Those producing drama often seem rather obsessed that the intended audience should be able to identify with the characters being portrayed. So, for example, drama for young people must have young people as the main characters – or, especially in the US, actors clearly in their thirties playing teenagers. I suspect this need for very simple-minded identification is far less true than is believed, though obviously I do focus on dramas where at least one principal character is a tall, thin glasses-wearing middle-aged and middle glass man who is more than usually gifted nasally.
Actually, I don’t think this is true for me at all – I can think of little more tedious than watching someone too like myself on stage and screen. If I really wanted that, I could spend more time in front of the mirror – an activity I usually try and minimise as anyone who has seen my attempts at hair “styling” might readily believe (after about 10 seconds I work on the principle that it is (a) hair and (b) on my head and that is good enough).
At the theatre in particular, but also to an extent on the screen, I seek out dramas where the characters will be quite different from me and go through experiences quite unlike those that have informed my personal narrative. Despite this, as a human being, it is rare that I cannot find some point of contact with a well-drawn character – whether they are male or female, positive or negative. The plays that really stick with me are those that make me see a bigger world or learn something (often an uncomfortable truth) about myself. Though, lest you think me even more pretentious than is in fact the case, I’m also more than happy to laugh my head off at a decent farce. I am also a sucker for a bit of romance, despite (or perhaps because of) the lack of romance within.
Last week, after a day in London for work, I took advantage of my location to visit 10 Greek Street and then head to the theatre – quelle surpise! This taught me that I am even less mysterious than I thought – Cam, head honcho at 10GS, announced that he could predict exactly what I would order from the menu and (unfortunately) he was entirely correct in this assertion. I really am turning into a thinner version of Norm Peterson (still could be worse, I could be Cliff Clavin).
Anyway, after filling my face I headed to the Arts Theatre to see Beautiful Thing, a revival of a play written and set in 1985: so I “got” all of the references, unlike some of the younger members of the audience who must have been mystified. The play was brilliant and really sweet and, to a significant extent, revolves around two teenage lads finding love – with each other. To somewhat contradict my earlier assertion about identification, an unusually large proportion of the audience was comprised of men – mostly in pairs. So dominant were they, that I did feel slightly out of place not having brought a man of my own. Actually, I suspect the audience may have been less there to identify with the protagonists and more for the sake of nostalgia as many seemed past the first flush of youth (or even middle age).
The make-up of the audience did mean that at half-time, the shoe was very much on the other foot compared to usual theatrical events. Those of the distaff persuasion could visit the Ladies without delay, but there was an enormous queue for the Gents. For some reason I found this hugely amusing (perhaps aided by my incredibly strong and capacious bladder – something developed competitively in my younger days), but was sad that so few women could enjoy the experience (though this was obviously inevitable). I feel there was an important lesson to be learnt here – though I am not quite sure what it is.
Finally, on the subject of relief, I found myself at a very fine restaurant in Edinburgh last night and was directed to the “rest rooms” (as our US cousins would say) by a member of staff. I did think the facilities were rather more palatial than I am used to, and they were the pinkest think I’ve seen (with the possible exception of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre of days gone by) but merely mentally commended Rhubarb for their breaking of gender stereotypes. On trying to leave, the knob (to the door) did come off in my hand (oo, err, misses) and so I felt I should note this to a member of staff. It was then I discovered that I had been directed to the Ladies: now, I like to think I am as in touch with my feminine side as any chap, but I really don’t make a very convincing woman (even when I am trying). I think the member of staff doing the original directing was new and presumably had not been paying all that much attention when told were the facilities were located. So, just to be absolutely clear, I am not taking any of the blame! The food – you will be pleased to know – was truly excellent and included a very find rhubarb-based dessert.