The evening started well with fizzy drinks and olives in the bar of a small London theatre reviving a play once describe as ‘elusive’. On entering the auditorium the two old miseries sitting at the end of our row reading newspapers, refused to let us pass. “You’re sitting in the middle. Enter from the other side,” said the man without looking up. This meant walking across the stage and flattening ourselves against a supporting pillar to gain access, but it made us laugh…
Then the lights went down and two minutes into the piece about a vicar and a hoodie conman, I’d lost interest. My heart sank. When you’re losing the will to live, an hour in the dark is a very long time.
First instincts can be wrong. There were moments that were truly engaging. But as the first act drew to a close there was a Chaplinesque sequence where the snoring Vicar’s good suit and shoes (he’s fallen asleep mid-conversation on a public bench near the sea on an overcast day) are stolen by the young man who is, incidentally, raising a six-week-old baby in a supermarket trolley.
For me it was a silliness too far. I was already struggling with the vicar’s failure to ring Social Services or to at least inquire about the child’s provenance, its welfare, or its mother’s whereabouts. Thankfully, my companion was equally irritated. We left at the interval hoping the actor didn’t catch a cold from being left undressed on a bench and genuinely surprised that, apart from a woman who’d been admonished for sighing and exclaiming loudly and a bespectacled man in deep slumber who was genuinely snoring, large numbers of the audience were clearly enraptured by proceedings.
Einstein reduced relativity to this elegant thought: When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute, and it’s longer than any hour. An hour in a theatre is a long time if you’re not enjoying yourself, but the conventions of public performance rightly demand we don’t disturb the concentration or enjoyment of others in the space. We have a similar convention at Tricycle Readers. If members hate a particular week’s story or poem, they have to wait until it’s been read to the group, and by the group, before going on the offensive.
What’s different is that we’re listening over coffee and biscuits and the entertainment is free, so there’s no sense of regret when the text is a disappointment, only a driving desire to identify what – if anything – didn’t work and why. Indeed, where else in Central London on a Monday morning can you get 90 minutes of entertainment, analysis, conversation, refreshment, and pure pleasure for the cost of a smile? Attending Tricycle Readers means never wanting to leave in the interval.
We’ve been on our Half Term break, but the group restarts at 10.30 on Monday November 3 and takes us into winter, ending December 1. Why don’t you join us?