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Nat Luurtsema: In My Head I'm A Hero

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Jay Richardson

A nerdy, friendless child whose parents once bought her a birthday book entitled By Myself, a compendium of activities for the insecure loner, Nat Luurtsema has learned to cultivate a rich fantasy life in her head. Proficient in three languages, all of them dead, an accomplished marcher and a well-meaning if hopeless feminist, the 27-year-old is nevertheless a hero in waiting, eager to encounter moments of disaster so she can rush in and save the day – a wannabe Gazza for a Raoul Moat stand-off.

When such incidents have taken place, and she’s tried to assist a drunken girl on a train or responded to a bus crash, she’s invariably made the situation worse, encouraging further social exclusion.

A mildly fey neurotic with a vivid imagination, casting herself as the alien invader in the life of an ant, and with a strong line in damning self-deprecation, Luurtsema is affable company. But there’s nothing in this hour to suggest a memorable solo debut until she pulls out the By Myself tome. Quoting from it directly and interjecting wry commentary, it’s a self-help book that might well induce a vulnerable person to self-harm.

The book affords her a momentum of strong, consistent laughs previously lacking and she takes the opportunity to discuss her Masonic education, her scholarship paid for by a shadowy businessman, this working-class girl turned into an RP-accented Blue Peter presenter. A fascinating glimpse into a mysterious system, she captures its otherworldly weirdness with a hilarious video of marching instruction the schoolgirls received, a bizarre, regimented display that seems closer to Pyongyang than her native Watford.

Subsequently leading a spirited if ill-conceived protest against the Miss Universe contest, Luurtsema claims she began to suspect she was a superhero. There might be some artistic licence here, but her delusion was real and with an adroit shift of gear, she segues startlingly into more intense material. A brave account, even more compelling than her schooling anecdotes, she finds the life or death scenario she’s always craved. And it’s to her eternal credit that she manages to make it funny and moving, an example to others of everyday heroism, how to recover from and process mental distress.

Review date: 26 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson

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