Friday 27 March 2009

Ordeal by swan

‘If we’re the only ones there, we’re getting right out. OK?’
Rachel was worried. We’d decided, a few weeks ago, that we needed some ‘culture’. So, having had a successful night at the village ‘cinema’ watching Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (rather charming) we thought we’d up the ante and go for a bit of theatre.
‘Are we stuck right at the back?’
‘No. That’s what’s worrying. We’re right in the middle. Prime seats.’
I took her point. When you book last minute and get the best seats in the house, it does rather point to a stinker.
Our doubts were confirmed when we got to the theatre and were greeted by, not the usual polite hum, tinkle of laughter and the clank of long beads, but a raucous wall of noise. The theatre bar had turned into a student union with hoards of sixteen year olds shrieking and squawking.
‘School outing?’ Rachel said hopefully.
‘Nah. Dressing the house. It’s desperate.’
Sure enough, when we walked in, the audience was, shall we say, sparse. Every new entrance was greeted by a collective spinning of heads, along with a frequent checking of watches (in the dim hope maybe that we’d all got the time wrong and everybody was suddenly going to pile in, laughing and waving programmes). Indeed, the cavalry did appear – fifty or so of the aforementioned students, clearly not a ticket amongst them, wooshed in and at least gave the appearance of a half-full house.
‘What’s it about?’ I asked.
Rachel had the grace to look abashed.
‘Er, well. It’s about a woman who falls in love with a swan.’
‘Ooh. Greek myth type thing?’ My hopes rose.
‘Hmm. Not really. There are puppets.’
‘Puppets could be good.’
‘You’re so bloody optimistic. Puppets are never good.’ Rachel looked glum.’

The actors came on and were deeply thespy. My heart sank. There was a lot of gesturing towards what looked like a white piñata but was, apparently, an egg. ‘It’s a bloody balloon with papier mache,’ hissed Rachel and started to giggle.
The ‘egg’ was then taken down and whooshed around the stage while two other people added wings and a long neck. Rachel stuffed her head in her handbag and made muffled snorting noises. I bit my cheek so hard I nearly yelped but still my shoulders were shaking with helpless laughter.

It got worse and worse. There was a girl whose mother had died (and came back to visit her in dreams) who liked swans. There was a rather unpleasant man from the library who fancied her (the girl, not the dead mother). There was another girl who tossed her father’s ashes into the river, only to have them eaten by the swan. The swan then started to talk to the first girl. The swan was the second girl’s father (presumably ashes hold the ‘spirit’ of the person which can be transferred to anything passing by – makes you think twice about where you scatter really – you don’t really want your parents cropping up as talking fish, or ducks, or slugs, do you?). Are you still with me? Ten to one you wish you weren’t.
The canny bastards didn’t chance an interval – they must have known darn well that we’d have collectively made a run for the doors.
So we endured.
The girl fell in love with the swan, even though the swan crapped on her floors. They made plans to buy a house-boat ‘to lead a normal life’. Which begs the question, what kind of normal life are you going to live with a swan? The other girl never found out that her father had turned into a swan (which was a blessing as she was feeling guilty enough about dumping his ashes in the river without telling her mother). Then some drunken oik tried to rape the other girl and the swan, being her father, intervened and got himself bashed in. Girl cries. Swan dies. Lights go down. Sigh of relief all round and rapturous applause to the players’ evident bemusement. We’re grateful, you nutters. Grateful as puck that the darn thing is over and that it only lasted 90 minutes or so.

We limped home in Rachel’s on-its-last-legs car (cracked windscreen, two bald tyres, smashed headlight and a tendency to stall on slowing down) and decided we were both too tired and depressed to go for a drink.
‘Next one might be better,’ I said hopefully.
Rachel just gave me a look and drove off, bald tyres spinning into the night.
What was the play? Sorry. Cobbo by Theatre Alibi at the Brewhouse Theatre.....


Fire Byrd said...

Well the review was certainly entertaining. So glad you sat through it so you could tell us all about it.... LOL

Barbee' said...

Yes, thanks for suffering through to the end. Now, I won't have to ever sit through that one!

Edward said...

Thanks a lot for spoiling the end. I had front row tickets for this! Now I'll have to stay in and watch Dexter instead.

Seriously, I felt your pain, through my tears of laughter.

Cat said...

I'm remembering all my children's school plays with a bit more appreciation now since they may have been abit better than what you sat thru. Thank you for the wonderful review and the wonderful laugh I had.

Maggie Christie said...

Eek! Poor you, but I thoroguhly enjoyed hearing about it! I went to something like this recently which featured three women pretending they had hatched a dragon egg. It culminated in a visit to said hatched dragon, which my children thought was real (and I thought was surreal). The worst in theatre experience I had was a play which involved a great deal of audience participation. When I arrived to review it with my shiny new boyfriend the rest of the audience was my ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend and one other. Thankfully it was cancelled and we went to the pub!

maddie said...

I bet they got bloody Arts Council funding for it.
I come out in a rash when out of my comfort zone and into a theatre. I had press tickets for a Shakespeare production of a Midsummer's Night's Dream at Stratford and I had to walk out after the first half. It was the science fiction version.
Looking forward to going to our village hall tonight to see the film Morris: A Life With Bells On.

