Just around about 30 years ago my life changed. Up until that point I had been muddling through, not really knowing what the point was or what my place in the world was.
In the many years since, I’ve come to realise that I was a young woman with ADHD. Back then, however, I just felt like a misfit, someone who did not quite fit the mould and who always seemed to be slightly on the outside and different to others.
Something I had always known was that I felt better when I was involved in creative activities with others. Throughout school and my university years, being in a play, or particularly a musical, was the thing that gave me energy and a sense of being alive.
At my darkest times, after I had left home at the age of 18 and fallen into the depths of anorexia, not even music and drama could rekindle the spark inside me.
But then gradually I managed to find my way back to performing, always as an amateur and never going on to “make it” in the way I might of dreamed of. My mum once said to me that I’m always happiest when I’m involved in a play and I’m sure it’s for this reason that I turned to drama teaching and have, apart from during the last three years always had a production on the go, either as the director of a school or youth group, or as a performer.
But nothing will ever compare to the production that I had the immense privilege to be involved in at the end of my time studying at university.
A young director took a chance on me, casting me in the role of Mrs Lovett in a student production of Sweeney Todd by Stephen Sondheim.
I can’t exactly put into words why that experience was as deeply influential on me as it was. But I know that it is down to the genius of Stephen Sondheim, in creating a vehicle for humans to come together and experience the sublime act of exploring their existence through music, drama and intense emotional connection.
A light has gone out in the world this week.
But those who have been taken from darkness by that light have a duty to ignite another candle and share Sondheim’s legacy into the future. Because being truly alive is what every single one of us deserves.