Up until the age of 27, my only experience of the theatre had been pantomimes and the annual Girl Guide gang show. There, I said it. I, Big Arts Fairy, am not a theatre connoisseur, far from it. But guess what – now I love it! So who cares?! This is exactly what has driven me to start The Arts Fairies campaign. To make the arts accessible to everyone. To get people to dip their toe into the unknown.
My first adult theatre experience was a play about the life of Anton Chekhov. Come to think of it I don’t think my now husband realises this. It was kind of a date, I think, it was definitely something as I remember a heightened awareness of my lack of theatre knowledge, compared to the charming man who was taking me out. I *may* have read up a little on Chekhov. I even bought him (now husband, then housemate, not Chekhov) a book of the short stories, intending them to be a gift for Christmas. But I got so hooked on Chekhov’s wit and masterful storytelling that I kept the book for myself. There were two moments when I was concerned about being at the theatre: a) before going (I don’t know/understand what the play is about, I will pretend to be nonchalant and agreeably look forward to it, like I know who this Anton Chekhov man is) and b) after the theatre (I don’t know what intelligent things to say about it afterwards).
Now. Now I go to the theatre. If it’s something I don’t really know much about, I am intrigued. If it’s something I don’t really understand, then I wait until the story becomes clear or just say I don’t get it – do you? and the person I’m with will offer their view. It’s interesting. It’s sociable. I look forward to going to the theatre even just because it’s a night out! Usually with my partner or a good friend – it’s a treat. I have yet to go alone, but only because I can’t quite justify the babysitting for just me…I’m working on that.
So if you thought this was a theatre lovie running this blog, alas no! I am an average person (in my own, unique way…) who has discovered the theatre fairly late and I’m keen to help others overcome any hesitancy towards it.
Theatre is STORYTELLING. It is powerful, energetic, emotional. It gets you thinking and feeling.
But not in a painful ‘you must think of intellectual feedback on the play’ way. It gets you thinking naturally – just like when you enjoy or dislike a piece of music, a book or a sculpture.
I. LOVE. IT.
Middle Arts Fairy loves it too. In stark contrast to my own experience, she is already enjoying the regular benefits of theatre at the magnificent age of 3.
(Little Arts Fairy’s theatre experience is on hold after last year’s According to Arthur when she spent the whole show trying to jump off the raised seating area – she still has ants in her pants and can’t sit still for 5 minutes).
In some respects, the children of our generation are more fortunate. Now there are so many more different theatre workshops and performances put together with children specifically in mind. There’s more to the stage than your annual Dick Whittington. Every week amazing theatre companies are touring the country, bringing us fantastic shows and theatres have their own in-house groups putting on performances. Everything from beautiful adaptations of books to audience participation to puppetry and dance, there’s so much out there to light up big imaginations. Just this week in Exeter, we have children’s shows at two theatres for half term and we are guaranteed more in the Christmas holidays in addition to the traditional panto.
And going back to the grown-ups…there’s a show on most nights, catering for a variety of interests, tastes and budgets: from your £8 matinee to your £30 night at the opera (proper date-night territory, that). Lately I’m partial to anything comedy – it’s a good de-stresser, particularly when before even arriving at the theatre, you’ve had to: feed and bathe over-tired children; hand over to the babysitter; fix yourself some quick beans-on-toast; find something uncrinkled/clean/decent to wear; and slap some makeup onto your sweat-glistening face in the rear-view mirror. Yes, by the time you get to your seat, wine in hand, it suddenly becomes the perfect end-of-the-week antidote.
So. What are you waiting for? Go forth and be inspired by my story. Sort yourself out with a couple of tickets for a show that takes your fancy, book that babysitter and look forward to an evening of wonderful theatre, whatever and wherever that may be!
For what’s on at the theatre this season, keep an eye out for our winter/Christmas arts guide, coming soon…