Friday, 24 June 2016


So the world is reeling, I am reeling. This is the biggest political event that has ever happened in my lifetime. Whichever way you voted the future is now uncertain and we are in a limbo of the unknown. When so much is up in the air and change for better or worse is underfoot I feel the one thing we need to do is focus on humanity. The stuff that binds us: kindness, patience and support.

There is so much hatred in this world, so much anger, so much injustice that we need to look at what we CAN do to make a difference. Even if it is a tiny difference. Smile at someone on the street, return a lost wallet, reassure someone. Anything. We need to help people see that, whatever the future, wherever you are, the spirit of human kindness cannot and will not be stamped out.

We need to work from the grass roots up: a butterfly spreads its wings and a hurricane starts. Who knows, that one smile you give one person could spur them on to make a difference in someone else’s life, could give them the confidence to smile at others, to approach someone in need, to change the world.

Whatever your views on religion and what man has done with it, the fundamental basis for them all is kindness. Love and kindness. Do unto others as you would have done to yourself. That is how we need to live our lives, to treat a stranger as our best friend, to be selfless and look out for others. I know it is far more easily said than done but actually, somehow, if we can look past ourselves and let things go, it is not that hard after all.

Because of who I am, who I have grown into, I will always look for an inclusive world, a hopeful world and a world that, no matter what is thrown at it, will try and do its best for people. I know I am idealistic, possibly na├»ve and hopeful to a fault but honestly, I see nothing wrong in that. We need hope, we need love and we need support. 

These are all the things we were taught as children: be kind, share what you have, don’t snatch, say sorry, forgive and have patience. They sound like a pretty sensible way of living to me.

We can but try.

Laura x


Wednesday, 15 June 2016


When I was of the tender age of three, I got stuck up a chimney. Yes, my intrepid search for proof of Father Christmas’s existence sent me and my long suffering Carebear clambering up the sooty, pigeon-infested, vertical tunnel (not a euphemism). Only to find that a) He was not there (admittedly it was June, my scheduling was off) and b) Getting down was not as easy as getting up.

Ever since that day, I have been inescapably accident prone, earning me such titles as The Spiller, Calamity Darrall and my new favourite Darrall the Destroyer. Throughout my blog I have detailed numerous occasions in which I have fulfilled these nicknames to the hilt, eking out every syllable with embarrassing situations that leave my insides turgid with cringe and my outsides red as a radish.

However this week has taken the biscuit. The last chocolate hobnob to be precise. (Note to reader, never take the last chocolate hobnob in my presence, it will result in carnage).

I am, once again, up in my beloved Lake District, home of the wonderful Theatre by the Lake where I am lucky enough to be performing in their summer season. The second show of this year is the Hitchcock thriller Dial M for Murder, transported onto stage by five valiant actors and an incredibly complex lighting and sound design.

During the play (I won’t spoil it for you) my character, Sheila, (not of Sheila’s wheels) is involved in a fight, resulting in eventual strangulation, though not necessarily death… ambiguous suspense… Part of the fight takes place on a desk. A delicate, antique desk. You can guess where this is heading.

Ever heard of the wrestling move Rock Bottom? It is an epic finishing move (not to be tried at home) made famous by Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock, where he lifts his opponent into the air and slams them down on their back. Very dramatic.

Well, I experienced the Rock Bottom. Only this time my opponent was a desk. Not a muscle bound wrestler.

Whilst being strangled on the aforementioned structure, its legs decided to buckle from underneath slamming me to the ground with only its wooden top as my cushion. My strangler, cat-like and agile, performed a nifty drop roll off the top, narrowly missing the opportunity to join me in a heap on the floor. Selfish, if you ask me.

Needless to say my rear end now looks like an atlas. It already looked globular but now it has the deep blues of the ocean and the greens of the hills to decorate it.

The desk has since been reinforced with a steel frame. That’s right, steel. Darrall the Destroyer strikes again.

If only it had ended there. Two days later I cracked the back of my head open by laughing at a joke. Yes, LAUGHING at a JOKE. 

