Yesterday, I adopted full ‘supportive best mate’ regalia and toddled along to Chats Palace in Hackney, where BodyGossipRuth was performing in a play reading.
I’ve never been to a play reading before and wasn’t at all sure what to expect. I thought it might involve a group of actors sitting around wearing half-moon spectacles, looking very earnest and serious in a circle, staring hard at their scripts whilst we craned our necks to see who was speaking, or slowly died inside from ‘supportive best mate’ –induced boredom.
As it turned out, a play reading is very much like a play. It simply has a less elaborate set (and who needs a set anyway?) and the actors have a script in their hand, which they refer to quite minimally, because they are a special breed of person who can remember things almost instantly after reading them.
When you mostly see BodyGossipRuth in her two default modes (either working with gigantic horse-shaped puppets, or frantically galloping through her Body Gossip related to-do list), it’s easy to forget that she is actually an actor. Tis her raison d’etre. Well, that and constant attempts to heap unwanted attention upon her insane beast of a ginger cat.
I felt how I imagine mothers must feel when they see their child performing as a tree in their first nativity play – Like I might spontaneously combust with pride. However, it wasn’t because of hormones whizzing around my body and brain, blinding me with irrational love for a small person I had made in my uterus, it was rather because BodyGossipRuth is really chuffing good.
I remember when we were cast together as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in our Sixth Form’s annual Shakespeare production. I was the former and being as I was gifted in the oratory department but a bit of a shit actress, I went away and studied VHS videos (it was the 90s) of other people playing Macbeth and copied them. (I went on to act in other things but always playing a woman who was, at least in part, like me – I am Ricky Gervais-esque in that regard). Ruth, however, played Lady Macbeth with such utter devotion to her craft, we were all a bit scared of her when she came off stage, assuming that she’d actually gone totally bonkers. I remember thinking then that BodyGossipRuth was destined for an act-y type profession and it was heartening to see that she hasn’t lost her touch, despite all her time and energy going into Body Gossip, which might otherwise be channelled into auditions.
But that isn’t the point of this blog. Oh no.
On my way home from the play reading I nipped into Tescos to possess myself of something for my dinner. I stood with all the other single people, staring aimlessly at the vast wall of ready-meals for one (or ‘die alone pasta’ as my Flatmate calls them) before selecting one and going to the till. The shop was rammed with young men in ‘I’m about to watch the cup final’ mode, wearing shorts and vest tops or football shirts, and balancing a crate of beer in one hand and a packet of Pringles in the other (shopping baskets are for girls, apparently).
I took my place in the queue and reconciled myself to a long wait, but consoled with the thought that at least I was surrounded by blokes in shorts and that was quite sexy if you forced yourself to forget you were in Tescos.
In front of me in the queue was an exasperated looking man with what transpired to be, on close examination, a really rather attractive lady-person. She was tall and slim, with long wavy hair and wearing a lovely sea-green tunic top which gave her a mermaid-like appearance. I was just about to compliment her on her outfit when I noticed that she was frantically scanning the ‘impulse buys’ near the till in desperate manner. She pointed to some cut price wine.
“You must stop me from buying that”. She said. “I’m not drinking for 3 months. Because wine has, like SOOOOOOOOOO many empty calories”.
“I stop eating on Thursday” she continued “so that I can fit into my outfit on a Friday night”.
(To go out starving hungry and not drink, presumably, which sounds like a bundle of laughs, I thought to myself).
Her fella just nodded, and continued to gaze out of the window. He might as well have put his fingers in his ears and gone “lalalalalalaaaaaaaa I’m not listening!” and indeed he might have done, had he not been carrying a 12 pack of Fosters.
“OH! LOOK!” she suddenly exclaimed “Maltesars! “The lighter way to enjoy chocolate!” (*hahahahaha –manic, scary laughter*) They’re, like diet chocolate! Can we get some? Or you can get some. Cos if you won’t eat them I’ll feel too guilty. But we could, like, share?”
“Erm, yeah alright” he replied.
“You don’t sound keen. Do you think I should not have them? Because I know I’m on a diet but….”
I tuned out (as the man had very astutely done some moments previously, it seemed).
Then it hit me. The reason I didn’t notice the way that girl looked initially was because her desperation and insecurity actually SHONE through. And it made her, if not ugly exactly, more a figure of pity. Someone you wanted to pat on the head and force feed cheese-on-toast. Certainly not someone you’d want to spend time with. Or even have sex with.
That old adage ‘true beauty comes from within’ works in reverse, too. Constantly bleating on and on in an endless, tedious monologue about diet and weight makes you the personification of Heat Magazine – An object which draws your eye because of the bright colours and ‘BANISH CELLULITE!!” headlines, but which you’re usually done with in about 25 minutes, feeling spiritually unfulfilled and reaching for your copy of The Female Eunarch. It’s Cosmo you want to keep in your handbag for the entire month – Dear old Cosmo filled with confidence tips, sass and ‘you go, girl’-ness – it’s pretty cover being the icing on the proverbial cake.
So, ladies, spend a very small percentage of your time making yourself look how you want to look and then get on with your life, but most crucially SHUT UP about it, or else you may find yourself in a queue in Tescos, stood in front of a woman gnawing on her own fist in an effort to stop herself from standing on a box of Walkers crisps, pointing at you and shouting: “YOU, my dear, have all the appearance on an utter MORON!”