I wish I’d gone to Edinburgh.

There, I’ve said it. Although, somehow, just putting it into tangible words doesn’t make me feel any less gutted about the fact that I’m not there. As a lover of ‘All Things Theatre’ (I have the housemate to thank for that glorious phrase), just the feeling of rubbing shoulders with fellow performance fiends is something I crave. To then be able to watch, critique, and on occasion perform alongside them is a (not-so) secret inner desire.

I caught the Edinburgh Fringe bug two years ago, the summer after my first year of uni, and, despite my degree and life ambitions being heavily theatre based, I haven’t managed to make it back. Yet.

That first summer I was up there purely as a spectator. A spectator with seriously limited funds, but with a wide-eyed ‘oh-my-gosh-I’ve-never-seen-so-many-creative-arty-minds-all-in-one-condensed-place-before’ attitude. I saw far too much comedy for my own personal liking, albeit not awful, and somehow managed to avoid all forms of serious/contemporary/experimental/undefined-genre theatre or performance. My preferred style. (Note: My degree has brainwashed me to a level where I can no longer simply write ‘theatre’, ‘drama’, or ‘play’ without following it with ‘or performance’. The same goes for ‘stage’, followed by ‘or space’. Gotta love the pretentious approach of the contemporary-theatre student, eh?)

Last year an alternative theatre-based activity (alongside a full-time job) prevented me from making the trek up to Scotland. Whilst spending several weeks helping to prepare 150 8-18 year olds in their production of Guys and Dolls was a fantastic experience (and has ensured that I will never work with school children ever), it wasn’t quite the same as sitting watching various housemates and friends perform in numerous shows and sketches at the Fringe.

This year my inner theatre-magnet was yet again foiled, this time by a fortnight escape from the country book-ended by the dreaded task of moving house. Again, whilst a whole array of my favourites are busy frolicking around in the land of the rain, and soaking in every aspect of the theatre (be it enjoyable or exhausting).

Next year I intend to be there with them. Or by myself if for some ungodly reason they all decide not to make the trek next year. I have to be there. In fact I give you all permission to throw things at me if I’m not.

Whilst I’m not there (and I’m regularly kicking myself for not just jumping on the next train up to Scotland), there are many a fantastic troupe (and many a fantastic friend) who are. So if you happen to be in Edinburgh, or on your way there for the final week, I implore you to check out the following:

Theatre. Sometimes physical, always pretty:

Witness Theatre’s ‘The Darkroom

Belt Up’s ‘A Little Princess‘, ‘The Boy James‘, ‘Outland

Rhum and Clay’s ‘A Strange Wild Song

Comedy. Dark and Twisty, or Irish charm:

Casual Violence’s ‘A Kick In The Teeth

Foil, Arms and Hog’s ‘Late Night Sketch Comedy

Dance. Physical theatre. All male group:

Edge FWD’s ‘A Beautiful Hell’

The theatre bug is back.

I didn’t sleep well last night. For someone like me, who struggles sleeping at the best of times, this was fairly irritating. However, for someone like me, who is constantly trying to come up with new ideas for theatre/performance/pretty things, it wasn’t so bad. What can I say? The theatre bug is back.

For a good six months (Sept-Feb.) I massively struggled with the sleep thing. Partly because of my daily caffeine intake, but mainly due to the fact that my mind refused to switch off. I was constantly having fights with my mind over the practicality vs. the prettiness of fairy lights and scaffolding towers and candles-in-jars and various costume ideas etc etc etc. I was in full ‘Rent’ mode. I had dreams about lighting rigs, and nightmares about stretchy white sheets. I ate/slept/breathed the show, the songs, and everything in-between. My lack of focus towards anything else (I would like to think) paid off and I was able to completely devote my brain to my degree once February had finished and I was no longer in full-blown musical mode.

Now, however, I haven’t had anything like this on my mind for a few months. Sure I had to do the degree thing – a final year performance, 3 dissertations. Y’know, the usual. But I didn’t feel my mind opening up all the nooks and crannies of crazy and experimental in the same way that it had with ‘Rent’. Not even close. Not until last night.

I literally couldn’t sleep. Everytime my eyes closed my mind would jump into a new scenario, new idea, new colours, new cast sizes, new sound montages – all for a tiny little speck of an idea that has only really been vaguely discussed. My mind likes it anyhow. The bloody thing forced me to stay awake and scribble page after page of pencil drawings and 3 word notes that no longer make sense to my conscious and awake brain: “Kneel. Fab. v/o.” Not to mention the fact that this was all scribbled by phone light as I couldn’t bring myself to jump out of the warmth of bed and turn on a light. Not at 2 o’clock in the morning.

I think the mind’s trying to tell me something. Despite being on holiday, I’m ready to throw myself into all-things-theatre. All over again.

Smile of the day.

There are few things that make me smile as much as Zac Efron being mistaken for a Jonas Brother.

That’s a lie, actually a fair amount of things make me smile. But today, this wins first place. Remember Lisa Loeb? Remember her? She’s the one that sang that incredible song when I was about 9 and didn’t understand the actual story in her lyrics but loved it anyway. (Turns out I was actually 3 when ‘Stay’ came out. Bloody hell. That makes me a whole lot younger than I thought I was.)

Anyway, she gave this brilliant interview at HelloGiggles.com in which she describes the wonderfully embarrassing moment that she confused Zac Efron with a Jonas Brother.

For this, I love her all the more.

Single, Unemployed, and Homeless.

I’m entering a new chapter of my life. One with (currently) less stability, both financially and emotionally, and less structure. I’ve completed my academic life. God knows how, after sixteen and a half years, I managed to make it all the way through, but somehow here I am at the end of it all with a 2.1 BA in English and Drama. Crazy.

However, despite the end of education, I am still unemployed, still single, and (as of yesterday) currently homeless. This doesn’t do much to calm the nerves I have to admit.

The big move out was ridiculously stressful – apparently I have too much stuff. Who knew? And my wardrobe was definitely almost responsible for the death of a close friend. (Actually this was terrifying as he was driving the van, and therefore his being squashed to a pulp would have been all the more tragic.) But we (myself and the northern one) survived it, and managed to not kill each other or ourselves in the process. So now we’re homeless, and essentially sofa-surfing for the week leading up to graduation (admittedly she’s actually sofa surfing, I’ve managed to bag myself a spare room for a few days…), and whilst the hunt for a new house is underway. The single and unemployed statuses have been around for a while. I’m unemployed because no-one wants to hire someone who’s about to go away for a month. And I’m single because, well, because I am. Which is both depressing but truthful.

Luckily, things arranged for the next few months make life seem a little less terrifying, and more exciting (and only slightly nerve-wracking). I’m going to Dubai for several weeks to visit the father, I (hopefully) have an incredible internship/shadowing position lined up for the autumn, and plans for theatre adventures later on in the year make my eyes lights up in a manic not-quite-crazy-just-really-excited kind of way.

So, not all bad really. Just need to focus on the positives and not get completely carried away by the terrifying unknowns.

You’re still young, that’s your fault.

This day is always a peculiar one for me. The birthday of someone who will forever remain young in my mind. 34, skinny, good looking, and one of the loveliest people I had the pleasure of being related to. But it’s sandwiched between happy days, and therefore I always end up with a strange mix of emotions during this week.

My Uncle died when I was 9. It was, I suppose, the first real experience I ever had of death, and of being confronted with the knowledge that I was never going to see that person again. I know that losing someone never gets easier, but this first memory is the one that always stays in my mind. It’s the first time I remember feeling gut-wrenching loss, but not really understanding it at the same time.

