Thursday, 6 August 2015

Judge not lest ye be judged - the Hamlet edition

I'm not enjoying the snide tone that journalists and internet commenters alike are currently employing to talk derisively about fans of Benedict Cumberbatch, as though to feign a loftiness above such a base thing as ~*~FANDOM~*~ is to make one a more worthwhile human being. It's pointless and it's nasty, so I have broken away from my usual format of "blog as little as possible while still recording all the shows I see" to write a response.

If one were interested in labels (are people still interested in labels?), then I am what one might call a True Theatre Fan. Since I embarked on regular theatre attendance in 2006, I have been to the theatre over 1,000 times. Chickenfeed compared with some, I know, but making more trips in a year - nay, a month - than the majority of the population will make in a lifetime. (Even the most fervent believer that theatre is for everyone can't deny that not everyone actually wants it.)

I have a mental list of theatres I like to visit, where I know what sort of quality I might expect and, more importantly, how to get the best possible view for the lowest possible price. I don't so much decide what I'm going to see at the theatre as assume I'm going to see everything at these venues and then knock things off the list if they don't sound quite interesting enough or I can't squeeze them into my schedule. I'm also a real sucker for Shakespeare and will happily up my maximum acceptable ticket spend for Sondheim and Punchdrunk. So I don't often get to question my motivations for seeing a particular show, as by the time I've worked through my personal checklist, I've almost always booked a ticket before even thinking about what the show might be about or how keen I really am to see it. That said, I do still end up with some gaps to fill, and I have before now decided to book shows just for the chance to see a movie star on stage, or a favourite actor take on a lead role. It's just that it's equally likely I've decided to see a show based on admiring a particular director, or wanting to follow the career of a lesser-known actor who has caught the eye, or having heard that a certain writer might be one to watch for the future. (And, more than once, just thinking the poster looked cool. Graphic design WORKS, y'all.)

So before you take it upon yourselves to cast negative judgement on people's eagerness to fly across the world and queue for hours to spend vast sums of money just to see Benedict Cumberbatch play Hamlet, consider my credentials then read on.

1. I spent £150 on a ticket to Follies in concert at the London Palladium in 2007. I was pretty new to theatre-going, completely in love with Philip Quast, and very over-excited. I got a fantastic seat and entrance to the after-party, which sounded like a great deal until I got there and remembered how much I dislike parties. Still, the show was good, and it's not like I bankrupted myself.

2. I queued outside the Novello theatre from 3am in the middle of winter for one of David Tennant's final performances in Hamlet when I really should have been tucked up in bed due to being pretty poorly at the time. I have some very special memories of that night. Luckily most of them were of the play, as NO ONE wants to hear about the ones that weren't.

3. I flew to New York in January 2005 solely to see Idina Menzel's final performance in Wicked. If you're up on your contemporary Broadway musical history, you'll know how well that went down, but Shoshana Bean was excellent and the overall event feeling was electric nonetheless.

Theatre is AWESOME. We've all been swept away enough by the occasion to do things that on any other day might seem strange, and I reckon we'd all be a little happier for letting some overwhelming enthusiasm into our lives rather than sitting behind a screen and judging other people for it. He's a good actor, it's a good play, and it doesn't make a person somehow cooler for pretending otherwise.

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