Theatre: A Game of Two Halves

Resulting from England’s disappointing show in the World Cup this week, my thoughts have naturally turned to ‘performance’ and ‘point scoring’.

As someone who has a vested interest in the theatre world, I often feel myself having to justify that investment to people of a different persuasion. Fair enough, some might say, as not everyone can be interested in the same thing but, for us drama folk, the accusatory ‘What’s the point?’ is regularly aggressive and comes followed by sentiments such as ‘Get a real job!’ or my favourite: ‘You should try living in the real world!’ This is especially frustrating for people who are studying the arts and are frequently told to get a real degree. I suppose that as theatre is synonymous with ‘playing’ it should come as no surprise when people dismiss it in favour of this elusive ‘real world’. However, it is frustrating nonetheless.

Being so readily on the defensive, whilst not the classic 3-2-2, is not altogether a bad thing. It’s important that we ask ourselves ‘What’s the point?’ because we need to be firm in our resolve that there is a point to what we do and what we aspire to. I have good days when I can come up with a convincing response to drama detractors and there are days when the voice asking me ‘What’s the point?’ is my own. Thankfully, today is a good day.

On one occasion in particular, I was with an agreeable group of friends (and not so agreeable friends-of-friends) in Edinburgh, when we happened to stumble upon a street performance. Suspended in the air was a white box, lit from the inside, where the performers on a high wire, cast a beautiful shadow show for the audience beneath. One of the not so agreeable friends-of-friends who I shall now refer to as The Pillock, did not hesitate to begin heckling the group of ‘pansies’ in the box.

When, instinctively, I leapt to their defence I was met with the archetypal anti-theatre responses that by now, I am more than used to. At this stage, it was not even relevant whether I thought the performance to be any good or not. It is a matter of principle to argue the toss with someone who so offhandedly deems to be ‘crap’ something I hold dear to me. Similarly, anyone who rubbishes something without even so much as an attempt to understand, is alike the illiterate who wishes all books burned.

My best pro-theatre arguments fell on deaf ears. There is no sense in reasoning with a person who, unashamed, chants “WHAAAAT A LOADA RUBBISH!” from the audience. As my grandmother would say, “You can’t educate pork”.

And yet, standing in the cold, dark street that his rant had forgot, he did not move his eyes from the performance for thirty long minutes. My case in point.

The Pillock scores nil. The Pansies, one.