Friday, January 11th, 2013. Lunchtime.
I came back from a long and peaceful stay at my mum's house in Southern Spain yesterday. The day before, I spent some minutes hovering over the 'confirm flight change' button on the EasyJet website, desperately wanting to stay another week.
The only problem was, at the end of that week, I'd still have the problem of having to go home. Home to an empty flat. Home to the cold and grey of London in winter. Home to the office and the responsibilities of real life.
Plus I'd have a week's more work emails to deal with and a week's less holiday to take later in the year. So I decided to man up, finish packing, and get the heck on with it. Needless to say, the whole experience is proving somewhat traumatic.
Then, this morning, the greatest insult of all. The dreaded alarm clock. The dreaded office. 400-odd emails and a pressing deadline that caused me to skip lunch. I knew I shouldn't have come back...
But mid-way through the day, an email came in from my friend Jules. It said:
If you can go to Fuerzabruta at the Roundhouse then DO, it's amazing and joyous! I went 7 years ago when they (Argentinian dance troupe) were last in town and then again last night.
I immediately googled Fuerzabruta and saw this:
'The biggest natural high in town and absolutely irresistible' - Daily Telegraph
Now, an irresistible natural high sounds like just the tonic for these post-holiday blues. BUT tickets are basically sold out, apart from tonight at 7pm. Who am I going to find to drop everything and come to the theatre with me on a Friday night? And anyway, over £40 for a STANDING ticket? Everyone, including me, is broke from the Christmas madness. Any other time, I would have just dropped the idea, saved myself the cash, and headed for home and a blanket on the sofa. But then it hit me. I have never in my life been to the theatre on my own.
I don't know if this is unusual. I mentioned it to a couple of friends, all of whom seemed to have done it once or twice in the past. But to me, theatre is an experience I have always shared. Isn't half the fun to dissect it all afterwards? Isn't it a bit lonely and awkward to travel there alone, find your seat (or standing spot) alone, have an interval drink alone, and leave alone? ALL ALONE???
Well, sod it. I want my natural high. And perhaps going to the theatre alone will be a noteworthy right of passage, in this year of new experiences. I can't deny that it is slightly liberating, if also slightly scary, to hit 'confirm purchase' on a ticket for one, without reference to anyone else's pockets, preferences, or schedule. I'm not saying I want to live my life selfishly and alone. I don't. But since that's the position I am currently in I may as well explore it. After all, I won't learn anything new about myself tucked under a blanket on the sofa. So I'm booked and I'm about to dash home, eat the lunch I skipped, and make my way to the theatre on my own. Curtain up...
|Ticket for one!|
Later that evening…
I am home. Under a blanket on the sofa, eating leftover Christmas Stollen for supper. If I hadn’t gone out tonight I might be starting to worry…
|Christmas Stollen. A beautiful thing.|
Earlier that evening...
The Camden Roundhouse is packed. I stand in the queue at the box office and watch people scanning the near horizon for their friends. I keep thinking I might see someone I know, unsure if that would be a good thing, or if I’d have to try and avoid them to complete the challenge. Either way, it doesn’t happen.
The hordes file into the Main Space, which is dark and thumping with percussive music. A group of hipsters greet each other to my left, and I bristle with rage as one of them exclaims: “oh my god, it’s just like Auschwitz, hahahahaha.” For all the extraordinary kindness and goodness in the world, there really is some seriously stupid, thoughtless idiocy. A rant rises in my chest but dies there, because I have no one to share it with. I move away, deeper into the crowd.
It’s only about ten minutes until the show starts, but it feels longer. I play solitaire on my phone and wonder if I’m a conspicuous loner, whilst at the same time realising that this is a ridiculous notion. Why would I be conspicuous? The only one acutely aware of the fact that I am here alone is, well, me. At this moment it also occurs to me how ridiculous it was that I tried on three different tops before coming out. But girls will be girls, even when there’s no one to see them, I suppose.
|In this photograph, I carefully document my painstakingly chosen outfit. What a surprise. I am wearing black. So original, dahling.|
Spoiler alert: If, by any chance, you have tickets for the London showing of Fuerzabruta over the next couple of weeks, you may prefer to read the below after you’ve seen it. The strange surprises are half the fun. Consider yourself warned!
