Friday, 20 March 2009


Well so far this year I have managed, thanks to the wily marketing tricks of the good people at TicketMaster and See, plus the fact that I'm a sucker for being on the mailing list of various venues in my local area, to spend nothing short of a small fortune on tickets "to go and see things".

On Thursday last we went to see Brainiac Live at the Colston Hall in Bristol. The four of us went. It was a family outing, on a school night, to the theatre. How civilized!

Except it was no ordinary theatrical production. It was more a series of demonstrations, loosely justified as "science abuse", of explosions, of how inflammable certain gases are, of how far you can inflate things made out of rubber before they go bang, and of which method of propulsion makes an office chair spin round the fastest.

It was hilarious, although my daughter, like me, spent most of the show with her fingers jammed into her ears. As a balloon-a-phobe who winces even at the sight of a party balloon floating within earshot, I did find this production quite a challenge to sit through.

What I found really interesting was that, although there were plenty whoops and cheers and noisy stamping and clapping during the show, partly on the bidding of the Brainiac team as they demonstrated the science of decibels, when the show came to an end, there was no rapturous applause, no standing ovation. As the actors left the stage the audience clapped a bit, then got up and filed out. No bowing went on, no running on and off stage for more audience appreciation, no opening and closing of curtains and all that business that usually goes on in a more artisitic production. It made me feel a bit sorry for the people on the stage, who'd given it their all, and who deserved a bit more appreciation from the paying public.

I got to thinking - maybe this was to do with the fact that we were not in the company of luvvies, but rather more rational, less emotional scientific types, and that the show wasn't really Art but Science. But one look in the programme revealed that the majority of players had indeed received a theatrical training - in some cases even balletic.

Maybe it is that Science is not as emotionally engaging as Art. Or that the kind of audience this attracted are not your typical theatre-going types, who maybe don't know all the luvvie conventions.

Maybe as an audience we were confused, in the absurdist sense, about the barriers between stage and auditorium being blurred, about the roles of actor and spectator being reversed, as images of members of the audience in various compromising positions flashed up on the big screen at the back of the stage.

Or maybe we were all just sick of choking on dry ice and talcum powder, and, it being a school night, desperate to be the first at the pay-on-foot machine in the car park.

So what's next in my theatrical year? In April I'm taking the kids to see Oliver, in May its the Swindon Literature Festival, of which more later, and in August its U2 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. And I've only just found out about Bocelli coming on tour in the autumn.....

Personally I blame Andrew Lloyd Webber and Graham Norton. How dare they popularise British musical theatre?