art was any less legitimate because I was young and it was expressed in tweets and posters.


It’s 2017, and Vampire Weekend are maybe realising a new album, maybe not. One of the members of the band has left. My twitter account is left untouched for the most part. I’ve formed real life friendships from it. My love for music has expanded and morphed and manifested into a love for theatre.


I saw Father John Misty the other week, who is someone I discovered because of Vampire Weekend and I knew all the words to his songs, was quite far back, and just jumped and lost my voice and it was excellent. At the end, someone turned around and said ‘Wow you must be his biggest fan!’ I apologised because I was scared that my joy had infringed on his watching. He said ‘No it’s lovely, thank you’.

It’s a little about forming communities, a little about appreciating art, and little about sharing.

I’m quite proud of how much I loved Vampire Weekend and all those other bands back when I was 16. I’m so so happy that I waited outside venues for over seven hours. I find it hilarious and lovely that I missed the last day of NSDF in 2015 (and so missed finding out I’d won an award) to go and wait outside a concert venue on the other side of the country. I love finding fans in weird and new places (some new university friends often surprise me with similar stories of love and fandom).

As a fun side note, having moved back to my main twitter account where I talk about theatre and stuff, it doesn’t feel much different. We have created a weird little mini fan base in our twittersphere. It is so insular that I don’t think we realise it, but we are all little fangirls writing blogs and tweeting about our favourite directors. It’s good. I’ve moved into a new sphere of fangirling, one that is maybe more accepted because this fan base includes way more men, and less teenagers.


(also if you were wondering the gif at the top is VW winning their first grammy in 2013)

fringe and other things

You might not hear much from me for the whole month of August unless it’s via blog post. That’s because I’ll be in the deep sandpit of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, reviewing and writing a show. This blog will have *a lot* more posts published on it by the end of the three and a half weeks. Obviously, in this time I’ll be writing my reviews really really quickly and I hope this makes me a better writer but it might not. So this is just a blog post setting up the month, and letting everyone know what to expect. It’s gonna be a little bit stressful, a lot of fun, and my shoulders will not relax below my chin until I am in my own bed at home.

If you’re in Edinburgh anytime from the 3rd – 26th come say hi, message me, we can meet up and chat about theatre or life or anything you want really because I can imagine this stuff gets very stressful. Totally just add me on facebook or dm on twitter if you need a break (even if you don’t know me). My email is in the ‘about’ section of my blog so you can do that too. We can read zines in a park or a cafe if it rains and we don’t have to have a Big Discussion if you’re feeling weary, I know I will be.

If you’re not going to Edinburgh, which of course many of you aren’t, that is also cool! Feel free to read my reviews but also I don’t mind if you want to put me/my blog/my twitter on mute for a while. I know the FOMO is real, I’ve had it for the past three years about this god forsaken festival. Also, I realise some of you do not care about Edinburgh fringe at all.

Something else I’d like to quickly say is that I’m not going to do any kind of star rating reviews. It’s something that I have never done on this blog and I will continue to not do it. I’m writing with the Network of Independent Critics for the first week and that means many posts in not many days, but I will try my very best to consider each and every show as if I had a month to get my thoughts out. Go follow their twitter account @NICritics for updates on my reviews and all the other amazing critics involved.

Finally, here are some completely unrelated Edinburgh things I am enjoying (completely unashamedly stolen from Florence Bell’s blog post)

1.   Glass Animals released a new video and it’s my favourite song from their new album; Agnes. I also saw them live on Sunday and it was a m a z i n g. Read the description for this video please, it is the definition of suffering for your art and what that means.

2. There’s a collective/magazine/art thing I’m involved in called the Roundtable Journal and I’ve been asked to join the ‘RT Collective’ which is basically a network of artists that embody what the journal is all about. Honestly, I was flattered and their first issue – self, art, and femme is what I feel most passionate about exploring in my artistic work (not theatre). Check out their stuff if you want to. I love their aesthetic and its super beautiful and empowering work.

3. The Incredible Jessica James

My very close and wonderful friend Izzy texted me 5 minutes into this film saying ‘watch it do it right now i don’t care what else you are doing’. I trust her judgement and so while eating three adult size portions of pasta I switched on the Netflix original film. It’s fabulous. Jessica James is a struggling playwright in New York who is recovering from a break up (that she initiated). It’s a lovely portrayal of identity, womanhood, theatre, love, and humour. I cried like three times.

Cover Photo by Prue Stent (www.pruestrent.com) featured in Roundtable Journal


What I Resolve to do

a list of things I resolve to do, to be, to remember. perhaps they will be kept, perhaps they will not. i hope that they will be. i think they will make me a better me

  be kinder than you have to be

be plentiful with kindness. it is the most powerful revolution. educate instead of dismiss

  discover each day

the days ahead may seem full of darkness but each day brings new light, a million new and wonderful thoughts, a million possible antidotes

  breathe a little more

it can feel claustrophobic in our echo chambers sometimes. it’s okay to breathe, to be peaceful, to open yourself

  complacency is not the answer

apathy feels like the only way to deal with the worst parts of the world. instead speak up, march, love radically, fight back 

  allow risk and allow failure

kindness is not just towards others, but also towards yourself. with risk comes failing. allow yourself to make mistakes. 

  care more

it’s alright to care about someone, something, anything. and it’s okay to care too much. 

  worry less

no one can see your tummy hanging over your jeans. if they can they shouldn’t care. you are not your flaws. 

  take pride

it’s okay to stand up and be proud! you are smart and hard working! your outfit is really cool today! that was a kick ass piece of toast you just made! 

  love those who love you back

someone who doesn’t love you in the way you love them is not worth crying over. there are others who love you more than they do and you don’t even know yet. 

  its okay

it’s okay to forget about your resolutions. it’s okay that you felt jealous of your best friend, you’re over it now. it’s okay to fall over now and again. it’s okay to admit you’re wrong. it’s okay to call people out. it’s okay to ask the question. it’s okay to know the answer. it’s okay to feel bad and it’s okay to feel good. 

Only Heartbroken Women are True Artists

‘women in music are allowed to be singer songwriters singing about their boyfriends . if they change the subject matter to atoms , galaxies , activism , nerdy math beat editing or anything else than being performers singing about their loved ones they get criticized’

Björk recently wrote a powerful Facebook status welcoming the winter solstice and damning the misogynistic music industry. In her post she talks about how her recent DJ set was reviewed compared to how her male peers were reviewed. A large majority of the reviewers said she ‘hid behind the desk’ and was not really ‘performing’, a criticism that, yes you’ve guessed it, her male counterparts did not receive. I don’t think she was surprised by this. No working female artist is surprised by misogyny anymore, it’s kind of a given, and at first I sadly kind of saw it as non-news. But after I read her status, I started to think about it differently. She was saying that women are often not legitimised in their art form until they are heartbroken.  As women, ‘if we dont cut our chest open and bleed about the men and children in our lives we are cheating our audience .’ And I think this is actually a really pertinent issue which we don’t think about enough.

It took me less than two minutes to think of recent examples in theatre. It took me another thirty seconds to think of some examples in art. This is something I haven’t thought about properly until right now and it’s now all I can think about. Because it’s not just about sexist reviewers. It’s about how we (or don’t, in fact) legitimise female performance.

To start – Yerma. I kind of feel like I can’t really pass judgement on this one because I didn’t see it but I read a lot of reviews on it and also I know the play. Billie Piper is one of the hottest picks of 2016 for all the ‘Best Female Performance’ awards. It’s widely agreed she gave a stunning performance as a woman heartbroken for her non-existent child, her lost lover, her neglectful husband. So many of the press photos surrounding the show were of Piper sprawled on the floor, broken and maddened with grief. I have no doubt she gave a wonderful performance, but I think it’s worth asking, as Björk does, whether we gave it more thought, more visibility, because she was so brutally torn apart by love and by men. Or perhaps this was not the reason why we legitimised it more, but it was a certainly a factor in why the performance was so well-received. There was a small backlash about the sexism of the play but widely it was dismissed because it was a good show, right? And that’s what the original story was, so it’s not like someone’s written something new and sexist, they’re just reviving an old sexist thing. Anyway, not the point, the point is we put, are putting, Piper on a pedestal because of her performance of heartbreak. It’s the same problem with the Medea’s, the Ophelia’s, the Blanche DuBois’s – according to our view of the great roles for women, we are only really performing when we’re broken.

It’s not just theatre. It’s in music, art, poetry – nearly every art form has this problem when it comes to legitimising female voices. In art, take Marina Abramović, one of the artworld’s strongest, most controversial figures and yet her most watched Youtube video is when she breaks down in tears in front of her ex-partner – Ulay. It has 14 million views where her other videos, where she talks about her art, have at most 500,000 views. She is one of the artists I respect most and yet that was how I first heard about her. When I was in sixth form I ran a workshop based on her practices in class for about an hour. I would say one of the only times everyone was really moved and engaged was when I talked about that video and her release of emotion. It really saddens me because her art is above everything about control and her most infamous moment is a loss of control.

This obsession with heartbroken women rears it head again in the poetry we read. Sylvia Plath is one of our most celebrated female poets, and one of our most infamous. Again I knew about her relationship with Ted Hughes and the nature of her death and heartbreak before I knew about Tulips, now one of my favourite poems. She is recognised because of her tragedy, not only her illness but the relationship with the men in her life, she was broken hearted because of Ted and because of her father. And, if you think this is exaggerated at all – I googled ‘great female poets’ and one of the first names to appear was Plath, and alongside it were her main ideas and themes – ‘Death, motherhood etc’. Whereas when I googled ‘great (male) poets’ the first to appear was Wordsworth whose main themes couldn’t wait to announce themselves – ‘Nature, the self, the body’. Notice a difference?

I could honestly go on about this for pages and pages, there are countless examples in all the art forms. I do think a lot of people will disagree with this but it’s just what I’ve been thinking about. Do we legitimise the performance of female heartbreak, of the broken and grieving woman, over other kinds of female performance? Do women need to bleeding and crying to be considered worth hearing, watching, or reading?

I want you to prove me wrong, I really do. But just before you jump on this, I think it’s worth asking whether these were just coincidences or whether this is something we need to think about.

Björk certainly thinks we do but she also wants us to move forward into a more positive and inclusive 2017. I want that too.