(*Boots, that is)
Film and music and theatre and books. All are entertainment, escapism often, a way to leave the humdrum real world behind and just have some fun. There’s no need to look for a deeper meaning.
But the stories that stay with us often have layers, some essential truth that we can take away and think about. It might not be the same lesson for everyone. In fact the very best of them have more than one idea buried in the glitz and action. They stand up to close or repeated inspection.
To a confirmed sci-fi fan like me, the more outlandish the concept, the more amazing the special effects, the better. Theatre is the opposite. The story unfolds in front of you with actual people in real time. Theatre is concrete and immediate.
Still, it’s good to broaden your horizons. So when I had the chance to see Kinky Boots (KB) at the Adelphi Theatre London recently, I went. I knew almost nothing about the story and hadn’t seen the film. Musicals aren’t really my thing.
I did not expect to have so much fun.
The cast sparkled with energy, aided by high kicking drag queens, amazing costumes, and more glitter than you could shake a six-inch stiletto at. Simon-Anthony Rhoden dominated the stage as Lola, and there was plenty of humour as well as spectacular dance numbers.
KB had many lessons that apply to commerce and creatives alike.
Find your niche.
Discover what your customer wants, and supply it.
Innovate when necessary.
Ignore haters and critics.
Play to your strengths.
It’s okay to have fun with your work.
Western culture prizes individualism above all. We’re told to be true to ourselves. Then we discover that we can only be accepted if we are true to a prescribed version of ourselves. This edited self discards or ignores large parts of who we are; sometimes, the biggest and/or best parts.
This editing usually begins at home, and continues in wider society.
KB explores disappointing our parents, whether by actively escaping their chosen path, like Lola and his father, or passively following someone else’s path, like Charlie and Nicola. Neither is a route to happiness or authenticity.
If you don’t build your own dream, someone will hire you to build theirs.
In KB the road to acceptance is fraught with detours and wrong turnings, but it’s a journey worth making. What do we long for, if not to be seen as we truly are and loved in spite of our scars? That’s the place we call home. Lola finds a home in the drag scene, but Charlie is caught between two versions of himself, and feels like a misfit in both.
We must make peace with our past in the present, before we can truly claim our future. That means accepting the ugly and painful truths as well as the pretty ones.
It means accepting your own self first as a whole person made of both light and shade.
The truth is out there
It’s easy to play safe, to stay in the middle of the herd and pretend we don’t carry a burning desire buried in our heart. What if people saw? They’d mock and laugh and we’d never live it down. Fear of failure and ridicule stops us from pursuing our dreams in case it doesn’t work out. Charlie must brave the fashion critics of Milan with something new. Lola must risk stepping outside the persona that has sheltered her for so long.
But what if it did?
There is certainly risk in pushing the limits of your comfort zone. Too many unknown monsters and well-meaning naysayers can have you scurrying back to what is familiar, even if it is slowly strangling the real you.
There is a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.
Morpheus in The Matrix
It takes courage to admit you were wrong about yourself, change direction, and strike out from the herd. Charlie and Lola both face their own dark moments before they reach the triumphant final number.
The big prizes – authenticity, self-actualisation, happiness even – are all out there, waiting for you to claim your share. So dust off that dream and refuse to play small in life. Let your heart set the goal, and use your head to plan the route. You were meant for more.
Find out just how fabulous you can be.
Sequins and feathers optional – but in the spirit of Kinky Boots, you may as well look good while you’re killing it.
Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Risk being seen in all your glory.