Deviating from my solo travel bloggage for a moment…

…please indulge me. Normal solo-travelling blogging will resume soon, but I wanted to use this forum as a place to air a particularly important thing in my life right now.


Musical Theatre is Good for the Soul

Six years ago, I went to see my first west-end musical, a little-known show called Wicked. I was feeling shattered (thanks to my work Christmas party being the night before) and on the cusp of a fully-fledged vom-fest (thanks again, to the aforementioned bender) I’m not one for coping well when sick, but as we were seeing the show for my sisters Hen Do, I figured I’d better man the fuck up and get on with it. It turns out that the universe decided to help me out because the moment the overture kicked in, some weird shit happened. My heart started racing. I got a bit excited. “What fresh joy is this?” I thought to myself. 2.5 hours and an abundance of Ashleigh Grey later (cheers lovely!) I was an enthralled, quivering, weeping, ecstatic, energetic mess.

Wicked-UK-Tour_Ashleigh-Gray_Photo-Matt-Crockett_0709Well, that was it. I was a new woman! I’ve spent the last six years seeing every kind of show I can get my hands on. I decided to combine my day job of journalism with my new-found passion and become a theatre reviewer. That gave me access to the more obscure stuff on the fringe and I became even MORE absorbed in this whole crazy Biz.

Four years ago though, theatre had a more profound  effect on my life than I thought possible. It became much more than just a nice way to spend my time. It rescued me (I know, dramatic…)

My Dad was diagnosed with Cancer. That sucked bigtime, obviously, and I naturally embarked on a spot of “how the HELL do I deal with this?” soul-searching. This sometimes manifested itself in a) doing productive things, like signing up to a charity race to raise money for Cancer research (pragmatic Cronin)…but more than often than not it was b) collapsing into a weepy mess (emotional Cronin)

One week into the diagnosis, I decided to take myself off to the brilliant Rock of Ages. I’d seen it about 13 times already, knew I loved it, and thought some frivolous entertainment was probably what I needed. My friends – it was EVERYTHING I needed. It was the first time I’d cracked a smile in a week. The first time I’d thought about anything else. It reminded me that life went on. That amazing music can lift the spirits more than any drug. That all it takes is a Simon Lipkin to thrust in your face and life can hold joy again. That it was ok…nay, ESSENTIAL… to laugh amidst the throes of personal tragedy.  THAT’s what musical theatre does at its very best.

Simon+Lipkin+Rock+Ages+Musical+Photocall+BrIga_q7TptlLong-ass story short, Dad beat the Cancer, but it came back, in three different god-damn places, and now it’s terminal. Life is a total bitch-face, right?  I won’t blather on about the ins and outs – you’ve all probably faced something similar – but one of the biggest challenges with this situation is working out how to support your loved ones whilst also supporting yourself. How the fuck can I support my parents if I’m not finding ways to cope myself? In the month since we were told the news, I’ve tried the following:

  1. Drinking prosecco in the bath
  2. Eating an entire Lindt Bunny and washing it down with Cadbury’s crème eggs
  3. Screaming into a pillow
  4. Going for protracted runs out in the fresh air until it gets to the point my legs feel like they’re going to fall off
  5. Drinking heavily

Whilst all holding their own, unique joys, none have quite cut the mustard. But here’s what happened next…during a particular low point at work (hunched over my desk, with a feeling of impending doom overhead, catastrophizing the shit out of everything and generally going to my ‘dark place’) I realised….hold up!…I haven’t had a musical theatre fix in a while. I’ve seen a few plays in the past month, sure…but there’s something very specific about musical theatre that elevates your soul to a higher plain. It cuts through all the bullshit that exists everywhere else. It’s that combination of movement, acting and song that creates such an overwhelmingly immersive experience that nothing else can quite reach.

Cut to ten minutes later, and I’m brandishing a ticket to Guys & Dolls for this Sunday. I swear to the bottom of my deeply stagey heart, even the sheer act of buying the ticket perked me right up. I can pretty much guarantee that, come Sunday, my spirits will be lifted.

So thank you, musical theatre, for existing. For being there to change someone’s world, even just for a few hours. And for making my Dad’s final months a little bit better, through making his daughter that little bit stronger.

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