In true theatrical style, let’s start at the very beginning.

Firstly, let me explain the title of my blog. Whilst in my final year of training at the London School of Musical Theatre (from here on in I will use the acronym LSMT) I got a reputation for always having the answer to any kind of theatrical trivia question. A phrase soon came about stating “When in doubt, ask Ridout” and it caught on pretty quickly. Inspired by this I then used it as a way of getting people to pronounce my name correctly (when in doubt, its pronounced ‘Ridout’) – two birds with one stone: a nice little nerdy reputation and a correctly pronounced surname! Then over the course of the year the questions that were asked of me developed from musical theatre trivia to…well…absolutely anything. You name it, I was asked it.

Therefore, I think “When in doubt…Ridout” captures exactly what I want this blog to be (questions about my life answered) However, I’m still unsure as to what content will fill it on a fortnightly basis! Sometimes it will be an insight into the highs & lows of being a new graduate, sometimes it will be me needing to tell you all to read/watch/listen to something and sometimes it will just be a way for me to let off some musical theatre themed steam. I hope all of the above will be worth a read though! It may occasionally be an inspiration and it may occasionally have the ‘Jeremy Kyle’ effect of making you feel better about your own situation (even if its a case of schadenfreude at my expense) but that’s all it needs to be.

So here goes everything. My first experience of highs and (a very big) low since graduating.

On my first Monday morning as a graduate I had what you could call an exceptionally good day. I signed my contract with my agency, I went to the Tate Modern with some of my best friends pretending to be oh so cultured and finished the day drinking wine and rubbing shoulders with half the cast of Downton Abbey at Spamalot’s after show drinks for Hugh Bonneville’s debut. I felt pretty damn jammy. Life continued like this for two blissful weeks whilst knowing I was soon to start rehearsals for National Youth Music Theatre’s (from now on ‘NYMT’) production of ‘West Side Story’. High after high after high watching friends smash their professional debuts and thinking “that will be me soon enough” Then on the 3rd of August I lugged my suitcase (with pilates foam roller in hand) across London to head to Kent for rehearsals.

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Now I could write an entire essay on what an incredible experience ‘West Side Story’ was and what it meant to me as a performer. I won’t here though. If you’re interested though you can scroll back through my twitter (@beccaridout) and see what was happening and how blissfully happy it made me. My friend Amy replied to my tweets saying “Oh, are you enjoying your West Side Story experience then Rebecca? You should’ve said” and if you already follow me on twitter you’ll know exactly what she means. I was an incessantly happy tweeter. So I won’t bore you with it on here too!

The Saturday night performance of ‘West Side Story’ has now become what I’d like to call my “patronus moment” (just in case you aren’t a Harry Potter fan I mean one of the strongest, happiest memories you can recall). I was stood on the top of a shipping container on our incredible set and as soon as Amara said “Te adoro, Anton” I felt the vibrations of our 33 piece orchestra play out the closing chords of, arguably, the greatest musical ever written.

I think this photo shows how unbelievably elated I was – look at my little beaming face.

That was the ultimate high. In true dramatic fashion I do fear if it may genuinely be the ultimate high of my career. Not because I feel that my career won’t move onto bigger things than an NYMT production but rather because West Side Story is my favourite (and as previously stated, arguably the best) musical. It was a unique site specific production where we (or rather the creatives Nikolai Foster, Drew McOnie and Tom Deering) re-invented a classic. I can’t put it quite as eloquently as Mark Shenton did in his blog for The Stage so I’ll share what he thought:

“The joy of Drew McOnie’s work is that it is classically inspired, just as Robbins’ was, but also pulses and shimmers to its own distinctive vision, beautifully displayed by this eager young cast. There’s rawness and eagerness, vigour and danger in every step they take, and re-make; the usual critical language of dubbing it bold and breathtaking just won’t do. Instead, it does something even more vivid: it makes you look at the whole show in a new way.”

It really is going to be difficult to top that patronus moment I tell you!

Then after the high, as much as I tried to fight it, came the low. Hungover, I was driven back to London the following day (not helped by the bumpy road surfaces for miles stretching out of Manchester. I shudder at the memory) and BAM. Reality. I had a life admin to-do list as long as my arm and an insane amount of washing. I was no longer singing about a glorious place for us all or needing to have a dance off with someone over a small tiff. I had post-show blues. Then to add to this, on my kitchen table there was a letter from my school – it contained my diploma. Instead of being thrilled with my result I realised I had not mourned my loss of training because of the hiatus (remember? those two blissful weeks?) between graduation and ‘West Side Story’. These post-show blues then spiralled out of control because of combining with post-school blues. Ouch.

It’s been an emotional couple of days with tears springing out of my eyes at the most inappropriate moments (namely when I hear the words ‘somehow’,’someday’ or ‘somewhere’) However, as I learned from Uberfacts on twitter this morning: “Crying is good for your health – Flushing unhealthy bacteria out of your body, strengthening the immune system and relieving stress.” I’ve medicated my broken heart with 3 trips to the theatre in as many days, spending time in the sunshine and probably most significantly starting this blog. Rather than sitting down and thinking “I have nothing tangible in the future to look forward to” I’ve been thinking I have a great expanse of unknown in front of me in regards to my career and, to quote my favourite composer*, I am ‘excited and scared’ to start exploring it.

*I won’t say who it is, I’m hoping you’ll guess.

If you’ve got this far, thank you so much for reading this. I hope you return. Who knows what the next fortnight will hold but that’s the beauty of the industry. I guess any lessons from this experience to any newly graduated performer is to make sure you deal with any ‘no more training’ emotion before you may have to face post-show blues! Make sure you have tissues and friendly faces waiting for you when you return to normal life and if you’ve been away on residential have plenty of washing powder stocked up!

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Then when you’ve finished posing in front of a poster for a production you’ve just been in, giving it your best ‘sad face’, dust yourself off and step leap towards the next opportunity.

“Hold my hand and we’re halfway there, hold my hand and I’ll take you there. Somehow, someday, somewhere…”

– Rebecca Ridout

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