Performer, writer and composer Kay Proudlove delves into her past in 'Dear Diary' at Perth's Fringe World Festival.
Diaries and journals are a great way to document thoughts and feelings in formative years. It's one thing to write in them, and another thing to stumble upon them years later.
That's exactly what Kay did when moving house – and what she found were heartwarming, funny, vulnerable words from her younger self.
Luckily for Kay's creative mind, these entries provided an entry of a different kind – one that would lead her to the stage for a show filled with wry humour and stories which asks us to look at what we hold onto in our lives, and when it's the right time to let things go, if ever.
Here, we get more information from Kay Proudlove ahead of 'Dear Diary' – presented by Merrigong Theatre Company – at Fringe World.
This show had a successful premiere season in 2022. What was that positive initial response like?
I was pretty caught up in the making of the show and I hadn’t really thought about what the response to it might be, so it was a welcome surprise that people genuinely seemed to love it. I had got COVID at a really inopportune time, which cut our rehearsal for the premiere shows in half. It was a real whirlwind and to have people laugh, cry and tell me how relatable they found my story was overwhelming and made the initial struggle (and Zoom rehearsals from my bed) feel worth it.
Why is Fringe World a place you’ve wanted the show to play since its inception?
I grew up going to fringe festivals and watching shows that were full of life, joy and bravery, knowing that it was something I wanted to be able to do in some way in the future but not really sure how to get there. When I started writing 'Dear Diary' I had a feeling early on that it would be able to fit into that pocket, so bringing the show to Fringe World is a real milestone for me as a performer.
Image © Tracey Leigh Images
This show transforms diary entries into music. Where did your idea for this come from?
The time came for me to get all of my teen bedroom storage boxes out of my parents house. I was excited to dip into that nostalgia but wasn’t really sure what I would find. I’ve always liked to tell stories through songs and the diaries I found were so honest and real that I felt they were made for it. I just started, not really knowing where it would go but enjoying the challenge it gave to both my song craft and coming face to face with how things have changed for me over the last 20 years. The first song I wrote was 'Book Of Guys' and when I debuted it at a gig I was the most nervous I had been in a long time, even though I had changed the names of the crushes that the song mentions. I was pretty scared but all the things I've done that I'm proud of I've been somewhat terrified to do, and this show is no exception.
And why do you think it works as a show?
I think 'Dear Diary' works because it’s honest, vulnerable, relatable and because it's made up of things that I really love to do – play music and tell stories, so I have a great time performing it. It's interesting because the show talks about the struggles of me wanting to be a performer and trying to make that work and in the present time I'm there performing the show. So you already know that it has a 'happy ending' in a way, but the audience gets to see how that journey unfolds and the ongoing challenges of making it work.
What do you hope audiences take away from the work?
My favourite kind of show to watch is the one that takes you on the ride, hits you with a message and keeps you thinking about it for days after. I hope that my show does this for the audiences of Fringe World. We've all either been, currently are or know young women and aspiring performers, either experiencing or observing the highs and lows that come along with that growth, so I feel like there's a good chance that anyone who comes to see it will find something to latch onto, whether it be for themselves or someone they love.
Image © Tracey Leigh Images
You’ve toured all over the place with live shows. Where did your love for the performing arts/music come from?
It's hard to pinpoint really, but I knew pretty quickly that I was terrible at sports and so the alternative in school felt like the arts and music. Once I started exploring that space I felt a light go on and became motivated to create things so I could keep performing for a long time (and get out of maths class for musical rehearsals). That hasn't changed and I still love getting on stage every time. I also still hate maths.
Who is someone you’ve always looked up to in this realm, and why?
I've always loved the observational style of Darren Hanlon's songwriting. I took a songwriting workshop with him when I was 14, and listening to his music through those years really helped me shape what I do now. Kate Miller-Heidke has always had a theatricality and fearlessness to her writing and performances that I love and aspire to. More broadly, any show I see where a performer holds an audience in their hands and takes them on the journey is someone that I look up to and learn from. I want to create that feeling in any room that I play.
What’s one thing you’d tell your younger self, knowing now that you’re taking ‘Dear Diary’ on a national tour?
I would tell her that in years to come, everything she's going through is still going to be heartbreaking in some ways, but it will also eventually be very funny. I would also tell her not to give her mum a hard time about high-waisted jeans because that's all she wears now. And I would tell her not to worry about finding her place in the world, because she will; over and over again. Touring this show is one of those times.
'Dear Diary' plays Rehearsal Room 1 at State Theatre Centre of WA (Fringe World Perth) 31 January-4 February.