The performance starts with huge puffs of smoke, shuddering drums, and a loud chant that is somewhere between mournful and rebellious.
Guaira que sigue soplando. Guaira que sigue cantando. Guaira sera. Guaira sera.
Even though I am not exactly sure what a Guaira is in Argentinian Spanish, the chant strikes chords within me, moves me somehow. A guira, whatever it may be (the wind from the sea? An instrument of some kind?) continues to blow, continues to sing.
|The man who ran.|
And then we descend into chaos, the Fuerzabruta (brute force) of the title. If I was a creator of theatre, this is what I would like to create. Noise, exhilaration, madness. A complete lack of coherence. On a giant treadmill, a man runs and is shot down over and over again, each successive shirt spattered with blood and then removed and thrown to the ground. He runs through walls of flying cardboard boxes. He hurtles up stairs and falls. He does all he can to rescue tables and chairs that spin away from him, though they are not his tables and chairs. Wind and fine rain blast his face, and ours. It snows strips of fluttering white tissue paper. Girls run back and forth through silver waves, shimmering on the walls. A man and woman struggle and swarm on opposite sides of a spinning disc, suspended from the ceiling.
When the huge (and I mean huge) trays of water begin to descend from the ceiling, bodies writhing in the swishing shallows, I know that I have seen this before, on the TV I think. Eurovision, maybe. (Eurovision Moscow, I discover when I get home.)
|The generally terrible camera on my phone gets big points for this picture.|
The pools descend to just above our heads and the swimming, dancing girls fling themselves down with considerable violence. Everyone laughs nervously and we raise our palms to the flexible plastic separating us from the water. I am strangely, unusually aware of myself. This is stunning and magical, but I’m not lost in it. Maybe I'm trying too hard to have a good time.
|The water descends.|
|I TOTALLY had this one! With the cherries!|
Later, the audience crowd surfs a huge plastic sheet across the whole room. As it passes over me, the smell of it fills me with a wave of nostalgia, though for what I’m not sure. My Little Pony? I really love the smell of My Little Pony plastic. Don't judge me.
No no no, says my brain. It’s a bouncy castle! And of course, it is. It’s a giant bouncy castle, and we are inside it. Awesome. Old-fashioned aviators bounce above us, and then descend through holes in the dome to pluck up members of the audience. I confess to being somewhat disappointed that I am neither hoisted to the heavens nor – later - selected to have an exploding pizza box of glitter smashed over my head. I want to be part of this experience in a way that I can’t quite achieve. I think this is partly down to a distant, lingering regret that I did not pursue a career in the performing arts, and partly down to being alone tonight, and not quite liking it. I'm uneasy, half in and half outside of the experience.
|This blurry man in a suit has a pizza box full of glitter exploded over his head. Now that's one way to unwind after a day at the office.|
Somewhat abruptly, the show ends as it began, with drums and singing. The audience roars its appreciation and then shuffles into the crisp, cold night. It’s early, only 8.15pm, and people disperse to bars and restaurants. I start walking home, but it’s cold and I’m wearing a stupidly thin jacket, so when an empty taxi appears I grab it. You know the rest; blanket, sofa, cake etc… And that’s that. As far a new experiences go, it leans towards the anti-climactic. But I’m not in the least sorry that I went. It really was an amazing performance, packed with creativity and energy, well worth the price of the ticket, the cab ride, and the slight sense of solitude that accompanied the evening. I’m not sure solo theatre is my thing, but I’m pleased to know I can do it if I want to. Being brave, it transpires, doesn’t always mean doing something big. Curtain down.
Now, all this philosophising isn’t going to do me much good if it continues to be accompanied by sofa and cake. Thank goodness I’m getting up at silly o’clock tomorrow morning to do my first ever Bikram Yoga class.
Seventeen down, thirteen to go…