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Beat The Beast Challenge

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Since my diagnosis of a grade 3 Anaplastic Oligodenroglioma with a 3 year prognosis preceded by a rapid decline towards becoming a cognitive and motor function vegetable, I have been able to witness many events that I never thought I would get to see. I have seen my son James act and sing beautifully as Jim the cabin boy in a brilliant performance of ‘Treasure Island - the musical’ at Doune primary school. I have seen James act and sing emotionally as Gavroche in ‘Les Misérables’ in both the Dunblane arts centre show in a week and the McLaren High School musical show.

I have seen James deservedly win many prizes for his most extraordinary skills on the pipes and, I am shortly to watch James act and sing as Danny in the McLaren High School musical ‘Grease’. I have seen my daughter Heather dance beautifully in countless Forth Valley Schools Dance Competitions, and in her last ever schools dance competition, win it outright with a beautiful and very emotional dance to ‘Dance with my father’ by Luthor Vandross.

Acting Out Drama Show!
Intermediate Level 1 Show from the Acting Out Drama School!

I have seen my daughter Heather dance and sing beautifully in ‘Cats’ and ‘Oliver’ at the Dunblane Arts Centre and choreograph and dance with great glamour and humour in Dunblane High’s take of ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘High School Musical’. I have even seen my daughter surprise me by performing the song for the first dance of my wedding to the wonderful Allie, another blessing from God during my darkest days. Heather took to the stage and sang it beautifully and even changed the final line of Elton John’s beautiful song, ‘Your Song,’ to ‘How wonderful life is that you’re still in the world.’ Before rushing off the stage to rapturous applause from the guests and into our arms.

Sadly however, since that wonderful day we discovered what my treatment team meant when they warned me that the robust treatment plan that they were planning to run me through would damage my brain. The tumour, the treatment and each and every one of the more severe epileptic seizures damaged my brain and rendered me unemployable. I have had to surrender my driving licence, my safety boat licence, my gun licence and been advised not to use power tools. I cannot concentrate on any task at a desk for any longer than 40 minutes without becoming overwhelmed and having my sight, speech, hearing, balance and motor function switched off by my damaged brain. Allie fears for my safety nearly every time I try to cook something for us at home. I have even become overwhelmed within the complex and frantically busy supermarket shopping aisles.

I continue to use Golf, Music, Writing and Juggling as vehicles on which to try to retrain and strengthen the neurological and cognitive function of my brain, even though my neurologist has said that I will never recover the neurological and cognitive function that I once had. I work hard at it but still cannot play Golf to any level, still cannot play the keyboard and sing to it, still cannot dance as I forget all the moves by the very next week, and I still can’t juggle.

But I have discovered that I can walk and talk. Clearly I know of no form of employment for walking and talking at the same time. But, inspired by the dramatic successes of my children, I engaged whole heartedly into 18 months of acting training. 3 evenings a week with the Acting Out Drama School in Edinburgh and the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow. Week by week I have grown in strength in my ability to walk and talk convincingly as somebody else. I have even astounded myself and my treatment team in that I have been able to learn my lines. I have also discovered that the brain tumour has brought me more in touch with my emotions and have, over time, learned to control them. By bringing in the discipline of 30 minute catnaps prior to leaving for each acting class I have learned how to sustain myself through the fast-moving rigours of each class. While acting I just have to walk and talk as somebody else.

I am not required to sit at a desk and try to concentrate on a particular task for any longer than 40 minutes, I learn my lines best while out for my twice daily lymph system pumping 20 minute brisk walks. Neither am I required to drive any form of mechanical device or use real guns or knives. I just have to walk and talk convincingly as somebody else on somebody else’s emotional journey. Some clever wordsmith has given me the words in the script which I couldn’t write for myself, and a director is giving me instruction on how he wants me to walk and talk. It is tiring, but I see myself growing in strength week by week and am starting to believe that I might actually be able to act.

Well it is crunch time. On Friday 28th June 2019 at 8:30pm at the Augustine United Church, 41 George IV Bridge, EH1 1EL, I am to make my first ever public performance on a stage. I have been given a 5 minute monologue from the play ‘The Father’, by August Strindberg. It is an emotional rollercoaster of a 5 minutes but one that I seem to be able to deliver. I have also been given 10 minutes before the start of the show to tell my story and make an appeal for donations for the Disasters Emergency Committee. So I invite you to come along to support me, encourage me but also to critique me. Let me know if you think I am terrible. Let me know if you think I can act. Am I barking up the wrong tree or pushing against an open door with regards to a possible form of future employment? On top of all that of course there are a whole host of other monologues being delivered, from a diverse variety of playwrights, by my fellow students who are actually rather good, so do please come along. I would love to see you:

Solid Flesh & The Captain’s (Mono)Log
Friday 28th June 2019
Tickets £12 pre-order (recommended) / £14 at the door
8:30pm
Augustine United Church
41 George IV Bridge, EH1 1EL
www.actingoutdramaschool.com/show-tickets

Come and see me achieve something small that was, 6 years ago, never thought possible by the experts. My first ever public performance since my diagnosis of a brain tumour in September of 2013. Living proof that I am starting to feel God breathing new life into me, strengthening me day by day, week by week through the mediums of golf, drama, music and my balanced daily lifestyle.

Yours aye

Archie.

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