I'm Good at This

I’m a freelance actor at The London Dungeon, now. Up until last year, I was one of the senior supervisors of The London Dungeon cast. Then I buggered off to do my Master’s and now I’m freelance, a visitor. When I returned this weekend for the inevitable Hallowe’en mayhem, I knew exactly what I was doing. I was working with new actors who had never met me, even though this time last year I would have been auditioning them. I know the London Dungeon better than I know my house. I still haven’t figured out how to get into my own attic but I know every inch of the Dungeon.
When I welcomed the groups into my show space, I was not just quietly confident, I was loudly so. I knew what I was doing, and I knew that I was good at it, and I am. My shows at the Dungeon are great, and so they should be. I worked there for seven years, was promoted, helped facilitate the move from London Bridge to Waterloo; if my shows aren’t good there’s a problem. My shows should be good, I helped create them.
This got me thinking about the habit of playing down our skills. We all have something that we’re really REALLY good at, but we seem keen to down-play them. I’m not shy about declaring that I will give you one of the best Mrs Lovett shows you’ve ever seen. I’m also aware that I am not the only one. The London Dungeon cast is very strong and while I’m confident that my show is great, I know that so are others. Am I the best actor in the world? Hell no, not by a long shot, but I know how to make 45 people laugh at a pie pun. I made a shepherd’s pie the other day that was remarkable, I mean this pie could have won awards. My guests were asking for seconds and then they were asking for the recipe. Ever walk into a room and think ‘yeh, I’ve got this’? It doesn’t matter what the room is. Could be a seminar, could be your own kitchen. I think that knowing what you’re good at is a very healthy thing.
The British are exceptional at apologising. How about just saying ‘yeh, I did good’ or at least thinking it? We don’t have to be good at anything remarkable either. What if you run a really good bath, or give an amazing massage? My boyfriend cooks the most incredible breakfasts. I get my five a day just from one of his scrambled egg mash ups. He has other, more grown up talents, of course. He is a brilliant father, a thoughtful partner, and a great professional; but his eggs are really something to write home about. Since I first drafted this blog, I’ve been asking around. My boss does such a good stir-fry, he says, that he tells people to stand back and watch the magic. I’ve found that getting people to identify what they’re good at is rather difficult. People are very shy to say where their talents lie. My housemate’s boyfriend, after a lot of thought, revealed that he’s very good at knowing what people need before they ask for it. He can see what’s needed, and delivers it. My mother is an exceptional hostess, my stepfather is a fearless off-roader.
I guess the trick is not what you’re good at, but what you’re confident enough to say that you’re good at. It goes hand in hand with what you’re bad at, I suppose. I’m bad at being punctual. It’s not that I don’t care, I care very much; I just don’t allow a reasonable amount of time to do the things I want to do before leaving the house. The result being that I schmush (it’s a technical term) my last minute things into my final minutes and completely underestimate how long those last minute things take. I am very bad at most things, so realising what I am actually good at is something to celebrate. It’s something for all of us to celebrate; whether it’s making a pie, styling your hair or driving a van, please take stock of the thing that you’re really good at, because I fail to believe that any of us is not really good at one thing.
Artists, and people working in the arts are a different sort of breed. We live our vocation. It is both our livelihood and our passion; our skill and our hobby. It’s easy to cite our jobs as what we’re good at, but it’s harder to pinpoint our other skills. My housemate is one of the best actors I know, but my goodness does he makes a mean spreadsheet. He makes a spreadsheet that most accounting firms would celebrate. My sister is a talented and dedicated psychotherapist, but what that woman can’t do with a tin of tuna and some butter beans isn’t worth mentioning.
We are our art, but we are not just our art. We’re all really good at something else, too. Find it, celebrate it, and when the times comes to do it, take a leaf out of my boss’s book and say ‘stand back and watch the magic.’