Eye/Saw – April 10-16

Four shows this week – five if you count a repeat visit. Only three of which were marred, to varying degrees, by the behaviour of audience members who should know better.

Monday: Scenes From 68* Years, Arcola ★★½

I couldn’t help but compare this show, comprising various scenes from life in the Middle East in the shadow of the Israel/Palestine conflict, with Bertolt Brecht’s Fear and Loathing of the Third Reich, which uses the same technique of disparate, apparently unconnected vignettes to show what civilian life is like. I think the Brecht play has rather more focus and impact, to be honest – jumping around seven decades tends to rid some of this new work of its potential power.

Tuesday: Goodnight Mister Tom, Aylesbury Waterside ★★★★★

I think I must have been the only audience member in this show, which is currently touring the UK, who hasn’t seen the ITV adaptation (which starred John Thaw) of Michelle Megoriam’s novel, or read the book itself. So I hadn’t really been aware of how the child at the heart of the story has a history of being abused by his mother, and who, after a time being evacuated to Dorset at the onset of World War II, has to return – and is subjected to more. Thankfully the serious story matter is delicately balanced in David Wood’s adaptation to provide a heartwarming, and beautifully presented, family drama. I loved this one so much I returned for the Saturday matinee, and am so glad I did.

Wednesday: Gatsby, Union Theatre ★★

I think it’s safe to say that this production of Ruby in the Dust’s adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel – which I quite enjoyed in a previous outing – doesn’t work. Ferne McCann, the former TOWIE member who plays Myrtle, isn’t as bad as many who previously noted her lack of experience and training had feared. I wish I could say the same for her “friends” who came to watch. Talking, giggling, taking photos and videos with their phones, passing round the bottles of white wine (and then, when that had run out, what seemed to be small cans of gin and tonic). During the interval, they then started loudly braying about how awful it was that they had been told off.

They may have come to support their friend, but when a cast member has to come over and tell you to be quiet during the show that stops being supportive and starts being disruptive.

Thursday: Closer, by Circa, Udderbelly ★★★★

Hula hoops and muscular men – what’s not to like? Well, there’s the celebrity and her friends sitting in the row behind us, who gave each other a running commentary of the circus skills on display, like a drunken audio description. Thankfully the quality of the onstage acrobatics helped to blank them out.

Friday: A day of rest

Well, it’s got to happen eventually, right?

Saturday: Goodnight Mister Tom, Aylesbury Waterside

As I said, I returned to Goodnight Mister Tom on Saturday, for the matinee (the roles of Tom and Zach being taken by the same young actors, Alex Taylor-McDowall and Oliver Loades, once again). And it was every bit as moving as Tuesday’s performance.

Unfortunately, beforehand the box office were having problems with their computer systems, which meant that those of us who needed to collect our tickets faced a long delay. The staff were, as is usual for the venue, professional and courteous throughout, explaining that the show would be delayed until we could all get seated and, when the system’s printers clearly weren’t working they were writing out compliments slips by hand to get us in and seated as quickly as possible.

Throughout, as I said, they were calm, collected and sympathetic. Which is more than can be said for a few of the audience who were affected. One woman in particular – who claimed to be a professional theatre trip organiser – got particularly irate, accusing the staff of being unprofessional before announcing that she was going to go up to the circle and take her seat, front of house staff be damned (by this point, she was talking over the manager insisting that there was no need as the show was being held).

Every time I see staff being so calm and polite in the face of such rudeness, I marvel at their patience. The measure of a good theatre front of house team is how they cope under pressure, and in this case I’d say Aylesbury’s team were a damn sight more professional than the woman haranguing them.

A salutary lesson that disruptive audience members aren’t only found on their phones when the house lights come down. We will all get a better experience from our theatres if we, the audiencegoers, treat others – audience, staff and performers – with respect.

Photo: Paul Hird on Flickr

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