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  • Mat Rees

Doing it for Love

Updated: May 29, 2022

The end of the school year means another set of school reports for my children – celebrating their successes and hard work, and looking for ways to help them improve. Not that they want my help with anything, mind you.

Over the years, we've received dozens of these reports and each time they remind me of the solitary report I can remember from my own school days, many years ago.

Miss Hallett:

"Matthew clearly struggles with this subject..."

That's it. That all I remember. There's nothing else she said that stuck with me. Just the fact that I struggled – oh, and that was clear to all. Yes, you see the reason it was clear to all was because the subject was drama.

Yes, a drama teacher with years of experience of watching teenagers trying to act, could see that I was struggling.

I think what hurt even more was that I specifically remember thinking: "I thought I was doing ok..."

I suppose you could say that was my first review. And just like those other stinging critiques that I've received over the years (such the review of my Smike in Nicholas Nickelby as "robust"), hey tend to stay with you.

No doubt most of you will be able to recall at least one negative review you have received.

And yet, more than 30 years later, and I'm still acting. Still struggling, no doubt, but hopefully that bit is less clear to everyone.

But why do I continue to call myself an actor (or a writer or a director) if I get such bad reviews or told that I'm struggling?

I've recently taken up parkrun, and while I'm not very quick, I enjoy the feeling of community a Saturday morning run brings. Several hundred people of varying abilities all struggling to run 5k round Eastville Park.

But whether they cross that finish line in less than 20 minutes, or finish closer to an hour, there is one thing those runners will all have in common – they will all call themselves a runner. They realise they don't have to be paid to call themselves a runner. They do so because it's their passion.

And so it is with us. Whether you're collecting an Olivier Award, or participating in a rehearsed reading, we're actors because we love it regardless of how good you are.

I do this acting thing because I love it. It's as simple as that. Ability doesn't come into the equation. I don't need to be good at something to justify my participation. And I don't need a drama teacher to tell me whether I'm any good or not.

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