This evening Andrea and I went and experienced some experimental theatre at Curve in Leicester. We had heard very good things about a theatre company called Frantic Assembly and they were bringing their show ‘The Believers’ to Curve.
We are nothing if not adventurous when it comes to our theatrical choices, so we gave it a whirl.
Andrea and I have a theory that plays which do not have an interval are usually crap. The idea is that if the company put an interval into the play, their audience might diminish so rapidly at half time that they would be mortified to go on playing to a two thirds empty theatre, and therefore it is safer not to put an interval in at all.
We have developed this theory over time, due to going to many plays which do not have an interval, and nearly every single one of them being absolutely pants.
We were then, slightly horrified when the usher informed us that the play had no interval, and due to it being exceedingly dark, and there being a lot of strobe lighting in the play it might be difficult for us to leave should we want to before the end.
It did not start well.
In the total blackness of the stage area, a rectangular ‘house’ shaped climbing frame structure came gliding out, with a person woven into the bars and someone else pushing it while trance style beats boomed through speakers overhead. A woman wandered on looking stricken and stared mutely into the audience for about three days before shouting out ‘123’ or some such number and then muttering ‘the fools’ or something else equally profound.
A man and a woman entered, as the house structure swanned around the stage being shunted gracefully back and forth.
The woman looked distressed. She did a ‘woe’ action and flung her hand backwards towards the man who was looming in the background. She declaimed: ‘I cannot bear this.’
I knew just how she felt.
There was a lot more physical theatre and gurning, anguished faces. There were a lot of half bitten off sentences, and a great deal of profound, staring into the distance poses.
Things got slightly more coherent as the play progressed, but no less bonkers.
It was a play in which looming, the strangling of bantams (not hens), and the word ‘fuck’ were in evidence. There was a lot of clutching of body parts and meaningful glances. There was quite a lot of loud music and darkness – Andrea and I agreed that these parts were quite restful and it was a blessing not to have to be eyeball to eyeball with someone emoting grief while someone else twisted their hands in a looming way, lit only by candle light in the background.
I knew Andrea wasn’t that thrilled with it, because she is rather like me in being a theatre Nazi, and is generally disapproving of people who have big hair, or breathe too loudly near us. The girl behind us whispered throughout the play, including at one memorable stage where she said: ‘bloody hell. I nearly wet me pants then.’ When someone on stage did a very effective loom out of the darkness, and Andrea didn’t even try to kill her a teeny weeny bit.
The subject matter was the death of a child during a bonkers evening when two families collide. It was not particularly lovely. Nor did any of the characters endear themselves to me overmuch, and my main joy was that it was only an hour and ten minutes long and I was able to get back home and wrap all my EBay parcels before I lost the will to live. It was not bad enough to be awesome, unlike the epic The Moon, The Moon, or that thing where everyone drank fourteen pints of water, drew squiggles on a blackboard and threw apples at each other’s heads – which remain the nadir of our theatre going experiences, but yet wonderfully entertaining. It was just meh.
This is not a great recommendation as far as theatre goes.
I am sure experimental theatre is wonderful. I am sure I am missing an important gene, probably related to my inability to like leotards, leg warmers or any form of interpretive dance, but it just isn’t for me. I cannot bear the fact that things seem to be abstract for the sake of abstraction, and that all will be well as long as you are able to repetitively do something inane on stage whilst looking like you are busting for a wee. It reminds me of when I used to sit in on my friend’s A Level drama practice after school.
I do not believe that cod pieces and ruffs are the way forward, and I am sure that there is much marvellous modern theatre out there. I know there is. I have seen some of it, but I am a fairly traditional sort of girl when it comes to needing a narrative I understand, characters I care about and the sense that something magical has taken place in front of my eyes instead of something my children force me to watch for free when they are feeling in the mood to be dramatic. Give me Alan Bennett any day.