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     Volume 6 Issue 17 | May 4, 2007 |

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Straight Talk

Scene 1, Act 2

Living in London definitely has its perks. Apart from the fact that it is a melting pot of all nationalities, cultures and religions, it has an amazing array of activities for both adults and children. Whether it is going to watch a movie, going to the theatre, spending hours mulling around in a museum, taking in the historical sights or just having a taste of the numerous restaurants scattered around the city, boredom is not something that is too much of a worry. Having been an avid theatre goer from a relatively early age, London is a great place to experience a whole spectrum of plays to watch and I really cannot complain of having a shortage of plays to watch whenever the opportunity may arise. Although it is also true that we do not go nearly as often as we would like to.

While we are being entertained by the performers on stage, there have been many occasions where the audience has been a source of entertainment and even exasperation to their fellow spectators. Trust me I know.

Years ago going to the theatre used to be quite a special occasion where people would dress up and make a night of it. With the copious number of restaurants dotted around the West End which is the heart of theatre land in London, dinner and a play would be a great evening out. Not only are the actual performances the main attraction but many of the theatres themselves are architecturally spectacular. The ambience and atmosphere is quite magical. However, these days with the increased number of tourists hoping to include a stage performance in their 'things to do in London' list, going to the theatre has become a much more informal event with people showing up in jeans if not shorts and a t-shirt!

I remember going to watch a play with my husband and in-laws soon after we got married. We headed to the theatre straight after work and made it in time before the curtain went up. To my utter dismay, halfway into the show both my husband and I found the effect of the stillness of the air in the auditorium, exhaustion after a tiring day at work and the fact that the play was exceptionally dull, made us incredibly sleepy. The more we tried to keep our eyes open the more we could feel them drooping. The worst thing was that we were sitting in the front row! I was amazed that we had not distracted the actors on stage with our off--stage sleep attack.

Well if you thought that was bad enough, I managed to go one step further in another play we went to see more recently. It had the ominous title 'Woman in Black' and according to some, not advisable for the faint hearted (yes, I definitely categorise myself as faint hearted). The play had good reviews so we decided to see it despite my better judgement. It follows the plot of a classic ghost story with inevitable twists and turns and manages to build up the tension with the atmosphere it creates. The music playing in the background was eerie and haunting and then gradually you could feel the chills going up and down your spine. In fact it got to the stage where the combination of the music and the acting built up the tension to such a crescendo that I nearly jumped out of my skin and actually screamed out loud! Not only that my husband takes immense pleasure in reminding me how I almost leapt out of my seat and onto his one. I think the mortification of this would have been unbearable had it not been for the fact that I was not the only one who had audibly shrieked. Had I been the only one, I would definitely have sneaked out of the auditorium before the lights went on to avoid people pointing me out and saying, “oh look, there goes the screamer”! I think it is much easier in films to create an atmosphere of dread than during a live performance but hats off to the directors for creating this kind sense of foreboding. It lived up to everyone's expectations.

Last year we went to see a comedy called “Spamalot” by Monty Python -- therefore, no chance of a repeat performance by me like the one in 'Woman in Black'. As we got settled in and the show began we were gripped by the humour of the situation and dialogue almost immediately. But there was a lady sitting behind us who obviously found the performance funnier than the rest of us as she seemed to be laughing continuously. At first we thought it was amusing and smiled benignly at her as did other members of the audience. As the show progressed, we were struck by the fact that this particular lady was giggling at everything regardless of its humour content. It would have been bearable had it not been for the fact that she had a very unfortunate laugh which was exceedingly shrill and sounded like a horse neighing every now and then. Not that I have anything against horses but I would not want them as my companion at the theatre. Soon the benign smiles turned to frowns which then became glares but the lady was unperturbed by the nuisance she was causing and continued to enjoy the play at the cost of other people's enjoyment. At one point I really wanted to vault over my chair and try and gag her. Sadly this was not to be and we had to endure her ear piercing laughter for the entirety of the show! I think the only people who were even less fortunate than us were the poor people sitting next to her.

Despite these little incidents that occur every now and then, the enjoyment of going to the theatre has not diminished over the years. It feels like we are coming full circle as I remember going to watch musicals, comedies and dramas with my parents and now we take our own children. I do hope that future generations will still appreciate the charm of going to the theatre and watching actors perform live on stage as it is still a true art form...

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