Thursday, 4 September 2014

Birthmonth Day Four: Les Misérables


The Ambition to be a genius inventor was more an assumption that I was a genius, than a desire to invent.  We had some kind of huge instruction manual for a computer (possibly the Amstrad) that as far as I could make out was just pages and pages of numbers, and I would pretend that I could read this and that it made sense.  There was also a broken calculator around and I would stare at its circuit board and pretend that I understood any of it. 

I did not. 

I lost interest in being an inventor pretty quickly after it became clear to me that I didn’t have an innate scientific genius.  I didn’t want to have to think of things that needed inventing.  I just wanted it to all be in there without any effort from me, the conscious part of The Mind.  This is probably about the time I lost all conceivable interest in the logical, factual subjects like science, maths and geography and I’d barely even started school. 

So in conclusion, I wouldn’t have made a very good inventor.
This damn thing doesn't work at all!

The Father, who was always interested in the logical, factual kind of subjects, nevertheless took me on several theatre outings.  It was the kind of thing I didn’t appreciate very much at the time.  I didn’t consider the generosity of being taken to the theatre, an activity I was and am keen to do, but only reflected on how the shows themselves made me feel.  But that’s children for you.  I appreciate now every opportunity I’ve had to take in the arts and wish I could have more.

Well, maybe not ‘the arts’ so much as ‘the comedies’ but anyway…

The first show, other than that pantomime I mentioned yesterday, that I recall The Father taking me to see was A Christmas Carol (by Charles Dickens, adapted by Neil Sissons & Nick Chadwin/Compass Theatre Company/1997).  It was a small affair, six people, no particular set and some pointless songs.  I was more interested in the fact that the theatre we were in was blackened and hollowed out and we had to sit on fold-down chairs that you stacked away later.  The only thing I can remember about the show at all was that Tiny Tim was played by a woman, a fact that I began to wonder if I had mixed up with the production in Scrooged.

And my reaction to the show was pretty much the same as Bill Murray’s there.

But then came Les Misérables (by Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, based on the novel by Victor Hugo/The Cameron Mackintosh Royal Shakespeare Company Production/The Mayflower, Southampton/April-June 1998). 

The Mother and The Father both adored this show.  I grew up surrounded by the soundtrack.  I don’t have an ear for music, at all, but when I was a kid I could sing you one of these tunes by heart having no idea where it came from.  Later, The Father and The Stepmother went on to see this show something like eight billion times.  So The Father taking me to see it was probably a big deal.

In my defence
not having an ear for music (I’m rhythm-deaf, which is like tone-deaf, but y’know, with rhythm) makes it difficult for me to listen to ‘through-sung’ musicals, apart from the fact that I think through-sung musicals SUCK. 

There was another problem too.

It’s not exactly the happiest show in the world, is it.

So at the end, when I refused to stand up to applaud, because I was thoroughly misérable, and The Father got annoyed with me, I really don't see that I was to blame.  I was thirteen.  I needed more than 5% of the cast to survive to the end bow.

I will say this for them, though.  The rotating set of death was awesome cool.

I will also say that I did go on to read the novel, which was the longest book I ever read at the time, and possibly this is still the case, and this has given me many happy years of telling people how the stage show differs from the 1000-page mostly-metaphorical original tome. 

And it was the first step on The Way to knowing the universal truth about The Self.  I don’t like serious things.

So, sometimes the magic of theatre works in mysterious ways.

Fascinating Fact: I was just looking through The Programme and it turns out that the actor who played Bamatabois/Grantaire in Les Misérables was the same actor who played Shere Khan in The Jungle Book which I saw about five years previously.  Ooh.

What's the most miserable show you've seen?

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