I guess I should explain. I was a fairly sheltered child. Not in the high-maintenance, never-wanted-for-anything, kind of way. Not at all. Simply that I grew up in a happy family, and therefore never really experienced extreme negative emotions. Not to mention the fact that when you’re a kid living in that kind of environment, death isn’t something you tend to think about in a realistic way. It’s something that’s scary, sure. But I for one had never considered the possibility of anyone I actually knew dying. It was something that happened in films, and to famous people, and to really old people. But not to people that I saw everyday, and who were young, fit and healthy. That just didn’t happen in my mind. Naive, yes. But I was only 9.

Not only was I only 9, but I had an active imagination. That meant that when my parents had to tell me that my Uncle (Henry) had died the night before, the first logical explanation my mind jumped to was that he’d been murdered. Kind of laughable in hindsight, but at that moment in time it was the only thing that made even the slightest sense. I’d seen him only a few days before (at my brother’s birthday), and in my head people either died because they were old, or because they’d been killed. I can’t even begin to imagine how my parents managed to remain straight-faced at that assumption. I mean, I guess I can, they’d both just lost their best friend, but to hear your child jump straight to murder must’ve been a bizarre experience. And slightly ironic I suppose in a twisted way, because, as I eventually found out, it was an act of suicide.

It still surprises me how clearly that night is engraved in my memory. Almost 12 years later, and I can still see my Dad’s expression, trying to hold it together as they corrected my over-active imagination. I still don’t know how I’d ever go about trying to explain to a child that the person that they see almost every day isn’t ever coming back. I still don’t know if I can fully explain it to myself, the fact that certain people aren’t ever going to be in my life again. The thought makes me feel a little bit sick actually, so I have so much love and respect for my parents for managing to explain. Albeit over several conversations, but I don’t think the first experience of losing someone, combined with the added emotion of discovering they chose that fate, is something that you can discuss in one sitting. Especially not with a 9 year old.

I’m fairly certain that I still don’t know all of the details, but I think I’m okay with that. For a long time, I didn’t want to know physically how he died, the knowledge that he’d taken his own life was enough for me. But I did eventually find out the details, at least the general ones. I was angry, actually, when I found out. Because I still wasn’t really ready to hear it, but the person who told me felt that I should know. So that I knew the “truth” as it were. In all honesty it just caused me to relive that feeling of confusion and disbelief that I felt that first night, by this point a good two or three years previously. Then, moving into my teens, I became angry at him. My Uncle. For forcing everyone to feel this way. I hear that’s a natural response when someone close to you dies, but at the time I felt sickened. By his choice, and then simultaneously by my anger towards him.

I still occasionally feel like that. When I think about this day, and the 14th of December, two dates that my entire family are always going to feel shaky and sad and confused and hurt on. But mainly I try to smile in his memory. I sing his favourite songs, and find the few photos I have of us together, and try really really hard to find the smell of woodsmoke. Because that instantly reminds me of him. And I guess this feeling doesn’t ever really go away – it’s been 12 years, but I still get choked up thinking about it. And again, I think I’m okay with that. It’s a reminder that I had a fantastic person in my life for even just a little while. And, as cliche as it sounds, sometimes the pain or grief is necessary in order to remember the good parts too.

So, sadness aside, this is a song I recorded for Henry. It always makes me think of him, my Dad, and a little bit my brother too. (Apologies for the dreadful quality of the recording, but when you’re using a make-shift recording device you do the best you can.)

This was a long time ago, but I still miss you.

3am.

It’s been a while since I’ve written in the middle of the night. Possibly not since first year in fact. Then, of course, it was as a form of procrastination from various essay writing. And as a distraction from the distressing fact that I was a terrible fresher who spent nights in with her housemates playing cards and drinking coffee rather than going out and destroying her liver.

Now, however, it’s because my mind’s decided that it’s enjoying it’s new found creativity and doesn’t really fancy switching off. This week I’ve got giddy about theatre and recorded songs in my bedroom because I haven’t had anything better to do. It’s been massively enjoyable.

