Look it still feels weird to write it…..
I got my job over five years ago and for the first four (about? i’m not a great time keeper) I didn’t have anything to do with the theatre. Which suited me fine to be honest. Years later, the artistic director told me he could tell when he first met me that my polite veneer hid a vast indifference for the place. Which was, you know, a *little* embarrassing.
Theatre was never my favourite art form. I studied English. I love stories, discovering people’s lives. I loved words and what they do to you. But somehow the translation onto stage kinda left me cold. I avoided any optional dramatic modules with a creased up nose. I think basically it was too much bad am-dram too early. But no, that’s not the whole truth….
It was all too showy, and for a start I didn’t trust actors; actors were people who lied for a living, on stage. And I valued honesty. So they could fuck off for a start. Oh and *they* like getting up in front of people and having them look at them: for kicks. As someone who has a fear of public speaking which makes me physically unwell (not a turn of phrase people) I distrusted them: it was possibly some kind of envy too….introvert versus extrovert (it actually comes from a very similar place: i’m totally convinced). The thing that can make theatre so good when it works (the intimacy, having a live person in the room with you) can make it fucking unbearable if it doesn’t work. And then there’s the whole deal that went along with it: all that fucking lovie pretentious bullshit, showing off and twating around. That was theatre to me, growing up.
I had definitely made a decision. And the decision was that I wasn’t arsed.
Get me: I was a non-attender! And look at me now….
I sat in the theatre in on the night it re-opened with the Netherlands (which was, about 3 years in post, my first visit – though in my defence the place was shut for sometime), and I finally kinda got it; or got something: that this was a space, just a room really, which had the potential for anything. For one person to communicate a feeling, a truth, a story: live and immediate to another: or more accurately to another group of people, because there is something about the collectivity of that experience which differentiates it, in an important
way from reading alone. But I’m not going to waste your time fucking theorising what theatre is; because I really do not know what the fuck I’m on about. But It was something about bringing everything back to basics: of saying ‘this can be anything’ that realisation that all those *terrible* theatre performances you’ve seen…they do not have to be all
It wasn’t an instant conversion but more a slow gentle drip. Of ‘ok that wasn’t too bad’ and ‘ok *that* was fucking amazing’ and some performances that left me stone cold. Stuff that should have worked but didn’t. And now I’ve pretty much been spoilt rotten so that sometimes I need to go back to the mainstream to remember, how fucking god damn awful some work can be, to sit there and feel absolutely nothing but a
vague discomfort: and a wish to be somewhere else.
You go for a position in the arts and you tend to get asked to demonstrate your interest and passion. Which makes sense, cuz basically you’ll be working like hell and you won’t be earning all that much at all so if you can at least get some kind of enjoyment out of what your doing that will probably be for benefit for everyone.
But sometimes I think; don’t get people who are so passionate about art that they could never understand how someone else could hate it. Get someone who doesn’t give a flying fuck and then win them over: because then they’ll be able to win over others too. Because they’ve been there and they *know* what it feels like. To be on the outside looking in. Ok. It’s probably a crappy strategy.
Despite the fact that I’m nearly 30, post grad educated, attending somewhere on average of one art event a week, with a professional position in the arts. Despite having friends who grew up to write for national newspapers, curating my own exhibition, having stuff published. Despite all that: I will still go to certain venues and feel like I don’t belong, feel intimidated and like I don’t know shit. And I might not be Nicholas Serota but if I’m feeling like that: we still have work to in terms of visitor experience and accessibility…
Much later me and that artistic director have this conversation; in which the roles were kinda reversed: I’ve paraphrased here for you.
‘I hate films’
‘You don’t ‘hate films’: how can you say you hate films?…
What films have you seen?’
‘Tell me what films you’ve seen…’
‘Yeah….well no wonder you think you hate films then. You don’t hate films, you just hate shit films… There’s a difference’.