Fireraisers Artistic Director Polly blogs about her solo work

So I was recently awarded a grant to Develop my Creative Practice as a solo performer. I’m hugely grateful to Arts Council England and determined to make the most of this exciting opportunity.

I also feel a bit of trepidation. In some ways, I'm simply reclaiming what I used to do with ease. Since I was 7, I knew I wanted to act and said I was going to go to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. My family told me to choose a more realistic goal. But at 17, I auditioned for RADA and got in.

Be careful what you wish for. The next 3 years were spent partly in drama school and partly in mental hospitals. Due to some horrendous events, I lost all my confidence. But I managed to set up Fireraisers and put on shows and ultimately determined never to end up on a psych ward ever again.

I wrote about this experience, and my play Bright was produced by Fireraisers and Soho Theatre jointly, which found me an agent, and I became a professional playwright - which was great, but something got lost along the way. Writing is hard work, for me. Performing seems like a glorious holiday by comparison - not because it’s inherently easier: it’s just the way I’m made. I missed the joy of being on stage.

A few years later, the splendid artist/writer/ musician/ director Nathan Evans launched his variety night Vauxhallville at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern and gave me the chance to reclaim some of that joy. To try my hand at cabaret performance, culminating in our lip sync Blondie musical at Latitude and legendary Duckie was the most terrifying and exhilarating experience ever. If you don't hold the Duckie crowd's (drunk, discerning, demanding) attention, you're toast. It's a great test.

Increasingly, though, I was being employed solely as a playwright, whilst trying to pursue experimental & non-theatre based shows with Fireraisers, and occasionally getting to perform in mates' plays. It felt like a lot of fragments, a career disassembled. I was desperate to bring together all the strands of what I do and weave them in to a coherent whole with a future plan. So I applied to ACE to develop my solo performance practice, with the aim to eventually use an invented cabaret persona to develop a group show - not from text, but from images, music, memories, the fabric of seaside nightlife round where I grew up in Sussex.

This is a coming home. And a delicate place. And I keep wanting to cry. And isn’t that daft? I get a second chance. The reasons are painfully clear to me: as a white, middle-class person, I’m privileged.

I have wonderful support from creative producer Judith Hibberd, award-winning performer/director Sarah-Louise Young and cabaret sensation Dusty Limits + others will come on board in a few weeks. I know it’s the right time to do this. And alongside, I want to set up an initiative within Fireraisers for those who haven’t had a second (or even a first) chance. But more about that at a later point…

For now, I’ll be trying to figure out how to sing and relearn how to create characters and make shows not starting from text. And isn’t that brilliant and aren’t I lucky? Thank you, and - bring it on. I’ll do my level best to be worthy of this fantastic second shot.

If you’re interested to follow my journey, check back here in NEWS and/or follow my socials:

Tw: @firecrazee

Insta: polly_wiseman

FB: Polly Wiseman

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