Ladybird World Mother said...

Oh, lucky lucky you! I have spent delicious hours of helpless laughter going to Appalling Theatre Productions. This one did sound a bit Awful... even for me. Well done for keeping up with the plot... I got lost swiftly after the papier mache egg.
Sounds like you need a bit of Proper Culture now... or just a nice cup of tea and a cream bun.X

Fennie said...

Oh dear your giving us thesps a bad name. But we are sold out, in fact we were sold out by yesterday which is unprecedented. Must be the credit crunch - £6 a ticket and wine at £1.50 can't be bad. But then we don't do swans or papier mashé eggs, though we have done forests, monsters and volcanoes before now. Hope you go again. Otherwise spin the bald tyres and cracked windscreen in this direction. As Sammy Davis said once: "I'm a ham. I open the refrigerator door. The light comes on. And I do 20 minutes."

Minnie said...

Great stuff, Jane, and beautifully-expressed. To top that, you even made me laugh ...!
Pity about the swan - it worked for Leda and Zeus.
Perhaps you'd better stay away from Lohengrin as well. Although I don't think you're in much danger of any West Country company taking THAT on (you never know, though, do you?).
Bon courage,

Welsh Girl said...

At least you had a good laugh, even if it wasn't meant as a comedy. Why oh why does everybody love doing 'weird stuff' for the theatre now? Leda and the swan is a dubious enough story to start with. It should have been left in the depths of mythology where it belongs and had no business inspiring other lovelorn swan stories....

Rob-bear said...

Well, at least you're supporters of the arts. There must be some kind of medal for enduring what you did.

Anonymous said...

So, do you think it will make it to the West End?

Sorrow said...

I have scrapped myself off the floor, dried my face,
and only my shoulders are shaking.
It's one of those moments when you dash for the door, and some one asks" is there something wrong with your seat?" and you reply " YES! it faces the stage!"
thank you, i needed a giggle like this today!

Irish Eyes said...

One of those plays then when culture should lose the ture, and a second l be added onto in culling the thesps or the writer eh?

A howler and E.D., and I are struggling not to have heart failure laughing our heads off, you brave woman you!!!!!

Mopsa said...

Jane, I saw it too, but completely disagree.... house full, very appreciative audience - we laughed a lot.

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

Oh my, you do pick them don't you? I got hopelessly lost with the plot but loved the idea of a houseboat with a swan being a normal life! Think you should have had that drink though, you had earned one.

Carrie said...

Oh my god, I'll keep this short - THANK YOU. Passing the laptop over to the hubby - need to share this!!

Calico Kate said...

Great review! Astonished that you stayed put to the end. You are obviously a very well brought up young lady!

claire p said...

Well it was an experience. Thank you for taking the bullet for the rest of us!

"Moaning Mum" said...

Do you ever find yourself out at a production of something or other, squirming uncomfortably on your chair, daydreaming, checking your watch several times an hour, wishing you were home under a blanket in the front room stuffing your face with Haagan-Daz? .... or is that just me?

LadyLuz said...

Have been to enough daft productions to know that the one you went to beats the band. Deliciously funny review, J, thanks.

Keep your eye out for Kneehigh Theatre of Cornwall - you might have better luck.

Minnie said...

@LadyLuz + Jane: Kneehigh ... yes! The late, great Nick Darke - Kernow to the core - and, of course, his own Jane. A terrific company. Their 'King of Prussia' was really good theatre and a deserved success. If you haven't already had the pleasure, Jane, catch them whenever/wherever you can!

Anonymous said...

That reminds me of the woman who fell in love with the Berlin Wall:


It is people like this who make me feel normal!

snailbeachshepherdess said...

thanks for that Jane - loved it - I now ache!

Unknown said...


You're a brave soul to have sat the whole way through. Honestly, I'd have just got up and left and gone for that drink instead! Life's too short and all that! ;-)


That sounds hilarious, Jane. Full marks for keeping up right until the end - I think I'd have been thoroughly confused by the attachment of limbs to the pinata and tried to sidle out quietly to the bar.


60GoingOn16 said...

Lordy; as I started reading this I thought you sounded just how I felt a few years ago when I had to sit through a dire perfomance by a company called Theatre Alibi (at the Tacchi-Morris community arts venue in Taunton). And then I got to the end of your post . . . oh dear, so they're still going then? Unfortunately, the people I went with thought they were wonderful. So I assumed that it was just me. But no! Thanks Jane; you've restored my faith in my own judgement and made me laugh at the same time.

Queen Vixen said...

Oh my goodness. How excruciating. Hehehe - having been in several similar situations I know how utterly cringeworthy this kind of thing is. Funny at the time - even funnier when you have escaped and put at least 10 miles and 5 gin and tonics between you and the whole grim experience.

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Penny Pincher said...

Our Reading Group 'did' Miss Pettigrew . . . I was quite interested in seeing the film but it bounced in and out of the cinema in Sidmouth so quickly none of us had chance to see it.