Sunday, 28 May 2017

Keep On Keeping On

Last week Twitter informed me that David Baddiel's current London show is to tour the UK next year. This makes me very happy. Back in October, compelled by the outpouring of celebrity tweets about its excellence, I booked a ticket for the matinee of it's last day of the run. I knew I just HAD to see it before it ended. I did the four-hour round trip to watch the penultimate performance of My Family: Not the Sitcom, at the Vaudeville Theatre, London. It felt like I'd be letting Nigella down if I didn't. The peer pressure from the celebrity endorsements was too much to stand.

So on the one hand, I feel quite the fool that the end of that run was followed up with another one in a different theatre, then following that, a nationwide tour. But on the other, I'm so chuffed it's continuing. I really want someone I know in real life to have watched it. I want to talk about how brilliant it is. I want to remember the hand-over-mouth, shockingly honest, utterly hilarious and beautifully respectful homage to his parents that it is.

Baddiel sets out a series of implied ground rules at the start. Far more cleverly than I am paraphrasing here, he explains that he feels he can talk about his recently-deceased Mum's life on stage because he is her son. In her absence, he is the caretaker of her memories. He then outlines the life of his Mum in such vivid colour, he gives us all permission to share those memories and laugh with him. It's what she would have wanted. She was larger than life. She is not to be remembered in hushed tones. She would have hated that. Again, I am paraphrasing - I saw this show over six months ago. These are the ideas I am left with. These are the insights I took away with me. To truly honour those that die, it's essential to remember them as real and not sanitised. It's OK to laugh. 

Last Monday, a city down the road was bereaved by a bomb at a crowded concert. Stewart Lee began his four-night run at the Lowry Theatre the following night, 3.4 miles away from the MEN arena. I had a ticket for the fourth night. I wasn't sure what to expect. Was it going to be cancelled? Would Stewart Lee need to change his act? Would the theatre be empty? Was it going to be OK?

The Lowry Theatre in the sun. 25.5.17
The show wasn't cancelled. The sold out auditorium was full. A few minutes before it began, Lee came on stage. Being Stewart Lee instead of 'Stewart Lee' he explained that the Lowry had talked to the police, upped security and agreed that the show must go on. This elicited a big cheer. The audience were onside. He then, rather sweetly and quite genuinely, thanked everyone for coming out in the face of adversity. Then he thanked the volunteer staff for enabling it all to happen. I guess he could have been worried people would feel scared to congregate in large leisure spaces. Or maybe he thought people would think it was disrespectful to be laughing and enjoying themselves so soon after neighbours and friends experienced terrible loss. I suppose he too must have wondered if he'd be playing to an empty house. (Clearly no one in the audience had felt that terrorism was going to stop them having a top night of comedy when they'd had the date in their diary for a year.) He thanked everyone again and then went off stage. When he returned, the show began and he was 'Stewart Lee'. Being brilliant, being angry, being ridiculously clever, and most importantly causing me to laugh hysterically for two hours without stopping. Oh how needed that was.

Salford Quays by night.
From the carpark.
When I got home I tweeted my thanks to the Lowry for staying open. I also read this that added a bit more insight. It must have been a tough decision both practically and emotionally but it felt right. When routines stop, when people hide in fear, when lives are not lived to the full, it disrespects those no longer here. And that would be wrong. 

Have a lovely week, folks. 

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