When you replace book club with theatre club

I liken Theatre Club to the classic yoga mantra:  Inhale / Exhale.  First, there is an intake of breath.  Not a short, sharp breath – more of a slow and considered inhale, followed by a long, languid exhale.

When I enter a space of performance, whether it’s in a shabby rehearsal room or a red, velvety auditorium – I await the inhale.  I can usually pinpoint the moment – perhaps it’s as the curtains open or the lights dim.   It can be as audience-silence falls or as the first noise breaks.  There is always a moment where I physically and metaphorically take that long (and deliberate) breath in.  I inhale a little bit of excitement but mostly it’s a whole lot of anticipation and I hang on to that until the play ends.

At this point I am ready to come up for air – perhaps to blow verbal hot air, sometimes to cry, occasionally swear.   Often I have spent the entire production storing a beautifully crafted quote in my head or mentally capturing a movement, thought or emotion and each and every time I want to let it out somewhere.  Express what I have saved.  I want to share it with other humans who have experienced what I have.    Previously I have kept that breath of mixed emotions, held onto them – sometimes for 24 hours, before verbally spewing them out to somebody unsuspecting.   By now I’m incoherent, out of breath and getting the quote wrong – trying to over enthusiastically explain the magic to a person who wasn’t there.   It’s like conversing through a glass window.  They hear you…but the message is muffled.

Theatre Club is the solution.  The glass is removed.  The time lapse is removed.   You seamlessly move from theatre to theatre club.  Into an ‘after show’ atmosphere where it’s okay to indulgently exhale with those who ‘get it’.  They may disagree with you but they understand and it feels acceptable to share opposing or similar thoughts.

Our first ‘After Show Party’ Theatre Club –  in Colchester – was EVERY BRILLIANT THING at The Lakeside Theatre.  It is safe to say that it was liked by everybody, with the majority of people loving it, and some being physically moved by it.   I was in a very small minority where I didn’t have the same reaction.  I still felt I could express myself in the Theatre Club forum – openly and without judgement  –  which felt good.  And breathe!

I felt a disconnection with the actor Jonny Donahoe.  He felt like a very likeable, very knowledgeable, super proficient teacher.  A guide.  A master.  A professor.   He knew what he was talking about and he told a sensitive story extremely well.

He controlled the audience with his confidence and quick reactions.  I can’t fault him but I didn’t feel  him because it didn’t feel like HIS story.  For me, he wasn’t the muse or the pupil or the protagonist of the story (despite being the only actor on stage).  He didn’t feel authentic in his grief and I wasn’t surprised to learn that he hadn’t written or experienced EVERY BRILLIANT THING.     Does it matter?    No.  Were the issues very real?  Yes.  Does that matter more?  Of course it does and I’m genuinely pleased that it touched people, opening up the debate on mental health.  Does it matter that it didn’t touch me?   No.  What matters to me is the fact that I have found somewhere to breathe.

Roll on the next Theatre Club in Colchester.  BULLY BOY at the studio, THE MERCURY THEATRE, Monday 16th November 2015

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