I’ve talked quite openly about my mental health issues in print, online and on stage, on many occasions, but still if this isn’t something you’re comfortable reading about, or interested in, that’s cool, you can skip this one.
The 48 hours prior to last Friday nights tour date in Nottingham wasn’t fun. For those couple of days, my brain chemistry was making me feel empty and desperate. Everything I saw and felt was colourless. Flat. Meaningless. I was working hard not to be unpleasant to those around me, and myself, and I was sometimes failing. All the usual things I do to trick, distract or subdue it didn’t work – it came strong this week.
I had a show to do, but I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to do anything. The prospect of getting dressed, packing and prepping my show gear, travelling on a series of trains all the way to Nottingham to do an hour and a half in a venue where – honestly – I had not sold a huge amount of tickets, was all deeply unattractive. But I have never, ever, let my mental health get in the way of my work, so I got myself there. One thing at a time, making sure to leave early, so I wouldn’t have to rush and get stressed. Slow and careful. Moving in the right direction, figuratively and literally.
I arrived at the venue with my power bar empty. The fantastic festival staff asked how I was, and I lied. But, gradually, as I set my props and sorted out the tech for the show, I started to feel..lighter. Sometimes that’s how it happens. I assume it’s a slight change in the delicate balance of chemicals that dictate mood, but I can equally see how a religious person might feel it as a god, gently lifting them. I’m not a religious person, but the feeling was still there, of relief. That small gaps in my soul were slowly refilling.
In the green room – as beautiful and shabby as only a room above a pub can be – I prepared myself to do my show for a small audience. I’m totally OK with that – my training as a street performer taught me early, to be able to adjust and deliver the best version of what I do to whatever version of an audience I get. As I did, I could hear a few more people outside asking if there were still tickets available. By the time I hit my music and went on, the room was full, and somehow my energy bar was full, and all my special attacks were lit up and ready (Street Fighter II references for the win!)
They were a fantastic audience. Relaxed but enthused, big on laughing and clapping and whooping. Standing up at the back to get the best view. And you know what, I was pretty great too. They energised me. I found myself pacing around, yelling punchlines, giggling, in short, having a fine old time.
Afterwards, I went back to the green room as the audience filed out, and gave me a final gift. I heard a woman, as she shuffled out, say to her friend “That. Was. Astonishing!” – and I was done, the last little bit of monochrome had been coloured in. And it won’t last forever, but it’s lasting as I write this. And maybe it’s shallow that a good show can put a shine on a previously dulled soul, or maybe I’m lucky that I have that secret weapon against it. Perhaps both, who knows?
So, if you were there, then thanks. I hope you had a great evening from wherever you were sitting, I just wanted to let you know how it felt from where I was.