It’s a recurring theme of this blog just how much theatre there is out there to cover. It does mean, of course, that a theatre journalist is never short of material to write about, but there simply aren’t the nights in the week to cover it all. But as regular readers of this blog will also know, it’s not for lack of trying; and I’m far from alone.
Last weekend, I was a matinee at the Rose in Kingston and Michael Billington was also there with his wife Janine; later that day, he was also at the National’s Cottesloe to catch This House, whose press night had been postponed owing to the sad and sudden death of Phil Daniels’s wife.
And in Michael Coveney’s own blog of his theatrical activities last weekend, he wrote of also going to the Rose on Friday, This House on Saturday, and both the Union Theatre (for Call Me Madam) and a Clerkenwell warehouse (for the National Theatre of Scotland’s Enquirer) on Sunday evening.
Do we three – critics who are now in our fifties, sixties and seventies – simply see too much, or do we know no other way? I love our combined enthusiasm myself, but perhaps we could learn a thing or two from the young(er) guns, specifically 24-year-old Jake Orr who set up and runs A Younger Theatre, a blog that has turned into a website that offers a voice to other young critics beyond his own.
In a blog posting last weekend, he wrote of putting himself “on a period of leave – although hiding might be appropriate too – from theatre in order to collect myself both mentally and physically.”
There are times when I’d love to go into hiding, too, but I’m glad I’m not alone in the sense of siege we are sometimes put under: as Jake writes,
On an average day I’ll get invited to at least three shows – and this is me personally, not taking into consideration the number of shows that go directly to our Reviews Editor. This week alone AYT has been invited to more than 30 shows opening in London.
He can’t, and nor can I, be everywhere. But as he writes, “It’s just not about being able to see everything, it’s about a way of life.” But is there more to life than the theatre? Jake is hoping there is:
When your love for something becomes your life, your every moment and time, then it borders on obsession. It’s an addiction. But it’s not always a healthy addiction. If I followed up every invite I got in my inbox then I’d never see anything more than the back of someone’s head in front of me at the theatre. I’d no doubt strike up small but insignificant friendships with ushers and box office managers in the hope that they can offer me a moment of friendship and connection. What I’m saying is simple: theatre is my passion, but it can’t be my life too. There have to be borders, I have to define where my theatre passion starts, and where my life, as Jake Orr, begins.
To put it another way: I’m a young 24-year-old gay male. I enjoy theatre, seeing friends, reading, walks by the river, and the cold side of the pillow. (Yes, I’m sure I’ve used that on a dating website somewhere.)
Perhaps Jake is right and the two Michaels and me need all not to get out more, but stay in more, too. (I know my partner would welcome it!) I’ve been trying to schedule myself at least one day off a week from the theatre, but even this modest aim is regularly defeated: I was all set to take last Sunday off, when I realised that it was the only day I could take in the Paines Plough shows at Shoreditch Town Hall. I decided to at least keep part of the day free by not seeing all three and instead only going to two of them. I’m certainly glad I saw them, especially Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs which is immediately one of my plays of the year now.
But no sooner did I tweet about them than Paines Plough replied,
At least they asked politely. But other companies are far more insistent and persistent. Sometimes it’s my own fault: instead of a polite but firm ‘no’, I’ll say ‘maybe’ or ‘I’ll try’ and that seems to open the floodgates to a barrage of calls and e-mails to follow up whether I can turn that into a yes. A simple ‘no’ would close the door.
But Jake is right; there is a life beyond the theatre. And he’s young enough to want to find one still. I consider myself lucky indeed to have found not one but two loves of my life: my partner (now husband) and the theatre. Sometimes I may confuse just which of them I am married to. But who says I can’t be married to both? My luck is that my partner is a happy fixture at first nights now with me.