Thursday, 19 January 2012

Noises Off

Today I should be blogging about the audition that I just got back from. In the tradition of my blog, that would be the most likely thing for me to come back and report on. But, that will have to wait until tomorrow because, in a first for 2012, I went to the theatre last night. Oh yes, Miss L, because her wonderful friend got her a free ticket, ventured out of the house and pretended to be all cultural like.

I went to see Lovesong at the Lyric Hammersmith and on the whole, I'd recommend it to anyone that fancies an evening out in West London. It's written by Abi Morgan who, if you don't know by name, you definitely know her by her work. She's written a rather small film that's currently out known as The Iron Lady. You might have heard of it. She also wrote Shame which is out at the moment and Birdsong which is on BBC1 very soon. So yeah, she's doing alright at the moment. And the writing in Lovesong is bloody good. There are some gorgeously moving moments and all four characters are beautifully and delicately written. Despite the depressing nature of the story, I laughed far more than I cried and I came away feeling more uplifted than I expected to. There are some movement style pieces inbetween scenes which I personally found unecessary. I'm sure if I'd been in the midst of my GCSE Drama then I'd have loved them and would have found some meaning behind them but my cynical 28 year old brain just found them to be a bit tiresome. I do wonder if directors have become scared of just putting on a straightforward play. I admit that there are some incredible pieces out there where movement adds a wonderful new quality to the performance but when the writing is as tight as it was in Lovesong, all it did was detract from the performances.

But enough of my thoughts on the play. Basically I enjoyed it and I reckon your money would be well spent in going to see it. What I really wanted to blog about today was how exasperating theatre audiences are. I admit that my friend and I committed the first cardinal sin of theatregoing and because we were too busy chatting in the foyer, only entered the auditorium a minute or so before the show was meant to be begin. We checked our tickets and found that our seats were conveniently located slapbang in the middle of the row. After shuffling by angry people who were far more organised than us, we settled down and the lights came down as we were still in the midst of the wine glass/coat/bag dance. Within seconds of the show starting we realised that we were sat in front of possibly the most awful row of theatregoers. They bafflingly laughed at random lines (who knew the term 'peach tree' was funny?) and I swear they were munching their way through ASDA's entire stock of crisps. Bag after bag was opened as they guffawed at seemingly normal lines. They then became confused by some of the tricksy staging used to conceal the actors on stage. It was a shock when it was first used but within a nanosecond, it was plainly obvious what they'd done. Well, at least it was to everyone else in the room. Row M were so mesmerised by this that they then spent the next five minutes loudly whispering to each other to try and convince themselves that there wasn't some sort of evil witchcraft taking place on stage. Just as they finally managed to understand elementary staging, one of the characters makes a shocking revelation. Cue a gasp worthy of the pantomimes, followed by a whispering Mexican wave of 'Bitch!' as though we'd suddenly transported ourselves to the Jeremy Kyle show. Needless to say they remained audible throughout the whole play and any suspension of disbelief was utterly ruined.

I'm always amazed at how rude audiences are. I know that there are sometimes things that can happen on stage which can make you react in a way you didn't expect. I dare anyone to see The Woman in Black and not scream several times. Or for anyone who saw Oxford Stage Company (now Headlong) and their performance of Rookery Nook, you'll know that it was impossible not to remain laughing throughout. And if you see Translunar Paradise and don't find yourself sobbing by the end then you have a heart of steel. I don't mind those kinds of reactions. In fact, I think they're incredible. They show just how immersive theatre can be and I think it's amazing that you can completely forget about all the bills you have to pay and the work you need to get done for just a few hours and instead just allow yourself to be moved by what you see on stage. It's the other noise that really winds me up. Regular blog readers will know that I have a huge weakness for crisps but even I can go without them for a few hours. And unless you're actually dying (in which case, I wonder whether you should be seeking medical attention rather than watching Richard II) do you really need to cough in every pause?

But at least if you're in a big auditorium, those sounds can be lost slightly. I was once in a play in a very tiny space where a man yawned so loudly that everyone on stage actually stopped to look at him. Clearly he hated the play so much that he then continued to yawn in a similar fashion throughout, becoming more and more dramatic with each mouth opening. It got the point where everyone five minutes we'd have a five second sigh, followed by a ten second wail of a yawn which was accompanied my much arm stretching and was then finished off with a loud, contented second sigh. In the second half, he decided that his yawning wasn't enough and so proceeded to take out his mobile phone inbetween each yawn to see just how much he could put us off. Of course, we were all suitably distracted by this wailing, flashing buffoon and it ended up being the worst performance of the run. But I should be adept at dealing with such nuisances. In my first ever TiE show, where we took an 80s reworking of Much Ado About Nothing, to south London schools, I was welcomed on to the stage in spectacular fashion. Most actors get respectful silence but not me. Instead, while wearing a bright pink boob-tube and a frighteningly short polka dot skirt, my entrance had the soundtrack of 300 schoolchildren all shouting 'urghhhhhh' at the top of their voices. I'm pretty sure Dame Judi Dench never has to deal with such things.

So that was my first theatrical experience of 2012. Maybe I'm best off staying at home where I only have to deal with upstairs and the heaviest footsteps in the world and the weird man next door who shouts obscenties every few minutes. Hmmmm. Best get booking myself up for the year ahead...

1 comment:

  1. You actors must have pretty thick skins to put up with crap like that. Hope you don't have to wait too much longer for your big break!