We know that we are uncomfortable in theatres. Hard seats n ice cream intervals. Little people like dolls moving around on a stage that feels very very far away. The set-up of: person on stage/people in audience/watching each other/one-sided address makes me feel strange and I don’t know why.
But ’Him’ was a shift in that arrangement. When we are initially stuck in our discomfort and we feel a hand reach out towards us, suddenly theatre feels special. we should acknowledge that welcoming. I don’t know if it’s just because monologues feel more intimate, but something felt nicer and less stiff. The theatre was warm and there weren’t people on the row in front of us, so we put our legs up on the seats and slouched into the narrative, likesoft leather bookmarks.
We never actually found out what his name was, the actor (i googled, ‘Actor Tim Barlow reflects on life at 80 in this new work by writer and theatre maker Sheila Hill’ etc. etc.).
And there were dance breaks. Instead of quiet ice cream stops there were loud cello passes of only a few moments, but enough to break it all down like adverts do to coronation street. And with this, it felt less like a monologue where one person is speaking at you, and felt more like a monologue where someone is chatting about their day (in the case of Him, a day was a life and everything that should have been stretched out was pulled in and held down in a scrapbook).
The words the actor was speaking came up behind him on a screen, and I thought it was pre-recorded (simply playing script subtitles) until the initial audio problems when the shuffling came up on the screen too. There was live audio description of the entire speech, immediate, inelegant. Tbh I liked that. I liked that there were more people in on this one-man-show than we saw. Something about this kind of monologue felt collective(-ish). I’m not sure I can explain it more than that.
Afterwards, as we were all filing out, Gab stopped when she heard people talking about what they had just seen. Someone said that there was something about the man on stage with man on screen with man playing cello (or double bass, who knows, music whatever) that felt strange and special. Like an almost meta - - ness but not that conspicuous. Something underhand and affecting about seeing someone on a screen and on a stage, dancing together and talking about big bands and Ella Fitzgerald. Maybe that was it. Maybe that was what made it all feel like summer-evening-sitting-in-the-garden-alone-with-ur-thoughts-but-you-can-hear-other-people-and-you’re-going-out-soon-but-this-is-just-a-nice-moment-of-quiet-before-or-after-it-all. And still, theatre never feels like respite (that’s what netflix is (for me)). ‘Him’ felt like a slouch into a moment. Very round, like a lazy river of memory and story/ just sometimes you bumped into a rock, and panicked a little, feeling wet pain against bare arms and legs. pain passed as you carried on around the river, ok