Stop Trying To Be Fantastic


Produced in association with Inn Crowd 
Co-commissioned by Norwich Arts Centre 

Supported with funding from Arts Council England 

Norwich Theatre 19th May 2023 
2Northdown, London King’s Cross 22nd May 2023 

 Not a bell or whistle were in sight, nor where they needed in the pared back set at an intimate, but packed Drum Theatre last night. I was here to see ‘Stop trying to be fantastic’ by the incredibly talented, yet very normal looking genius, that is Molly Naylor. 

From the second she walked through the stage door and picked up her microphone, the entire audience was spellbound. Never have I seen a crowd so quiet and still; hanging on to every word. Few props were necessary, just a single a chair, a stepladder, and a microphone stand. The show was peppered throughout, with a light smattering of music, which was all the hour long, one-woman monologue required. 

Molly begins her story in the same place that it ends, with her sat in a room of a fertility clinic, and the aim of becoming an egg donor. But this was not to be…. 

At the age of 7, she has her first encounter with ‘the magpie’. Quickly it becomes apparent, that the bird has taken this form but signifies her own self-doubt. It then proceeds to follow her around for the rest of her life, forcing her to question every move she makes. 

Molly’s strategies for coping with her meandering life, constantly trying to please people, to be liked, to get on, are all made with the intention of running to escape the magpie, to be free of him. It becomes her own personal quest for freedom and, ultimately, happiness. 

Molly tells us of her first encounter with Blaise, a tousled haired surfy type who was her first, brief, romantic obsession, and of her initial, exhilarating experience trying alcohol with best friend Kate. She talks of liaisons with her sick painter lover, who she fondly names ‘cheesecake’ after buying the ingredients to make it together, to encourage him to want to continue living.  

The story is Molly’s journey through life, of its ups and downs, always with the knowledge that magpie would be waiting when she returns home. It chips away at her confidence, and undermines her whenever she stops to let it back in. She speaks with a fierce honesty, humour, and relatability, it is impossible not to be entranced. 

The story is one that, as it evolved, felt like it could have been told about so many of us. Our self-doubt following us around, sat on our shoulder, like the magpie metaphor the story is staged around. Molly develops a lifelong learned habit of being a people pleaser, putting others first, being always altruistic. How many of us do the same traits apply to? 

Yet finally, when Molly returns her story, full circle, to the room at the fertility clinic, she has a realisation that she simply cannot please everyone and herself at the same time. She must learn to accept herself, on both the good and bad days. Because this is life and you must live it, or it will be a wasted one.  

Finally making peace with her magpie, Molly lets him in through her window and faces him head on. After fearing him her entire life, she now can see that he isn’t the least bit scary at all and understands that she has only been running from herself; that it is now time to stop. And to live. 

When she spoke her last words, I was surprised to discover my cheeks were wet with the tears that had fallen, listening to the truthfulness of Molly’s final words. Ones that we all must surely take on board.  

I loved every second. For me this was a 5-star show. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *