Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Oh No He Isn't...

Oh No He Isn't...

On the way to Cardiff, as Val's car dodged wind, prostrate lorries and my map reading skills, we laughed about insane journies we had made before. Val remembered battling to Stratford in the snow only to be sat in the theatre and told the performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream had been cancelled as some of the actors hadn't managed to get to the theatre. We both remembered how on January 1st 2005 we'd trekked across to Liverpool from York in fairly horrendous weather in order to give Fox hugs, just because we thought he needed them. When we got to the theatre, however, it was to the signs that Fox wasn't on stage - I doubt he was even in Liverpool. Thus I found myself in the position of having paid the most I ever paid to see Jesus Christ Superstar to sit on the front row and not see Fox, hearing the entire musical sung instead by three of the Fox fans sat to my right. As things go this cannot be considered to be either a non-stalking or a theatrical highlight of my life.

And of course we laughed about this, because so far down the line, and without the words of 'Superstar' sung in a vaguely offkey manner piercing my eardrums, I can laugh. What was not so funny was when the tannoy burst to life in the New Theatre that evening to say that because of a severe throat infection John Barrowman would not be appearing.

"Are they serious?" I hissed at Val because I might have an Oxford degree and be able to talk about T S Eliot's allusions, the importance of Look Back in Anger for British Theatre and Donne's poetry but I can be innately slow at taking in obvious information. Even when I know that using the tannoy system to annoy audience members is viewed as being a bit of a no no in theatre management.

As the houselights dimmed, I had the shooting realisation that I was going to have to sit through a panto that didn't have John Barrowman in it. And, like huge chunks of 18th and 19th Century drama, I cannot confess to being a fan of panto. Which is not to say that I don't believe that panto doesn't have its place - and not only for making sure that all those ex-soap stars and Big Brother contestants don't starve. Panto makes people who don't normally go to the theatre go, this is a good thing. Every year when I was little, slightly before my birthday, we would go see the pantomime at the City Varieties, the highlight of which was inevitably the fact that we would hire a box because sitting in a box is always a statement, even when I was 7 I knew that. And my early exposure to pantomime doesn't seem to have prevented me from engaging with Shakespeare and Stoppard and, aherm, Pinter. But like buying Clarks shoes and watching Button Moon on repeat, Panto is something I seem to have grown out of. So at the opening chords I confess, I was a little aprehensive.

By the time the interval came round I wasn't quite sure what to say. Other than that I wondered if it was too late to get a refund. I settled instead for buying chocolate ice cream, hoping the sugar would numb me.

Given the content of the second act, however, I'd have needed to have inserted the sugar directly into my veins for it to have had any counter effect. Somehow a fairly mediocre panto had gotten worse.

"You know what my favourite bit was? The bit where it WENT WRONG".

Though do not let it be said that I didn't enjoy the bit where the joke about a dalek rubbed in the fact that I wasn't watching Captain Jack, or the 17 choruses of 'Old MacDonald Had A Farm' because they were filling for all the songs that had obviously been cut or indeed the bit where they spent five minutes acting in front of backcloths just so they could errect a paper mache Giant. Because they were all great and I wasn't dying inside at the fact that I had paid to see this.

I don't expect Cardiff's New Theatre to be getting quotes from DA to promote their next panto.

Coversely if the New Theatre would like quotes about their Box Office staff [excluding the girl who greeted our enquiry on Friday afternoon with "Has John been off?!"] then I am more than happy to give them because they were lovely and helpful and witty ["we're going to kill him!"], even when we wanted our money back when John pulled out of the Friday night performance at the last minute. Good service from Front of House people largely goes unnoticed but not by DA. "Crap panto, fantastic Box Office staff". I guess you've got to take the pluses where you can.

So the non-stalking of John Barrowman had rather too much of the 'non' and not enough of the 'John Barrowman' element for my liking I have to confess. But I am patient and I'm sure it's only a matter of time before I'm drinking cocktails and going to Take That concerts with John, because you all know that this will happen. Just next time I will think twice about anything with the word 'panto' in it.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

You may not have noticed, but we had much the same problem with Connie. I have, however, seen John Barrowman naked. Twice. And danced with him on stage at the Old Vic.

(OK, we went to see Hair!)