Thursday, 3 October 2013

I've never tried it so I don't like it

There's a splendid quote that I'm rather fond of from the inimitable Lewis Carroll.

Little girl to nurse: "I'm so glad I don't like asparagus."
Nurse: "Why, dear?"
Little girl: "Because if I did like it I'd have to eat it - and I can't bear it."

How much does that apply to many of us with new experiences? Specifically, in this case, theatrical experiences. Yes, I know I've been here before (several times): my love of the theatre (from all perspectives: performer, director and audience) means that I believe passionately that 'trying the new' is something that we should all do. But I'm about to bang on about it again.

I've said a lot of this already in the lead-up to a previous show at the Sewell Barn: Airswimming. You can read the post here. This truly magnificent show was a classic example of the comments that I hear, time after time: "I so wish I'd seen that play - I heard it was brilliant." The same was true of the show that followed it (When the Rain Stops Falling). Both shows were stunning experiences, superbly acted and directed, highly challenging, and outside predictable theatrical fare. Neither was Ayckbourn or Shakespeare, or the stage version of some recognisable TV show. In fact, you'd be very unusual if you'd heard of either of them before (I certainly hadn't). But these were evenings that I wouldn't have missed for the world.

Now, the upcoming show at the Sewell Barn is Festen. It's dark, disturbing and powerful. It's not a light-and-frothy farce or a Mills-and-Boon dose of slushiness. There's strong language, there are 'adult themes', and no, it's not suitable for young children. However, I've seen some rehearsals, and can strongly, highly, emphatically recommend it. There are some stunning performances, an extraordinarily well-designed and imaginative set, superb direction.

"It's not my sort of thing"... how do you know if you haven't tried it? I wouldn't have thought that a tale about two women incarcerated for fifty years in a mental asylum for the crime of having children out of wedlock was 'my sort of thing'. (If you're wondering, my 'sort of thing' is more likely to be a hefty dose of Kander & Ebb, stuff-strutting and fishnets.) Yet I left that theatre having laughed and cried, thought and pondered, discussed and dissected; yes, stimulated. I didn't know what to expect, and I got it.

"What if I don't like it?" Well, sue me. The worst that can happen is that you feel you have experienced nothing in that two hours or so that has given you an intellectual or emotional workout. Personally, I think that's very unlikely. Don't get me wrong: I don't leave every show I see raving about it (far from it). But I can safely say that, in some forty years of theatregoing, I can count on the fingers of one hand the shows that I really, honestly, seriously disliked on all counts. For 99% of the time, I'll leave full of questions, comments, praise - and, yes, criticism - but very, very seldom unmoved. Even a show that left me, on the whole, underwhelmed will have some performance, some element of direction, some creative idea that has thrilled or interested me. In other words, it is very unlikely to be a completely wasted journey. On the other hand, I see television shows all the time - especially so-called 'talent' shows - that leave me thinking "well, that was two hours of my life I'll never get back".

As I've said before: do yourself a favour. Try it. You might like it. And even if you don't wholly, unreservedly 'like it', you'll take away something: a new experience, a thought process, an emotion, a challenge.

And if you do shift yourself to buy a ticket, you'll have done something else: made it more likely that shows like this - and unlike this - will be put on at this unique venue in the future. Because without you, there is no point.

Box office: 01603 697248. Over to you.

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