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Those “Emperor’s New Clothes” moments

September 28, 2016

I saw “No Man’s Land” at Wyndham’s Theatre last Saturday, and can’t stop thinking about it. What did it all MEAN?! I decided that it was about death. The first half was a musical, old men singing their lives as the curtain falls. The second, the afterlife struggle with devils, trying to regain lost power. That was my reaction and conclusion, partly reached during the performance, partly after much thought afterwards.

The thing is, though, something else also niggled at me…

… had I been duped? Was “The King in the All Together?” Was either Pinter having a laugh at the expense of well, basically, everybody – or have I simply joined the ranks of those who don’t dare to question, but accept that the finery is all there?

Put bluntly, was I paying good money to sit through a right load of old w**k – basically a bunch of disconnected words with a decent knob gag and comedy magic routine thrown in? More to the point, was I being a total pretentious t*at for not realising, or being willing to “go along with it all, because it is the-ay-tar, dar-ling?”

I think I was having one of those moments when I perhaps saw theatre as, well, those who lead their lives in wildly different ways to me might see it.

A couple of weeks ago, I surprised a person I was chatting to, when they asked, “what do you see,” and I replied “literally everything, I love panto as much as Shakespeare.” But I want to go further. I’m also a huge fan of “Coronation Street” (the “senior soap”) and also have never missed an episode of “Hollyoaks” either – a soap so vacuous half the cast asphyxiate in the lack of oxygen within the script. But I love it.

I’ve also not yet missed an episode of the infamous “Stage School” – a “reality TV show for producers who can’t get a job on proper reality TV shows,” and am already blacking out my autumnal Saturday evenings “The X-Factor” as always.

My point is, what would others who watch those TV programmes and enjoy them as much as I do, make of Pinter’s two men telling tales in few words and making little sense, to a silent audience hanging on every syllable and paying up to £125 for the privilege.

I can think of quite a lot of people I know – even one or two friends – who would have either left the theatre after 10 minutes (pausing only to torture the box office staff until they got refunds), fallen asleep, or simply started heckling to a point where police intervention would be required.

And my question is, would they be right? Maybe, and obviously, not to the extremes I’ve outlined for comic effect, but I mean in seeing that collection of words for what it is? It’s not like there was a story (unless you invent one for yourself) nor a point, moral or fable. It was people talking, drinking and eating, and not even people you could relate to in everyday life – they weren’t even speaking naturally, for goodness sake!

And yet, the label reads “art,” no “f” before it either, and the play has seldom been out of production since the 1970s. Should all “art” be inclusive and “intellectually accessible” or are those who consider themselves “intellectual enough to access it” in fact a bunch of deluded prats with a god-complex? I honestly hope not, and that rather like the play itself, I’m putting an interpretation on it…

…but still, I have to wonder, is there such a thing as a “G-String for the mind” – a thought processes we put on a play, covering something which isn’t there or that we’d rather not see – and do us theatregoers employ it rather more than we would like to admit? Like I said, I wonder…

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