The sofa I was sat upon was strategically placed in front of a ledge, thus if one were to fling one’s head back when snorting with mirth, the velocity and position of the fling and the ledge combined could only result in collision. Some say jokes are side splitting, I now know them as head splitting.

The bang must have resulted in the loss of a few precious brain cells as only a few days later with friends, I filled up a pint glass with what I assumed was ginger ale, only upon gulping it down to discover it was in fact ginger cordial, concentrate, which needed to be diluted ten-fold before drinking. It was like putting a thumb over a hose-pipe.

So all in all it has been a successful week! I would say you’ve got to laugh but I now know the dangers of that. So instead, just smile. Smile far, far away from desks, ledges and cordial. And smile because it makes you and others feel good too. CHEEEEEEEEEESE!

p.s If you haven’t already, check out my #itaffectsme Mental Health Campaign and get involved!
Selfie+post-it+donation+share= #itaffectsme

Friday, 27 November 2015


So, I wanted to tell the truth. And not the truth in a confessional, sit me in a box and say three hail Mary’s kind of way, although a Hail Mary from time to time does help I’ve found, but simply in a let’s talk about this because it’s important kind of way.

When I was nineteen I suffered from horrendous OCD, intrusive thoughts inside my head telling me that if I didn’t do or say or think certain things then those that I loved would die and that it would all be my fault. Since that first attack, I have suffered on and off from anxiety, depression, panic attacks and more OCD than you could sink a battle ship with, though I wouldn’t recommend trying unless you were wearing armbands and a helmet. 

It has affected my family, my life and my relationships. I say I “have suffered from” not as a victim but as a strong, confident young woman who never understood mental illness until she had it and suffered.

You wouldn’t know it if you met me as for those of you who do know me (you unfortunate buggers) will know, I have an abrasively perky disposition, a positive outlook on life and a love of all things rude (noises/words/sounds).

I say “have suffered from” because it is suffering, it is crippling and it is exhausting.  I had seen it in family when I was growing up, but I never truly understood it until it felt like my own brain was attacking me.

Because that is what mental illness feels like, it feels like your brain, the thing inside of you which up until now you completely associated with your sense of identity and self, is on fire and on the attack and will not rest until you are flattened. It feels like someone has placed a blanket of lead over your head that no matter how hard you try you cannot (unlike Taylor Swift) shake it off. 

What is so hard about mental illness is that, unlike when you have broken your leg and you can clearly see all the “broken” bits, when your brain is broken it is so difficult to distinguish between what is you, your personality and what is the illness. This is one of the many reasons mental health is such a taboo subject and people feel uncomfortable talking about it because they don’t want to be thought of as crazy. What they do need to be thought of as is ill, unwell and poorly, all the same words that you would use for a cold or a gripey tummy.

When your mental health isn’t working properly or at its best, the same as if you broke your leg, it needs fixing and resetting. Many mental illnesses are caused by chemical imbalances or over-activity in the brain, others from traumatic experiences and some completely out of the blue.

The hardest thing about mental illness is pretending that you’re ok, it’s exhausting putting on a smile that doesn’t quite reach your eyes when all your body and mind is screaming for you to do is lie down, cry and not get up. 

You can’t pull yourself together because at that moment in time you don’t have the strength or cognitive ability to do so. You try to be ok and to seem fine because you don’t want anyone to worry, you don’t want to be a burden to your family and friends.

The kindest thing my best friend said to me when I was ill was, “You don’t need to pretend in front of me, take it ten seconds at a time”. Because that is all you can do, get through that first ten seconds and then another and then another and cling on. Because you will get through it. It is, although it may not feel like it at the time, temporary. Like all illnesses, it will get worse, better, worse, better, worse but things will change, it will pass and you will heal with time and help. 

And the best thing you can do is to talk about it, which is why I am writing this. Because people are scared to talk about it. We tiptoe around the subject because we don’t know what to say or how to react but the best thing you can do is SAY THAT, say I don’t know, be ignorant and let someone tell you how they feel instead of guessing. Say ‘how are you?’ and actually mean it.

