Blood, Tears, and Curtain Calls
Why the fuck would anyone work in theatre?
The day before yesterday (chronologically), or yesterday (experientially sequentially), I spent thirteen hours at the theatre, and then five hours drinking and crying.
Late, I found solace and comfort in spending five hours of that day singlehandedly painting most of the set. Later, I found my emotions exposed and burning in the caustic atmosphere of the external, uncovered by the physical, mental, and spiritual sandpapering that is Theatre.
Theatre is Magic. Theatre is beautiful, and absurd, and pointless, and utterly, primally, vitally necessary.
Allow me to dispel, first, a perverse misconception: ain't no glamour in showbusiness, babe. Theatre is grimy and masochistic. Take the curtain call. Some people seem to hold the belief that this an opportunity for the cast, like a beaming toddler proudly presenting hir mother with a freshly filled potty, to say "Look what we done! Aren't we brilliant!" IT IS NOT. The curtain call is there to thank the audience. Thank them for their appreciation, thank them for their money, but most of all, thank them for sitting through the two hours of sparkling bullshit you just served up for them on an MDF platter spray-painted silver with non-functioning props glued onto it. That's what the bow means. Bowing! An act of supreme supplication! We are your bitches, audience, and you have let us off the hook.
Blood and tears.
Blood. We die a lot. Complicated, antiquated electrical systems buzz amorally in a temperamental lottery of trappish synapses, makeshift repairs, and high voltage. Vast, awkward, unforgivingly heavy objects teeter against their precarious boltings, or lie in wait round darkened corners, or ponder in pendulous predation from dubious ceiling anchors. Pyrotechnics flash out in agentic malice. Lithe young workers dressed all in black work in the dark atop swayingly vertiginous ladders on ruttedly uncertain flooring, wielding paintbrushes, curtain hooks, hacksaws and lights. No wonder theatre technicians can't get life insurance.
Tears. I have never seen my father cry. I have seen everyone I know in theatre cry, and often. There is so much to organise, so little time to do it in, mind-shatteringly long hours, hair-tearingly hard work, there is, quite simply, and all too fucking often, just too much.
And for what? Two hours of sparkle and emotion on a thinly disguised platform for a roomful of paying voyeurs. A modicum of remuneration. A tendency to neurosis, addiction, and early death.
So why? - A question that answers itself. The ineluctable, existential romance of it all. Theatre is its own dark, tragic, visceral little complex. Turn up at any paralysed rehearsal, any late-night build, any eleventh-half-hour rush to piece together fan-dismembered shit, and you look in on a frantic, isolated, dystopian goth-fantasy.
We cast ourselves round the twist in the name of an evening of ephemeral entertainment. We drag our souls to the brink of despair, and further than that too, for a story. We kill ourselves so you can watch us prance around and pretend we're someone we ain't. And that, Children, is Beauty.
Yes, we can tell important tales. Yes, we can move, and persuade, and dazzle, and enthrall, convert, thieve, rape, CHANGE. But, Christ, ye gods, Macbeth, the things we do for it all! That we can expend so much of ourselves for something intangible, impermanent, immolatory; that we can make something that doesn't matter really, truly matter; that we can live, and suffer, and die for an idea, for a brief blaze of glamour and beauty and heady mental catalyst, destroy us though it will, reminds us that we are human, enriches us as people, makes us real and alive.
Behind every charmingly confident, careless grin in the curtain call line is a silent immensity of spilt blood, spat tears, and stupid, desperate, beautiful spiritual connection.
That's why we do it.