Tomorrow marks my 20th visit to see the West End musical, The Girls. It’s safe to say that at this point I’ve received a lot of not so complimentary remarks regarding how frequently I see the show and I guess that’s what’s prompted me to write this post.
My first visit to see the show was on the 4th of February. I’d been desperate to see it since it’s very first preview, mainly due to the fact that I grew up watching The Calendar Girls film on video over and over again; and also due to the fact that I am a massive Sophie-Louise Dann fangirl. After deciding I simply couldn’t cope with waiting any longer, my visit on the 4th of February was a spontaneous one. To be perfectly honest by the time I sat down in my seat in the front row I was terrified that I’d built up such a high expectation that I was most likely going to be hugely disappointed. Approximately 30 seconds into the opening song, all of my fears had subsided as I sat there with tears streaming down my face at the realisation that I’d discovered quite possibly the most perfect musical ever. 4 days later I saw it again.
I could never have predicted that just over 2 months later I’d have seen it 20 times. In fact I didn’t think I’d sit through ANY show 20 times, but the number just seems to have crept up on me. Some would call it an addiction. Maybe it is- but considering the alternatives I’ll happily take being addicted to a musical any day of the week!
As those of you that have read previous blog posts will know, I’ve had my fair share of mental health struggles. Prior to The Girls, going anywhere on my own without having multiple panic attacks was a massive task. Now I’m much more in control of my anxiety and sometimes, I actually quite enjoy my own company. In many ways, it’s given me a part of my life back that I lost for a while. As great as it is to have that time to myself sometimes, through watching the show and volunteering with Bloodwise, I have also met lots of amazing people, some of whom I’m now very thankful to class as close friends. It’s always really interesting to hear the wide variation of reasons that people have fallen in love with The Girls and it just goes to show that it speaks to something within everyone.
The big thing that makes the show so important to me is the stories that it encourages people to share. All of our lives have been affected by cancer in one way or another and every show acts as a safe space for people to talk about their experiences. Through 19 intervals I have sat and listened to or spoken to complete strangers about their experiences with cancer. I sat and watched the show alongside my nan who watched her daughter go through breast cancer and a double mastectomy; and alongside my grandad who sadly lost his son to a brain tumour. Both of them laughed and cried and haven’t stopped talking about what a beautiful show it was since. As rude as someone wants to be about my love for the show, they can’t deny that is a unique and wonderful thing.
Also important is the message that it sends to women. It’s no secret that there’s a great deal of pressure and expectation placed upon women regarding their looks, weight, clothes, etc. Day in, day out, we are bombarded with hundreds of images of women who look exactly the same that are supposedly there to represent all of us. Well here’s the thing- they don’t, and this show proves that. I couldn’t possibly count the amount of times I’ve left the show and heard a woman say “that almost made me want to take my clothes off.” That’s because it’s a rare thing to see a group of women of all ages, shapes and sizes being beautifully unashamed of their bodies. Want to discover how it feels to be body positive? Go and see The Girls!
My final words have to go to the cast. Quite frankly with the amount of times they’ve had to see me, I wouldn’t blame them if they just told me to f**k off, but instead they’ve been lovelier to me than I could ever have possibly asked. From reading and sharing my blogs to giving me audition advice and teaching me about the industry, these 6 women have gone above and beyond to help me- and others. If there is one reason above all that you should go and see the show, it is to support these incredible women and the heartwarming, heartbreaking, brave and utterly joyous performances that they give each day. Before The Girls, I was a university film student with no confidence and no passion for what I was studying. After being inspired by The Girls, I took a leap of faith and ended up being offered a place at 2 of my dream drama schools. As the lyrics to Sunflower say, “learn to hope before you learn to fear”, and that really sums up what the show has done for me.