Sunday, January 09, 2011

I now think all teddy bears are evil (A Year in Theatre: Show #1)

“Next to the aisle – easy escape” BillyTheKid notes.

I tut, exhale sharply and roll my eyes (all at the same time) because this is a continuation of a debate I seem to be having with worrying regularity. Breakfast Club Boy and I loudly disagreed about it whilst getting semi lost in Edinburgh and now I am riffing on the theme with BillyTheKid.

For – I have never left a theatre performance before it has finished.

(For the record I have never been late for the start of a show either, though I have left to go to the toilet – and returned then to the auditorium – once when I got drunk even before arriving for Opera North’s no-interval Orfeo)

I have numerous reasons for this stance, some of them in practical terms of what I see to be the deal with free/review tickets – ie that I stay. My theoretical constraints, however, are probably even stronger. Many of these can be summed up by the “COMMITMENT” response I provided back in Edinburgh but chief amongst them is the belief that if I left I might miss the one moment that would have made a production worth seeing. And how can you truly judge something if you haven’t seen it all?

And, yes, not-leaving is a thing. A thing I’m quite proud about.

My companion for Get Santa, however, has been quick to label this as extreme foolishness and thus has threatened to adjourn to the bar at the first sign of expectations not being met.

Needless to say – I do not approve.

My own expectations for Anthony Neilson’s Get Santa, however, were quite high. Neilson’s The Wonderful World of Dissocia, on reflection, has claimed its place in my top ten new plays of this century. See – I liked it so much I listed it in a hypothetical list I have yet to write. Inventive and clever and horrific and ambitious and funny and unexpected and poignant – I do not have enough superlatives for it. Which is a lot to live up to. Especially when it’s twelfth night and I’m watching a Christmas show at 5.00pm already infused with at least three times the amount of coffee I should be allowed in any one day and have donated a plus one to someone threatening to leave at the interval.

Holly Finnegan (Imogen Doel) is ten years old. Every year she asks Santa to bring her real Dad (who she has never met) back. Every year this present fails to materialise and thus Holly hates Christmas. This year, however, she’s concocted an elaborate plan with all the inventive resourcefulness of a textbook childhood heroine – she’s going to capture Santa.

And y’know what? I needn’t have worried about high expectations. Get Santa flashes with invention and magic and darkness and delicious danger. You might well see where the moral of the story is going from the beginning (acceptance, appreciating those who love you and the fact that families come in all shapes and sizes and no version is “normal” make it an unexpectedly satisfying fable for today) but you can’t guess how we’re getting there. Neilson pops in the odd fart joke or two but there’s no talking down to his audience – forget “children’s theatre” this is simply theatre, engaging, beautifully written and gloriously realised. There’s a real appreciation for secret worlds and adventures and possibilities that don’t stop when you’re no longer a child. Plus I had thought that my “favourite bears in theatre” list had been topped by Avenue Q’s Bad Idea Bears but Get Santa has a Bear of such joyous moral-free spirit that there might be some competition at the top. Indeed his Justin Bieber vitriol earned him claps from both myself and BillyTheKid (who, it turns out, didn’t need prompting to stay after the interval).

My favourite moment though? Forced to choose if having her father back is worth there being no more Christmases, a child in the audience shouted out “Don’t do it Holly”. If all theatre could evoke such commitment from its audiences I’d be there every night.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

_Rad_ comment from the audience. Unfortunately my audience tended to whine a bit too much. And good on you for just going to the box office, I'll be passing that tip on.