By: Sara Lamerton, TRP Reviewer
Those pesky little magpies: astute, sneaky, determined. Their presence can be felt even when they’re not visible to other people. It’s highly likely that, at some point, you’ll encounter one. Or maybe more than one. You might not realise its significance at first. Yet from year to year, situation to situation, despite your best efforts to ignore it, there’s an incessant, attention-seeking tap-tap-tap.
Molly Naylor first encounters her magpie as an unexpected, unwanted guest in her childhood home. Frozen to the spot, she recoils in fear. The next 25 years are spent trying to drown out the sound of its tapping. Embracing behaviours and experiences which make the noise temporarily stop becomes her primary coping strategy. Yet it’s not long before she realises the more she runs towards the next fix, the more those shallow experiences bring her back to the magpie. The more she pushes it away, the more it tap-tap-taps at her window.
Of course, it’s a metaphor. A symbol of a trauma not discussed; silenced and suppressed. Stop Trying To Be Fantastic turns the elephant in the room to the magpie in the room. And, if you’ve ever witnessed a bird when it accidentally finds itself trapped you know exactly how it panics, thrashing about leaving havoc in its wake. Stop Trying To Be Fantastic is that which gets left behind once the incident has passed. The initial mess might be cleaned up, yet an echo remains.
A confident, articulate performer, Molly takes us on her personal journey. Refreshingly honest, Stop Trying To Be Fantastic is universally relatable, tackling themes of codependency and the saviour complex I’m sure many other people relate to. As we bear witness to the erosion of her self-confidence and boundaries, Molly seeks to complete herself through fixing others. In particular one man she affectionately refers to as ‘Cheesecake’. As delicious as he initially sounds, this increasingly one-sided love affair is doomed. When it no longer becomes a feasible way to live, she realises what needs fixing is ultimately inside her, not out in the world.
Stop Trying To Be Fantastic poetically confronts our deepest fears of abandonment, of being unloved and unlovable. Burrowing into the complexity of why we often find it so unbearable to feel bad or face our problems head on, it highlights how the pursuit of being ‘perfect’ for everyone else stops us from living a life that is actually perfect for us.
Passion and pain have clearly forged this award-winning writer/performer’s work. Making an hour pass in the blink of an eye, yet filling that space with purposeful intention, Molly stands alone – vulnerable, funny, self-reliant.
As I sit here reflecting on the performance and what it meant to me, a magpie stares curiously through the living-room window. I can easily recall those times I too put my needs aside, swallowed nagging doubts about people or activities, or ran roughshod over my intuition to embrace another situation I knew wouldn’t take me anywhere new. And that’s the thing, we’ve all done it to varying degrees. We’ve all refused to look at what needs to be seen until it can’t be suppressed any longer. Stop Trying To Be Fantastic is a reminder that we don’t have to live that way. We don’t have to fear what we daren’t look at. Life won’t miraculously be a bed of roses when we pluck up the courage to sit with our pain, but it will be OK and that’s a step in the right direction.