Freshers’ Week is not the time for performance art

Published

Credit: Richard Walker

Julia Hegele
Deputy Culture Editor – Theatre

If life imitates art, then Freshers’ Week in Glasgow is truly a masterpiece. A cacophony of booze, socials, and the looming threat of legitimate responsibility that could rival the Sistine Chapel in all its dishevelled glory. And for the most part, this is the ideal time to live artistically. Hey, you’re finally at uni, why not hop into some paint parties or stand-up banter, really indulge in the liberal arts lifestyle your parents warned you about before you succumb to your economics degree? But for all your fun, beware; there is one art form that can destroy not only your ideal Freshers’ Week, but your experience at uni all together: performance art.

Your first week in your new life here may seem like walking onto an empty stage. Free from the clutter of high school and the baggage of home, you get to create yourself all over again. Hidden in the seats beyond the footlights of orientation could be potential friends, flatmates, hookups: all you need is the perfect script and some expert direction! You’ve been thinking about the character you’ll play at uni since you got accepted – how you’ll act, how you’ll dress, how you’ll think. Casting your future friends, building the set of your future flat, imagining the applause you’ll receive about your success and talent when you come home for the holidays. I totally understand. As a theatre student who had never been to Glasgow, I walked into my first year armed with a brand new character ready to take on this new stage of my life. My ideals were set, my wardrobe picked out, my “friends” already firm ideas in my mind. There is of course security in this type of self-creation; by building yourself into a performance, you have more control over the people and events that will come in and out of your life.

But in what world is your first year of uni a time for security and control?

The next week of your life is going to be a whirlwind; a mix of hundreds of people and places and concepts that you’ve probably never even considered. There is no way to script any of the amazing madness that helps define your freshers’ experience. On the contrary, the best moments will be completely improvised. The best people you meet won’t be waiting for a cue, they’ll come to you because of who you are as a person. Rather than cheap applause that dies out when you’re sober, you’ll find mutual admiration and kindness in genuine people that will be there for you when you need them. And the best version of you isn’t that character you’ve been dreaming up since May, it’s simply the real you. This may sound corny, but from one actor to another: don’t pretend to be who you aren’t. Keeping up that act is exhausting. You’re finally in a place with thousands of other people who are just trying to figure themselves out, so drop the lines and just be yourself. React in the moment, be open to exciting experiences, try and build upon yourself as an individual rather than a caricature, and realise that the only applause you should really be valuing is your own. Because in the long run, uni is about discovering who you are as a person, and that is a feeling more meaningful than anything you could capture in words.

You’ll look back a year from now and see how intricate and wild your time here was, because when left to its own devices, life can create masterpieces of its own. So before you launch into rehearsed monologues about how stoked you are for Daft Friday or how glad you are that you’re in Murano, take a beat. Understand that uni isn’t some metaphorical stage, it’s the real world with real people and real experiences, waiting for you to enjoy them. So be your most authentic self this Freshers’ Week and leave the theatre to the professionals, because once the curtain is up on your time at uni, there’s no bowing out.