Gawd Bless Us One And All [send]

This is not a review.  Trust me.

To be honest, when I agreed to watch the HND Drama class of Telford College perform ‘A Christmas Carol’ last night, I didn’t appreciate how enjoyable a performance it would be.  It was a pretty minimal production but slick, with some really atmospheric use of vocals from the chorus in lieu of music or sound effects, plus just enough in the way of props to set the scene without cluttering the stage.  To be expected in any amateur production there was the odd bit of shouty over-acting (largely from a rather scary Mrs Cratchett) but most of it was great and some of the singing was downright beautiful.  Apples-and-pears accents were varied in quality and I did find myself wondering if the South African sounding bloke was plummy English, trying to be Cockney, or Scottish trying to be Cockney, or actually South African.  But hey, if it’s good enough for Dick Van Dyke…

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Sadly, my opinion’s rendered a little redundant on the basis that I get out so little you could plonk me in a comfy seat in front of a tray of germinating grass seed and I’d probably give it a resounding – but very naff – double thumbs up (as performed embarrassingly by countless mothers scrabbling for methods of non-verbal encouragement to kids on the other side of the gym hall/classroom/football pitch).

Distracting me throughout, however, was the crowd who sat directly in front of us.  Now, there were six in our group and – if Hallowe’en 2010 was anything to go by – we’re all of us familiar with varying shades of antisocial behaviour (indeed one of our party was nicely pished during the play – albeit in a fairly unobtrusive manner).  But a couple of the folk in the seats before us were behaving far worse as far as I’m concerned; running the gamut of bizarrely inappropriate theatre-goer activity.  Having arrived thirty minutes into the performance, the eight members of this eclectic gaggle tramped noisily up the stairs and settled themselves in front of us in a flurry of hats, scarves, bags, whispers and mobile phones.  From right to left in the row before me were 1. Fat Kid, 2. WAG, 3. Elegant Black Man, 4. Lanky Surf Teen.  In front of them were 1. Largely Proportioned Lady of Indeterminate Age, 2. Young Black Dude with Stumpy Dreads, and…OK, I forget what the other two were like.

To be fair most of them, once they’d settled into their seats, remained pretty quiet.  But WAG and Fat Kid immediately began displaying signs that they weren’t going to last the pace.  Both brought their mobile phones out within a couple of minutes and it wasn’t to switch them off.  WAG started texting, and the size of mobile screens being what they are these days, I couldn’t help but stare over her shoulder into the blinding light, in a desperate attempt to see what she was tapping in.  On one occasion, I swear it was “put ur phone away”.  She must have been sending messages to herself.  Fat Kid was quick to follow and kept his mobile firmly in his sweaty paw throughout.

In between WAG’s bouts of texting, there was an inordinate amount of hair-flicking (over my knees, largely) and sighing, and whispering with Fat Kid, who by this time I’d marked down as her son.  It’s doubtless the reproachful mum in me, but I didn’t feel she was setting a particularly good example.  Most of us neurotic parents would pass the time spent with our youngsters in a theatre tapping and elbowing them surreptitiously for any disruptive behaviour, not encouraging them to join in.  But Fat Kid was WAG’s firm partner in crime, and they hissed and snickered and played with their phones throughout the entire play.  I wanted to rap them on the shoulders like a true busy-body and if they’d both been under sixteen, I probably would have.

Then amazingly, at one darkly atmospheric – and very quiet – point in the proceedings, WAG – following a relatively subdued spell of about 30 seconds – suddenly shot forwards, slapped both hands on the shoulders of the stumpy-dreaded guy in front and went, “Boo!”.

“Boo”?!  In a theatre?  Am I some kind of drama snob or is that bad theatre etiquette?

Once the giggling had died down (mine too, I freely admit – we just couldn’t believe what we’d just witnessed), there was another lull in disruption before texting and hair-flicking resumed.  Fat Kid was mouthing everyone’s lines to make his mum titter and they had a great time parodying Death’s finger-pointing (which, incidentally, was impeccable).  They began tee-hee’ing at any remotely unusual phraseology in the language of the script, as if Dickens were some guy who lives down the street that wears daft hats and talks funny, rather than a lauded 19th century writer.

Also having his moments was Elegant Black Man, who I’d put down as WAG’s husband/boyfriend/significant other/date.  On presentation of Bob Cratchet’s goose, he startled us all with a poultry-related Tourette’s outburst, shouting, “What a goose!”.   Perhaps he was an ‘A Christmas Carol’ afficionado as this mirrored the next line of the play.  That, or he was genuinely thrilled at the plastic culinary offering which had just appeared onstage.  He had a few similar comments during the remainder of the show, all of which were conducted in what I presume was his normal, very well-projected, voice.  Or perhaps his normal voice is similar to Dom Joly on his giant mobile and this was in fact his stage whisper.  Either way it was quite disconcerting.

And then, out of the blue and a little late being apparently prompted by the “God bless us, one and all” remark, WAG started getting into it!  There was a song, during which only she clapped – loudly – and she was even joining in with the singing come the finale.  By this point I was beginning to suspect we weren’t the only party with an inebriated member.  Her enthusiasm seemed inversely proportional to the distraction she’d earlier displayed.  Nonetheless, I haven’t seen anyone shoot out of their seat quite as quickly when the curtain call finished.  The whole group were out of that theatre like rats up a rope.

“Did you enjoy that?” asks WAG of Lanky Surf Teen as she bounds to her feet  (he was the only member of the party who’d kept silent and still throughout, morose teen-dom being the likely reason).

“Yeah.”

Did she though?  I reckon she had a ball.

Me too…!

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2 Responses to Gawd Bless Us One And All [send]

  1. A great bonkers night out then? Double whammy for you – 2 stages of entertainment.
    Shame you didn’t pick up on her phone number – you could have had even more fun!

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