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Edinburgh Fringe 2022 
Interview

Molly Naylor
Stop Trying to Be Fantastic
VENUE 26 - Summerhall - Cairns Lecture Theatre
Aug 3-14, 16-21, 23-28 - 17:00 /  Tickets
July 4, 2022

One day, a magpie comes into a little girl’s house by mistake. It decides it likes her. She spends the next twenty-five years trying to get away from it. Stop Trying to Be Fantastic is a mostly true story about suffering, saviour-complex, self-acceptance, and a magpie who refuses to quit.

 

Hi Molly, thank you for taking the time to talk with The New Current, how does it feel to be heading to Edinburgh Fringe & Summerhall this summer?

 

I’m feeling lots of things at once! Excited to be sharing a show I’ve put so much work into, but also very vulnerable and scared about doing that after so many months of enforced introversion. Like a lot of people I feel like my personality is quite different after experiencing this mad last two years… it’ll be interesting to see how this new personality fares at the Fringe.

 

Congratulations on the release of your new book What You’ve Got, what was the inspiration behind this new book?

 

Thanks! It’s a book exploring feelings around belonging (and not belonging), in lots of different forms and contexts. It’s about the contradictory desires to both connect with people and hide from them. Autonomy and intimacy.

 

As well as theatre (the award-winning Lights! Planets! People!) you also co-created After Hours for Sky One and have regularly appeared on Radio 4 and I hear you have your first feature film in development. To say you’re busy is an understatement! What drives your creativity?

 

Blind panic?! No, I’m not sure. I have stories I really want to tell and then I get a bit obsessed with trying to find a way to tell them. It’s also really hard to get things made in this extremely competitive industry, so I tend to always have a few things on the go so that one thing inevitably fails, there are others to focus on.

 

As a writer how important is it for you to be able to use you platform to be able to give back via your creative workshops?

 

I love creative mentoring and finding ways to help other people solve creative problems or achieve the type of career they want to. I find it really fun and satisfying, I see it less as giving back and more as something I’m lucky to be able to do. I should say that my only qualifications in this area are the lessons I’ve learned from my mistakes!

When bringing a new show to the Fringe do nerves still set in ahead of the run?

 

Oh God yes. I’ve already started having anxiety dreams, and I imagine they’ll continue until the first show is done and I’m sitting in the drizzle with a pint in my hand.

 

What has been the wildest review or comment you’ve gotten for your work?

 

Someone once described me as the ‘Queen of twee’ which was exciting. They very much did not mean it as a compliment because they made it clear throughout the review that they’d hated the show… but it’s nice to be the Queen of something isn’t it.

"I hope that as the days go by I feel more comfortable, and find new and interesting ways to connect the material and the audiences."

Can you tell me how Stop Trying to Be Fantastic came about, what was your inspiration for this new show?

 

I’d been wanting to write about the shadow sides of empathy/altruism and the notion of saviour complex for a long time… I’d also started getting really interested in the incredibly high standards people around me seemed to be holding themselves to in a variety of ways. I found a way to bring these ideas together by telling a true story about an extended period pf struggle in my own life. I hope it speaks to other people’s experiences too, I’ve tried to make it as relatable as possible. The show asks quite a specific question of people, so I’m hoping people might find it useful (as well as entertaining).

 

Did you have any apprehensions about creating a new show that comes from a personal place?

 

I’m used to it by now, having spent years mining my own life. I definitely have enough distance from the events in this piece, and it’s less about sharing the details of my life and more about pitching a specific way of looking at the world that I find personally both useful and hopeful.

 

How flexible do you allow yourself with your show once it’s running?

 

This show’s quite densely written so there’s not much room for improvising. I hope that as the days go by I feel more comfortable, and find new and interesting ways to connect the material and the audiences.

 

What would you say have been the most valuable lessons you have taken from your work and what would you say your work says about you?

 

I think it’s clear from my work that I’m someone who thinks a lot. The biggest lesson I’ve learned about life and work is acceptance – welcoming the tricky aspects of it all along with the positive ones.

 

Have you always had a passion for writing and performing?

 

I’ve always loved writing and telling stories. Performing I find harder as I feel quite physically awkward and often struggle to feel comfortable in my body. This is slowly changing as I grow older, I can feel myself letting go and becoming more free.

 

How much has your style and the approach to your writing changed since you started out?

 

I think I used to be more apologetic. I’d make jokes when I wasn’t confident that the writing or the story would engage people, and my style probably had a bit of a ‘please like me’ subtext. Now I’m fine with people not liking me. The character of ‘me’ in this show is really ridiculous and not particularly likeable, but it doesn’t matter, it’s about the best way to get the story across.

 

Is there any advice, tips or suggestions you would offer fellow writers making their Edfringe debut?

 

I think the best way to enjoy the Fringe is to create a lovely routine that helps you feel more resilient. Walking, swimming, talking to friends back home, cooking… things that ground you and remind you that your worth isn’t tied to your reviews or audience numbers.

 

And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from Stop Trying to Be Fantastic?

 

At the heart of the show’s climax, there’s an invitation to the audience to reflect on a specific aspect of their own lives. I can’t tell you any more, you’ll have to see the show!