Halloween only happens once a year, and whilst the UK doesn’t quite call it a Holiday compared to our American counterparts, the ghoulish night seems to be somewhat infectious in London. A trip on any mode of transport will be met with Superhero’s, Vampires and more fake blood than any True Blood episode ever could contain. Of course this weekend has been equally matched in fake blood as alcohol consumption as Londoners and students celebrate the Halloween spirit in party mode. In all of this though – has anyone actually stopped to think about the theatrical possibility that this one night a year presents?
I’m not talking of Horror Theatre as our recent article explored here on AYT explored. I’m speaking of an acceptance that on this one night of the year, people don costumes, create blood-sucking characters and no one really batters an eyelid – in fact, we’re totally accommodating of this adjustment in behavior and theatricality. If you were to apply the same situation to 31st of March for instance, I’m sure you’d be greeted with stares, bemused looks and a ‘get out of my way’ manner.
On returning home last night I was passing through London Bridge Tube Station. At the ticket barriers a woman dressed head to foot in a devils outfit with various friends in similar attire behind her was struggling to get her oyster card to work on the barriers. An attendant came over to help. The lady declared viciously “If you don’t let me through, I will have to kill you” and bared her fanged teeth at him. The attendant stopped to look at her, and said in a mono-tone voice, “I’m sure you won’t.” whilst pressing his card to the machine to let her through. This small happening enthralled me. It was as if both the woman dressed as a the devil, and the victim of the barrier attendant played out a moment so utterly convincing within their characters that it was a piece of theatre in itself, with me as the audience.
Upon entering the tube, I stepped inside the carriage to be met by Darth Vader looking down at me. I froze momentarily, before slipping past him and taking my seat. No declaring of “Jake, I am your father” thank-you-very-much. Yet still there was something about the way in which dotted around the carriage were numerous everyday people playing out characters as blood oozed from noses and necks.
The English are a prudish bunch where the only time it feels appropriate to remotely dress up in an act of play comes through drunken stag and hen nights and even that comes at a big push. What is it about Halloween that brings out the theatrical nature of people?
So here is what I am trying to get at. If people are so happy to get dressed up and act out characters of a disgusting nature – shouldn’t we theatre-folk rejoice this and embrace it? Halloween should enable a celebration of theatre as a device to engage and entertain. Halloween should be a time when theatres send their work onto the streets and be accepted that on this night, anything goes – and people in their shift to costume wearing and character making suddenly embrace theatre willingly. For, their act is already embracing it – let’s show them that the arts is an all year round affair to be played with.
The arts should embrace the possibilities of Halloween just like their potential audience members already do. The only problem I foresee is a version of Hamlet won’t really go down quite so well as a terrifying night of Frankenstein on the streets, but we could try.
Image by John Cohen.