Every Christmas when I was little, in my grandfather’s back yard in Coffs Harbour, I would sit amongst the wisteria eating unripe passion fruit and imagining adventures for myself. I’d frighten myself with stories of what lived under the house – and laugh until I couldn’t breathe at the jokes I invented. I’d imagine the possibility of being homeless and sleeping on the mossy ground under my favourite hydrangea. I’d convince myself I could be completely self sufficient and sleep in the garden if I was in such a situation. Luckily for me the garden of choice was my Grandfather’s garden – with vegetable plots and fruit trees including a gnarled grumpy looking grapefruit tree and a sacred mulberry tree worthy of the Fred Astaire tune “I’m in heaven” that I’d croon gleefully as I stained my skirts and stuffed my face with purple berries.

In one of the garden beds was what Pa called “a sensitive plant” – every time I touched its soft fringed leaves they would contract like a venetian blind, neatly minimizing itself into a single blade of green. I would wait for it to unfurl and I’d delight to see it shrink at my fingers…

I’ve been thinking about the value of sensitivity. Mainly because I am sensitive. And it is who I am.

This thinking was once shared with the online world back in 2007 in my first clumsy scribblings -on my Artshub column – Return to Oz where I discuss Bad Behaviour and Artistic Temperaments and how often being called sensitive is a pejorative term. I wrote:

“I am sensitive. I cry in plays/movies/at the news. I feel for people around me: sometimes I am hurt by other people. I am sensitive and this isn’t something I am ashamed or embarrassed about. I cry. I laugh. I think about criticisms and rejections and I move on.”

If you want to read more take a look at the full article/introspective public musings:

This is something I am. And I believe it is essential to working with artists. Mr Waites referred to me being fond of a “good weep” during his write up of Madama Butterfly. And he is absolutely right.

There have been occasions when directing I have watched a scene and felt so connected to the story, that I have found myself quietly brushing away tears. I feel things – and those feeling show. When I am scared or feel bad – I cry. Sometimes when I feel relieved, or ecstatic I cry. And I don’t see it at all as a weakness. It takes more bravery to be utterly honest with yourself and your emotions, than it does to hide them. And sometimes my tears have told me that really, despite my desires – sometimes the situation I am in is not the best and perhaps I should leave…

Let me be clear – I am not one to cry when criticised or during a discussion because I can’t handle it… I can robustly debate and engage in a furious intellectual tango with the best of them. It’s not that I fall apart in a crisis or I can’t handle pressure. I can. And I do, over and over and over again. It’s just that I feel anything but numb about everything. And going to the theatre is utterly enthralling for me because of that. I think it’s why I make a good reviewer – because I still after all the shows I’ve seen, and done – I still search for emotional integrity in the work I see.

I don’t think that I, or anyone else for that matter, needs to “harden up”. I don’t think I need to be aggressive to be taken seriously, or for my voice to be heard – or to be a leader. I care about people and ideas and the arts – I don’t know why sometimes as I know it would be easier if I didn’t – but I do. It’s who I am and I can’t be any other than who I am.