The best thing I did when I was ill was to seek help, taking active steps immediately made my brain shift from a position of destruction to one of creation. I went to my GP, I went to a counsellor and finally I received cognitive behavioural therapy, all three together combined have been a life saver. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely fixed (none of us are) and I know it is something I will always battle with but when you have an army of troops on your side you can win. I’m not sure how my doctor, therapist, family and friends would feel about being called a troop but tough titty I'm afraid that’s what they are.

Mental illness is so so so so common, all of us will experience it at some point in our lives whether for ourselves or through a loved one. Ruby Wax, Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson have all suffered and spoken out about it, they are the tip of the iceberg. What we need to do is get educated and we need to talk because that is where true happiness and hope comes from*: talking, communication and connection. Don’t hide and don’t let someone else hide.

Life is too short, too precious not to talk, not to tell the truth. So please, do it.

ps. True happiness can also come from a good poo, you know it's true.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015


The eagle has landed. And by eagle I mean me and by landed I mean arrived in Frankfurt. This is my first time in Germany; I’m successfully not mentioning the war, wearing copious lederhosen and have already partaken of more currywursts than you can shake a stick at, though I wouldn’t suggest shaking a stick at a currywurst, waste of a good stick and waste of a good wurst.

The lederhosen are, of course, a lie… for the time being. Currently, it is far too hot to be parading around the streets of Frankfurt, the financial capital of Europe, in any form of leather and the Mexican wave of cardiac arrests it could start amongst the banking world is not worth the effort. Or the recession it may subsequently cause.

The reason for my being in Frankfurt is simple: I am working as, in the words of our beloved director, a biological prop. Doing the acting in other words. Myself and three other biological props have been picked up and transported to the land of cleanliness, order and techno to perform Tennessee William’s masterpiece, The Glass Menagerie. And I am loving every second of it.

The Glass Menagerie is a play about family dynamics, oppression and shattered hope… A comedy I hear you cry! I play Laura Wingfield, the physically and emotionally crippled sister of Tom. The play is semi-autobiographical, Tennessee Williams’ sister Rose suffered from what we would now diagnose as panic attacks, anxiety and schizophrenia, in the end she had to be sectioned and given a lobotomy. She haunted him throughout his writing and you can see elements of her in many of his female characters.

In the thirties there was a swathe of lobotomies in America, mental health services were more than primitive as it was a subject yet to be properly explored without fear, misconceptions and taboo. They even had what was known as “the lobotomobile”… A van that would travel around and you’d pop in the back and swiftly get the front part of your brain removed. Not too dissimilar from our ice-cream vans, just with less ice-cream and more invasive surgery. We, as yet, do not know if they shared the same catchy arrival jingle. I’m hoping they did.

Needless to say, I have approached this part with delicacy and sensitivity, doing my best to build up a fully rounded picture of her and hoping to emotionally move the audience, potentially producing sniffles, sighs and or full blown tears (as every actor secretly or not so secretly wishes to do). 

Well, last night, I produced more than that. An audible gasp echoed around the English Theatre, Frankfurt, in the final soliloquy. “An Oscar for her!” my inner ego was shouting, “Surely at least a Tony or a Bafta?!”
No, no. None of those things. What had happened was this: I was on fire. And not in a good way. In the final speech, my challenge is to singularly blow out five candles on a candelabrum, without dribbling and or having an infuriating “magic relighting candle” moment. Until last night it had, worryingly, gone without a hiccup and with only a tiny droplet of dribble in sight. 

However, last night my natural bird’s nest of hair decided to make a bid for freedom, dangling precariously over the flame, flirting with flammability until finally it caught and went up like a rocket. 

The gasp was not produced from a place of awe and wonder at the sensitivity of my performance but more from a place of shock and horror at the flammability of my follicles. 

Luckily, having grown up with three siblings fighting for the last parsnip on a Sunday roast, my reactions are cat-like and agile; I swiftly patted the offending section down, gave a cheeky smile to the terrified audience and finished blowing out the candles. All the while trying to ignore the unmistakable smell of burning that was snaking through the auditorium and my stage managers twitching with fire extinguishers in the wings. 

(Wishful thinking)

In conclusion, I would like to add to the age old actors’ saying: Never work with animals, children or FIRE. Unless you want to get burnt. But maybe that’s just me.