It’s strange actually, how suddenly having something creative to latch my mind on to has pulled me straight out of the depressed-anti-climactic-funk that I’ve been coasting since handing in dissertations. It’s like I zoned out for a couple of weeks whilst my mind dealt with the stupid amount of words that it had decided upon using. And then, having helped out on a pretty fantastic Sondheim revue – “Putting It Together” – I realised that I needed more theatre in my life, and decided to make it happen. Weird, how a little motivation and direction can get you back on the happy train.

Admittedly I’m still a poor, struggling student (at the very least until I graduate next month), but at least I’m a happy and inspired, poor, struggling student. Little things really.

Peter Pan. Who knew he’d inspire my future…

Growing up. It’s a terrifying prospect. When you’re a kid you’re brought up to befriend J M Barrie’s epitome of never-growing-up: Peter Pan. You want to be this boy. You want to go to Neverland, and fight pirates, and learn to fly, and never never ever have to grow up and gain responsibilities. Some people never grow out of this mindset. They do eventually take on board their responsibilities and dress in a suit and tie day-in day-out, but they never lose that feeling of resentment towards the fact that they had to lose that innocence of childhood. That undeniably amazing feeling when you don’t have a worry in the world and get to spend hours on end in your imagination. Too many people have grown up to resent that. Occasionally there are people who decide to channel this desire to never grow up. Who use their childish dreams and imagination to fuel their adult existence. I’m hoping to be one of these people.

It’s strange because when I actually *was* a child I wasn’t all that adventurous. I’ve probably become more of a child in the past three years since being technically adult than I ever was before I turned double-figures. I’ve discovered an unhealthy obsession with dinosaurs and rubber ducks, I have a constant desire to paint people’s faces, and I really really want to go on a bear hunt. More than that though, I feel like I finally *get* my imagination. Sure, it’s dark and twisty, and (more often than not) really fucking bizarre. But at the same time it’s conceptual in it’s oddities, and it has the potential to be breath-takingly beautiful – provided that I can somehow work it out of my head and into something malleable. Something literal and physical.

This right here is why I know that I need to make theatre. I don’t have the overwhelming need to be a performer like many people. I don’t feel like my life would be incomplete if I never again experienced the adrenaline of standing before an audience and receiving their applause for my ability to be another character, or for my ability to hit several notes on-key. I do however feel like I would be empty if I was unable to make pretty things. (And yes I’m aware that that’s quite possibly the girliest thing I’ve ever admitted to, but it’s true.) I do have an overwhelming desire to take tiny insignificant thoughts and ideas and turn them into something that someone else can perform. I do crave the agonising stress that comes with putting a show together – I’m not gonna lie, I absolutely thrive off the back of pressure and high-stress situations. And the knowledge that I can potentially make new worlds through the form of theatre? It’s enough to make me never want to do anything else ever again.

Theatre makes me happy because I can create worlds from my mind. Theatre makes actors happy because they can become another person for a couple of hours. Theatre makes audiences happy because they can sit and forget about their own lives for a little while. Theatre allows you to revert to that childhood mindset of absorption into a world outside of your own. And that makes me bloody happy. So bloody happy.

Compulsive baking.

Last year I spent a great deal of my free time in the kitchen. Cooking. Cleaning. Cooking and cleaning. But what with the mania of this past year I’ve let that drop. Sad face.

Today however, baking reappeared in house 42A. Now, in true Barton style, some adaptations had to be made. We lack butter, therefore olive oil was substituted. A variety of flour was thrown together, sugar was mixed together, and easter eggs were crushed to make chocolate-chip-type-chunks. Despite this, the result was pretty darn good (if I do say so myself)…

Butter-free, left-over-easter-egg-chunk cookies?

