West End Performer and Vocal Coach Chris Fung (Cyrano de Bergerac, Evita) stops by The Platform to share his story!
I was invited by Thomas Armstrong-Robley to write something for his new hub for artists, The Platform. I asked him what he wanted me to write, and he said ‘Anything.’ ‘Anything’ I asked? ‘Anything.’ And so, I’d like to tell you a story...
When I was a youngster, I took part in a program called Young Achievers Australia. Like-minded high school students would gather once a year to build a mini-company. They would sell little ‘stocks’ to family and friends to raise capital, use that capital to buy materials for a product, and do their best to sell those products for the largest possible profit. All throughout, we would be mentored by a number of local business owners.
First order of business was to decide roles. Here we all were, comparative strangers, model overenthusiastic high schoolers all passionately decreeing our values as if we had all rolled paladins in our Dungeons and Dragons one-shot, "VOTE FOR ME, FOR I HAVE INTEGRITY", "VOTE FOR ME BECAUSE I SHALL PROVIDE DIRECTION". None of us knew what we were doing, but we sure as heck had a lot of fun doing it anyway.
I was voted the Managing Director. All I knew about the position was that I was the 'Big Boss'. Immediately and irrevocably I lost my heart to this company with a heedlessness that ordinarily belongs only to small dogs in the presence of other small dogs. I chiselled in stone a commandment written inside my heart that I would Do-Whatever-It-Takes to learn and shape and succeed. Mostly though, I just loved being The Boss.
Our company decided to make bracelets. I threw the whole of myself into the planning and organisation needed to help our little company grow. Every day I would race home from school to make phone calls to local vendors for supplies, or local markets to guarantee a spot, or to other team members to coordinate, and for 6 months we made our bracelets, and we planned, and we worked.
On the final day, we had one last meeting before the state celebration ceremony. At the final ceremony, all the local YAA chapters would report on what they had done, the winners would be announced, people would be given little commemorative certificates which would presumably look good on university and job applications, it was a thing.
It’s this final group meeting that left the strongest impression on me from my time with Young Achievers Australia.
At this last meeting, the marketing director Anna, backed by my deputy Orion, initiated a vote to ouster me as Managing Director. They went on to explain how they all saw extremely little value in any of my contributions over the past six months and that I was undeserving of any reward from my time or effort. Instead, they were going to re-elect another Managing Director who would be more deserving of the honour, and the boon to their CV. All of the leadership positions would be reshuffled, the entire company, besides myself, would benefit. They read to me a list of my historic failures, all of the minor disagreements, all of the things I had done, and failed to do, and then they voted. We were sat in a circle, so one by one, with a show of hands, all 30 of my friends, people I had happily poured my industry into helping, raised their hands to signify that they agreed that I had no worth, none of them chose to meet my eyes as they did so.
Ordinarily, I would take a 15 minute bus to go home, but on that day, it took me two hours to walk. I trudged with the chaotic lurch of the broken-hearted, face awash with the sting of betrayal. It was the first time I had faced overwhelming, to-my-face rejection, and it affected me deeply. A sliver of ice had lodged into the slowly quivering muscle that had once been my heart. As I slithered away, the oily miasma of my putrescence leaked freely across the footpath, like an oil tanker over water. It was clear. I was unworthy of love.
I had no idea that any of it was coming. Our supervising adults had long accustomed themselves to drinking quietly amongst themselves in the corner of the RSL. After all, the kids learn best on their own, and what harm could there be? I didn’t return to school for a while. How could I? Two of my schoolmates had been a part of that vote. How could I face them and the certainty that the school would be laughing at me. I drifted in an interminably grey purgatory. I spent very little time doing anything besides sleeping, and that’s where I think I will end this story. So what’s the moral? Why did we take the time to read your teenage school club story? Is it that you should make sure that people know when you work hard? That communication and empathy are of vital importance in any socially based system? That you should ruthlessly crush your political opponents before they crush you? If there were a moral, I suppose it might be about how things always seem larger and more impactful at the time, that growth grants distance, and distance grants acceptance. That regardless of who you are, that it’s important to have strategies in place to manage your mental health, that no man is an island, that we should treat ourselves kindly. Or maybe there isn’t a moral, and there doesn’t need to be one. That this was just a sequence of events, a chain of causality that was set in stone once the variables of our personalities and social settings and structures of thinking were already established. An eventuality immutable as stone. Whatever your preference I hope you enjoy it, along with this bonus ending if that is to your taste.
Today I found out that Orion is addicted to snorting icing sugar, and that Anna has become a degenerate gambler with 7 failed marriages, and they have both became vampires, and are currently being hunted by the Illuminati.
Because while this may just be a story. It is still *my* story.
Learn: Chris Fung Singing
Formerly from Australia Chris Fung is a currently active West End performer. He recently appeared in Cyrano de Bergerac at the Playhouse (5 Olivier Noms 2020), Evita at Regents Park (2 Olivier Noms 2020), and runs a studio singing practice for professional performers. He has 4 university degrees, was a member of Australian Mensa, and is a fully qualified high school Music and Drama teacher.