Storyteller who seems more comfortable with conversation than performing a scripted narration to a passive audience, Gill Sims has an ‘interviewer’ to start things off when she appears on stage at the Trinity Theatre this Friday.
“It’s ‘in conversation with’ It’s not really a routine, but an interview. More of a chat between friends,” Gill tells the Times.
“There’s a bit at the end when people can ask their questions. That’s always a lovely bit, to hear people’s thoughts and ideas. I always really enjoy that part.”
Introducing her ‘interviewer’ – Jo Middleton, of the ‘Slummy Single Mummy’ blog, and author of ‘Playgroups and Prosecco’ – Gill says: “We shouldn’t really be allowed out together because we tend to have a bit of a rampage when we do. I’m really looking forward to it.”
However, having an ‘interviewer’ is really just a starting ingredient for her uncannily inviting manner which can turn almost all everyday misfortune into a story which not only soothes the teller, but prompts listeners to make their own confessions.
Even without their own stories, people seem to want to connect with her, as in Gill’s anecdote about a woman who got a chance to say something at the end of an event and blurted out a request for ‘advice’.
“I did have one lovely lady who asked whether I had any parenting advice for her, which was very kind of her, really, having just heard about my parenting fails for an hour or so.”
The famous part of her social media persona is the application of wine to metaphorical cuts and bruises, but she also swears by time, distance and telling, which is where an audience comes in.
“Nine times out of ten, if you tell someone about something, they’ll say ‘that happened to me, too’. Or ‘you think that was bad? Well, this happened to me.’ Sharing your problems does not minimise them, but definitely helps keep them in perspective.
“What seems at the time to be the worst day ever. You see other aspects of it that you wouldn’t have seen in it if you sat at home and cried to yourself.”
That loneliness is something many parents – especially mothers – will recognise, but social media is a ‘double-edged bread-knife’, Gill acknowledges.
“I think social medial has put so many more expectations on parents, and on mothers in particular. There are so many more opportunities to compare yourself to millions of parents, as opposed to just the ones in your circle.
“Sometimes that’s great, if you can find like-minded people and everything, but (there can be) massive pressure on you that you’re putting a white-bread ham sandwich in your son’s lunch as that’s all he’ll eat – while someone in… I don’t know… Canada is creating a bento box every day with tableaux of Shakespearean tragedies out of carrot sticks, and you’re thinking – ‘Okay… [expletive]. I can’t do that because they wouldn’t eat that… Would they eat it if I did that? I don’t know how to do that.
“You can kind of fall down a rabbit hole, on the internet, of things you ‘should’ be doing and you just end up not doing all these things, and it’s just nine times out of ten, children don’t actually know, or require any of it. It’s other parents you’re trying to impress with these sort of things.”
In contrast to these competitive parents, Gill disarms any opposition by performing her ‘parenting fails’.
Telling a story about almost collecting the wrong child from the playground, she says airily: “We’ve all done that, I think – tried to take the wrong child out of the park – and then realised ‘oh, no you’re not my one.’ I will try to pick the cleanest looking one, which is never mine.
“Not you – that one. The one rolling in the puddle. That’s my one. That’s always my one.’”
In response to a question about her trip to Trinity Theatre for her appearance, she turns this disarming charm on Tunbridge Wells itself, saying: “This is my first time. I’m really looking forward to it. It would be nice to have a little time there.”
Then, asked whether she was expecting to wander around the town and see if the schoolchildren are ‘terribly clean’, she laughs.
“I’m sure they’ll be clean. I’m sure they’ll be clean. The children wouldn’t dare be dirty.”
An Evening with Gill Sims is at Trinity Theatre on Friday, April 22 at 8pm.