Alice Eklund: Assistant Director on The Awkward Years, Matthew Bulgo

September 12, 2018 by

We’ve all been there, that slightly tilted walk up Womanby Street, scraping together the last of our change to bust out some shapes in Clwb. The dreaded walk through Chippy Lane dodging flying chips from kebab-brawls. Getting lost in the maze that is Cathays because you’ve ‘decided’ to walk home after the abundance of Cardiff taxis have decided that it’s not your time to be graced with a 5 minute journey with your Maccies in hand.

This isn’t a fairy-tale or some movie where the guy gets the girl and they suddenly win a million pounds, or save everyone just before the last second. It’s real life. It’s about the people you meet every day. Good or bad. It’s throwing up. It’s blacking out. It’s hiding from your feelings and then feeling them all at once. It’s finishing uni and not being able to face the real world until you find yourself forced into it. It’s not knowing when to stop, before life stops you.

I don’t think I could really sum up being in my twenties as anything other than ‘The Awkward Years’. It’s the years where you’re allowed to make mistakes, but still feel bad for them because you’re supposed to be ‘adulting’ by now. The split between the need for a stable job and sustainable income, and wanting to spend 3 months travelling because “now’s the time to do it!”. Matthew Bulgo has not only captured the true essence of what it’s like to be lost in your twenties, but also the fact that you never truly know what’s going on around you until it’s too late.



‘The Awkward Years’ follows Lily (Lauren O’Leary), a girl who is well past her student years, and her struggle through life as she nears the end of her twenties. A deeply honest take on how to deal with everything that is thrown you throughout one of the most spiralling times in your life. Dan Jones’s direction has given this play such a raw edge, combining a dynamic of movement and pace in the text, that Lily truly has lifted off the pages. I can only thank him for this whole experience. Working as the Assistant Director has given me the chance to really tap into my love for theatre, and theatre with a message and meaning. We’re heading into The Other Room at Porter’s this week, and I couldn’t be more excited. I don’t think I’ve ever been more sure in myself when it comes to how a piece of theatre is coming together. Lauren’s Irish charm and quirks have me in fits of giggles and then true ugly crying. I couldn’t think of anyone more suited for this part.

The moment that we finished the first read-through and heard the quick-witted charm, mixed with the emotion and darkness of the themes in the play, I think we all realised not only that we needed to give this play the platform it deserved, but the fact that people needed to see it. Working on a one-woman play, with a predominantly female production team, and bringing in the experiences and emotions that each of us have empathised with in this play has been truly mind-blowing. We’ve not only been able to find our voices but to also have the chance to really see the depths in the character choices that Matthew Bulgo has given Lily and the people she encounters.

When I’ve asked my own friends about their experiences and feelings towards their ‘Awkward Years’ it came to quite a surprise that not one of them was 100% sure in their decisions. But all of them felt like they had to have a definite pathway, or a sure way of living. Everyone is scared to fail, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try. It’s made me realise that we’re all in the same situation, and we’re finding our way through it in our own way.

I know that this is beginning to sound like a self-help piece, but it’s strange how people are convinced that if they’re enjoying their life being young, they’re dismissing what they ‘should’ be doing. Well, forget that. Go out, dress up, do what you want, and don’t be sorry about it. Nothing is more liberating than doing interpretive dance to Flo’s ‘You’ve Got The Love’ in Clwb, or leaving a house party to get a kebab in a homemade avocado costume, or singing your heart out to Whitney at karaoke, I promise.

Live through your ‘Awkward Years’ and make them count.


Main image:  Lauren O’Leary in rehearsal

Images: Kirsten McTernen


The Awkward Years runs at The Other Room 17-29 September at 7.30pm. Tickets are available now from




BSL performances 20th and 28th September

Relaxed Performance 22nd – 3pm

Touch Tour- 30 mins before EVERY performance, bookable with


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