I can’t help it though. I’m a compulsive baker. The housemate laughs, apparently this need to bake makes me an odd individual. In fact, I think the term she used was 50s-housewife-bunny. She’s a charmer. It may, however, possibly have something to do with the fact that I’m the moodiest, snarkiest member of our household, and yet occasionally turn into a crazy baking lady who sings along to Enter Shikari and Trivium whilst making said baked-good. She’s right. I’m odd.

Never mind. Cookie…?

May Day. (Also known as 13 days before I have to start real life.)

I should be writing a dissertation right now. In fact, I should actually be writing three dissertations right now. Needless to say, I’m taking a break. Who knew that it was actually possible to do work over a fortnight before it is due in? Crazy. I used to be able to write an entire essay (or two) the night before hand-in, now I’m getting excited about the fact that I’ve managed to write 1,000 words in a day. What a nightmare.

Naturally, now that it’s got to that point in my degree where I should be “knuckling down to hard work” I actually just want to do everything else. I’m procrastinating by thinking about the future – however scary (though exciting) that may be – and have started watching television (the BBC) religiously for the first time in three years. Admittedly, it’s The Voice, which, until this week, has been a brilliant concept. Judging people on their ability to actually sing rather than how they look is something that I feel massively strong about. However, introducing the whole now-the-audience-get-to-vote-to-save-people thing is horrible. There’s no other way to describe it. And on top of that, they have a terrible presenter. Anyone who can say, on live television, to the first person to be voted out “I don’t know what to say to you…” should really consider a different profession. Don’t get me wrong, Holly Willoughby is probably a lovely person, but that was shamefully tactless. Despite that, I’m hooked. Talented musicians always get a smile from me. I can’t help it. Music junkie right here.

In other news I’m officially losing my mind. Apparently sitting surrounded by books (you haven’t read) and trying to create a coherent academic argument on their narrator’s unreliability/presentation of reflection in children’s literature/fetishizing of the suffering human body is enough to drive you to destroy your sanity. I rock a lot more than I usually do. I’m frequently shouting at inanimate objects for their refusal to co-operate. I’m almost at the overdose point in my daily caffeine intake. I’m giggling. I don’t giggle. Ever. It is beyond bizarre. Having said that, it’s also excitingly inspiring. Just not in the dissertation-writing sense. It is however making me want to create crazy theatre that is basically an extension of my current mind-set. I keep finding myself down a path in my brain that I haven’t found before, in some terrifying little hole that’s crammed with exciting (terrifying) blinking eyes and black glitter and millions of post-its and bottles of laughing and tears and fear and dreams. It’s bloody odd, to say the least.

At least I know that I want to do things when this dreaded fortnight is over. That’s got to be worth something. Sitting doing sweet F-A doesn’t seem like my ideal future. But I have to get there first. And that, of course, is the challenge.

Day One in the ‘Eating Healthily to Avoid Early Heart Failure’ series.

Monday. Mid-March. Sunshine? What on earth.. Not only is the sun shining, but it’s about 18˚C. Not massively warm, but for early spring in the UK? We’re doing pretty well.

It’s also the time of year when deadlines are rapidly approaching. And therefore the time of year that I decide to kick-start a healthy living regime. Naturally. Am I insane? Probably. But if I keep it up then maybe this summer won’t be quite as horrific as those previous..

Anyway, kitchen times. I spent a few days at home with the family this week, (which resulted in a stressful train journey home) and as is often the case when the mother and I get together, spent most of those days in the kitchen. Inspired by her many many cookbooks, and by the fact that the brother has turned into a better cook than me, I’ve decided to inject more kitchen time into my life. Not only will it result in the consumption of healthier, tastier food, it will also serve as a fantastic tool of procrastination when I should be writing dissertations. So, day one in the eating-healthily-to-avoid-early-heart-failure series:

Sunny lunchtime..

Fresh salmon baked with herbs and whole garlic cloves, with a beetroot and spinach salad, topped with feta cheese and homemade honey-mustard dressing. Healthy eating can be pretty looking. And pretty tasting.