Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The theatre visitor

There’s a man who visits Nathan’s theatre rather regularly. He turns up a few hours before the show and sits in the foyer on his own. He’s apparently very friendly, but any of the theatre staff will tell you that he’s mentally ill. He’s very excited at the moment, because he’s got through to the live audience stage of Britain’s Got Talent.
I think we all know what’s going to happen. He’ll stand up on stage, embarrass himself horribly in front of an audience screaming for blood, and if he’s bad enough, he’ll become a moment of television gold.

Few people realise that the people who appear in front of the celebrity judges have already got through countless rounds of auditions with various producers and researchers. Talentless and deluded people will often kick-off when Simon Cowell disses them, because they’ve been repeatedly told they’re marvellous by programme makers rubbing their hands together at the thought of generating another little slice of road-crash telly. And it’s these shockingly bad auditions that make the programmes entertaining, so who can blame them?

The man who sits in the foyer of Nathan’s theatre has mental health problems. He’s not a deluded rich girl desperate for publicity, or a confident drama student with no concept of pitch, he is mentally ill...  Despite this, he’s been built up by countless producers who simply think of him as “good telly”, regardless of the devastating effect that 2000 audience members booing might have on his already fragile mental state.

...But it’s good telly, so who cares?

As a child, I was asked to present a school talent show and was booed off by an assembly hall filled with red-faced aggressive-looking children. One started booing so they all went. It’s a memory I still recall with utter horror. Even my friends were booing.

So, just remember, when you’re killing yourself laughing at a useless audition on one of these talent shows, that you may well be laughing at someone who’s been chewed up and spat out by TV producers with no sense of moral responsibility. If they were teachers or doctors, they’d lose their jobs immediately. End of story.

Three questions to lighten the mood...

1)      Why did my alarm clock go off at 5.50am this morning instead of 8am?

2)      Why does Old Street Station always smell of bacon?

3)      Why do the loos in King’s Cross Station cost 30p, when they’re not fit to be used by anything but wild dogs?

350 years ago, Pepys went to Westminster Hall, which was the 17th Century’s answer to the internet. If you were looking for news – or rumours – on any subject whatsoever, you went to the Hall and simply walked up and down. The hall was buzzing with the news that Pepys’ patron, and cousin, Lord Sandwich, was dead. Pepys was devastated, but made it his business to prove that the news was nothing but a rumour, and sure enough his hunch proved correct. Thrilled to bits, he immediately went to visit Lady Sandwich to tell her all was well. He went via the Piazza (Covent Garden, that is) where he saw a house on fire “and all the streets full of people to quench it.” Diary-worthy, of course, but absolutely nothing compared to what he would find himself witnessing in 1666.

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