Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Hell On Heels
I interviewed the performer Helen Medlyn for the book yesterday. Helen is an exhuberant character and great fun. One of her stories made me think how extraordinary the Universe can be.
Helen told me about how she worked as a television producer for Saatchi & Saatchi advertising. She had been studying music and singing in her spare time. One day she found herself with the task of producing the voice-over for a commercial. The voice talent was the famous actor John Hurt who was in London. The time difference meant the recording took place in the middle of the night (local time) and that Helen had been working a 21 hour day to deliver the result needed by her boss, the reknowned creative director, Roy Meares. She was exhausted from the relentless pressure of her job and the long hours. While it paid her very well, more than twice the salary her father had ever earned in a year as a hard working butcher, Helen's love of music was not being fulfilled. She was not expressing her authentic self. Music was her first love.
Helen told her boss that she wanted to leave and gave a month's notice. I know first hand how good she was at her work, we worked together in an advertising agency in 1985. I also know how much her Roy relied on her (he was my creative director when I worked at the agency too). He said "What are you going to do? Where will you go? You're crazy." Helen didn't know. Her parents mirrored her boss' remarks, as did her friends.
Helen tells that removing the stress of her job and the conflict of repressing her true love in music left her open and vulnerable. She knew she had talent, she had performed amateur roles since she was quite young and had been training with professional coaches, but not knowing what would happen next was a new experience for her.
A call came from out of the blue from the well known theatre producer Raymond Hawthorne; was Helen available for a professional theatre role? I'd have to call that 'cosmic'.
Had Helen not taken the risk, backed herself, and quit her job she might have excluded herself from the first step on her path to becoming the unique perfomer she is today. She is the One & Only™ Helen Medlyn - or as she was billed in her first one woman cabaret show "Hell on Heels".
It's an honour for us all to have people prepared to take the risk to share their gifts with us - whether it is embarking on the vagaries of career in theatre or setting up a graphic design studio. It fascinated me to hear Helen talk about the addictive effect of performing, the anxieties and fear as well as the immersion into the flow of authoritatively plying her craft.
One hour easily telescoped into two, but Helen had to dash. She had a part to play in Shortland Street, the medical soap - playing a Diva.
Type casting,...surely not?
Helen Medlyn's web site