Gill went with her friend to the theatre in Bristol last week. She was quite excited to go since this particular theatre has an excellent reputation. The venue was closer to her office than home, so she went directly there rather than going home first. She was (in a rare event) dressed respectably in office attire and felt she was dressed appropriately for such an evening. She remembered going to the theatre with me as a child and was accustomed to the audience dressing up for the occasion. I don’t mean ball gowns, (although she claims to this day that I DID wear ball gowns), just suitably ‘good’ attire — a nice dress, real shoes (as opposed to flip flops or sneakers).
The evening in question, apparently the other patrons didn’t get the memo. As she said, “They looked like bums off the street.” More likely than not they were students, but still. Is there no sense of occasion any more? No sense of respecting the talented actors enough to look decent while they present their best work for you to enjoy?
Having said this, I realize that back in Shakespeare’s day, theatre was meant to be enjoyed by the masses. Plays were bawdy and tawdry as were the audiences. Fair enough, but given the prices charged for tickets these days, theatre has become an occasional treat, something special, out of the ordinary.
It is interesting for me, as a mother, to watch my kids’ reactions to situations as they get older. As children, they moaned and groaned about having to ‘dress up’ for special occasions, but with age (and perspective) they are changing their tunes. Could this be another case of ‘You were right, Ma! I see what you meant!’ Gill was appalled at the ‘lack of class’ shown by the majority of the audience when they schlepped into their seats, flip flops flapping and saggy pants with hoodies suggesting they came right from the streets of the lower east side of anywhere. (I could comment that they’ll find themselves wearing saggy pants (probably with diapers)soon enough when they get old, so why rush it?) I could be mistaken and they could have thought they were wearing the latest in fashion cool, but unless you’re Jay Z or Nicki Minaj, leave the cool to the professionals, I say.
With the audience seated, the play began…as did the coughing. Gill has told me many times about The Cough that grips the UK (all of it) as soon as the winter rains begin. There are slightly different versions of it…the Glasgow cough, the East London cough, but it’s the same miserable, hacking, phlegmy, cough that seems to shake a person right down to his flip flops. One fears The Plague is making a comeback. It was difficult to hear the actors for the coughing. And nobody used tissues…all the germs went straight into the air. And between bouts of coughing, the snacking. As Gill tells it, one could eat virtually a complete dinner (as long as you don’t mind everything being wrapped in cellophane) while watching a play. The cello crinkles, the snacks crunch, the drinks are slurped, lips are smacking with gusto…creating a cacophony of sounds that make the room sound like the feeding area of the zoo. Who needs an orchestra with this racket?
“Ma, I tell you, it was disgusting. I mean, I hate dressing up and using my manners as much as the next person, but couldn’t we make a LITTLE effort?” Were these people Raised By Wolves?
Possibly. In fact, I recently watched a British sitcom with exactly that title. Perhaps Gill was being punked and this was in fact, not a theatre presentation, but a filming of a new episode.
She left the theatre with sore back (the play was two hours longer than her arthritis meds could handle), sticky feet (from spilled drinks), a bad case of disillusionment with mankind…and The Cough. I expect it will stay with her until spring. Apart from that, she had a lovely time at the theatre.