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More theatre – guilty pleasure

Whilst several of my neighbours worked together under small gazebos in front of someone’s house, putting together a huge number of donated Christmas presents for local care home staff and isolated residents, I scurried past to the station and took myself up to London (again) for a theatre experience.

Feeling more than a little guilty, and quite trepidatious in these days of apparently rampant new variants of the wretched virus, I travelled in an almost empty carriage and noticed the looming black clouds. Indeed, once I had begun my walk from Waterloo along the Thames to Tower Bridge, the rain started. Nostalgia fulfilled completely. This was very reminiscent of my old walk to work – few people out and about, drizzly rain, wet feet and grey skies. Miserable huh? But of course not, because I did not have to work when I got to the end of my walk.  In fact I met Mr J outside the theatre for this ‘experience’. 

It is strange to turn up at a theatre at midday and expect to see a show. Particularly in this case because there were just three other people called forward in our group for a briefing on ‘Flight’. The five of us were then taken through a door not usually accessible to the punters, down a corridor which was clearly part of a shared area with other organisations in the block and which looked like the featureless underground concrete warren of any large newish office/retail building. But for a theatre freak (me!) who loves to see how things are done and what it is actually like for the actors and production teams, this was gold. We walked past an entrance to the auditorium and I had a sneaky peak in at the set for the play I saw there just last week. I think I over-romanticise all this, but I’ve not got a lot else to do, frankly.

We were seated, one by one, in the dark at a circular installation and advised to don headphones which had just been sanitised for us. The story of two migrant children attempting to get to the UK across Europe then played out in front of us on a slowly rotating wall with small boxes, lit up in order to coincide with the story in our ears, filled with tiny models and scenery. Each viewer saw and heard the presentation at a different time – ie when the boxes passed in front of each one of us. A fascinating idea and it seemed to work perfectly. The boxes appeared at random heights and were different shapes and sizes, to avoid any repetitiousness. It perhaps turned twice or maybe three times round in the 45 minute presentation, lighting different boxes on each rotation.

I didn’t find the story particularly original – the inevitable abuse of the younger child, the well-documented dangers of people-smuggling, the frustrations and awfulness of refugee life – but it was affectingly presented and probably being alone in the dark added to this. The portrayal of the French as braying seagulls was an interesting twist – I knew as I watched it that this would appeal to Mr J in the next booth! He would have seen everything just a couple of minutes after I did – and this realisation was quite an interesting extra layer to factor into the watching.

When it was all over and we had swapped initial views, I walked back to Waterloo in the rain again – avoiding at least one mode of transport. Mr J was on his motorcycle. This split transportation seems to suit us both best.

After another fairly empty train ride I walked the last 100 metres home – again scurrying past my neighbours who were still working away at wrapping presents and writing cards in the front garden. So busy, in fact, that when I wandered past again later to go to the post-box – willingly glancing in to see if they would leap on me to help, and resigned to agreeing if so – they did not even look up. (I had already told them I would not wrap anything, given that my attempts would be worse than a child’s, but I had vaguely offered to write cards and certainly to make deliveries)

You can sense my guilt at going out and enjoying myself whilst others toil away. Sometimes it just works out like that and I am not going to beat myself up for long.

Now we have been told that the inevitable move into Tier 3 has been accelerated, I am in fact quite glad to have escaped a bit. Immeasurably sad for hospitality and theatres though – shutting down even earlier than they expected.



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