Reading this, you probably don't get the impression of a cultured being. Amongst the arcane technical geekery and shameless indie bandwagon-hopping, I don't dedicate much time to my aesthetic tendencies. In fact, given the dearth of posts recently, I probably give the impression of a man whose hands have fallen off, but that is beside the point.
But this last fortnight has seen me to the theatre thrice. On the Wednesday before last, a generous friend gifted some complimentary (and rather plum) seats at the matinée of Noël Coward's Private Lives, at the King's Theatre. My previous exposure to Coward was limited to Mr. Bridger in The Italian Job and an obscure Divine Comedy cover from the late nineties. The comedy turned out to be a treat, and it made for a lovely afternoon out.
Fast-forward, then, to last night, when the same friend managed to get us tickets to See How They Run: a somewhat lighter, WW2-set farce. Though it lacked Coward's wit, I must admit that it had me rolling about in my seat, if not the aisles.
So far, so mundane. In fact, it would appear that I've adopted the mien of that irritating, self-satisfied Fast Show for whom everything works out just peachy. Which was nice. Such self-consciousness usually heralds your hero's downfall round these parts. Did he fall asleep on the bus home from the theatre? Perhaps he was run over by a blimp. Well, no, in fact everything is just fine, and you can keep your schadenfreude to yourself.
No, the peculiar part of the story comes while we were in the King's for the second time. You see, near the end of the first act, it is revealed that two of the characters previously acted together in… wait for it… Private Lives! Coincidence, n'est pas? At first, I thought it was a rather tacky advert for the other play on at the theatre (much like they drop the names of people who pay a bit of money into pantomimes these days—"Must dash! I'm off to the Opal Lounge with a bunch of egotistical solicitors!"), but it turns out to be a key point in the plot, and the foundation of much of the silliness that is to follow.
We were chuckling about this during the interval, when I remembered the other play that we had seen in the last week. The student theatre company here at Edinburgh put on a sterling performance of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead all last week. It was superbly acted and staged, even if I didn't get all of the references (perhaps the first paragraph is true after all). Never one to let an anachronism get in the way of a snappy comment, I suggested, "Wouldn't it be funny if they mentioned Ros and Guil in the third act?" Considering, in hindsight, that it was written more than a decade later, it seems only fair that we settled for Hamlet (the play on which it is itself based) instead.
And, as if to confirm our collective solipsism, in the third act Clive blurts out, "I am the ghost of Hamlet's father!" Since I could accept that non sequitur, I wouldn't have been surprised to see a 30 year-old Indian man walk on at the curtain call….