I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s invariably a Sondheim lyric to encapsulate every life situation, and as we embark on a New Year, here’s s Sondheim thought to begin 2014 with:
I’ve run the gamut, A to Z,
Three cheers and dammit, C’est la vie
I got through all of last year, and I’m here
Lord knows, at least I was there, and I’m here
Look who’s here, I’m still here
That, of course, comes from I’m Still Here, an anthem to showbusiness survival from his 1971 masterpiece Follies. But on New Year’s Eve, I also (rather more cheesily) thought of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard and the lyrics to ‘The Perfect Year’, too:
It’s New Year’s Eve, and hope are high
Dance one year in, kiss one good-bye
Another chance, another start
So many dreams to tease the heart.
To (mis)quote Noel Coward, it’s extraordinary how potent cheap lyrics can be! But there’s something also affectingly simple in that expression of pure hope. And regular readers of this blog will know that I am making another start of my own this New Year, after a 2013 that was defined by endless pain and spinal surgery in the first part of the year, then a major change in professional circumstances at the end of it that was painful in other ways (though also inspiring for the sheer amount of support I garnered from professional friends, colleagues, the public and even ‘enemies’).
But I am already confronting the task of making other changes that I hope will introduce more equilibrium to my life – starting with this blog. Blogs are made entirely in its author’s own image; we choose how much to divulge, or not, about ourselves, even as we use it also as a sounding board for more general issues affecting the territory we cover. I have long positioned this blog as a public champion for theatrical matters (and manners), and I make no apology for occasionally crossing swords with the custodians of the gates to what I write about. As one prominent producer recently dubbed me, I’m the caped crusader of the industry – a label I wear with pride.
I’m not always right, of course – and am happy to stand corrected when I get it wrong. But it’s important to speak up, and loudly, whenever I can. But at the same time, it comes at too high a personal cost when I write about myself too much, so will resist that in future.
But even as I make that commitment with myself, I will also share my other personal New Year’s resolution, and that’s to go to the theatre less this year. It’s all relative, of course – as someone who has historically thought nothing of seeing eight to ten shows a week, I’d still be seeing a lot if I saw even half that number. Many of my critical colleagues only see between one and three shows a week, so I’d still be seeing more than them.
But then it isn’t a competition, either. It’s just a question of recalibrating my life and my time so that I achieve a (necessary) balance between time spent in theatres and away from them. I’ve just been putting it to the test in New York, where I’ve been since Christmas, and it has been proved to me that it is possible.
The moment you decide that don’t need to see everything is the time when a kind of theatrical liberation is achieved. And New York this Christmas has made the test relatively easy: I’ve thought nothing of missing such shows as A Night with Janis Joplin, Ethan Hawke’s Macbeth (I saw three as it is in London last year alone), Pinter’s No Man’s Land in a production with Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart (I’ve seen the play many times over the years), or Billy Crystal’s solo show 700 Sundays. I’m sort of tempted to catch a new musical called A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, but only because I collect most musicals if I can.
I’m off to Florida tomorrow, but am returning to Broadway en route back to London so will see some more then. Meanwhile, of course, I’ll be watching Broadway – and the awakening London theatre season – with interest from a spot in the sun (I hope), and will be reporting here daily.