Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Glasgow Girls

Do any other Londoners hate the voice of the woman who says things like "Northern Line. The next train to... Morden, via Bank, will arrive in... 2 minutes?" There's always that pause, which lasts ever so slightly too long before the automated system selects its destination, and her ineffectual, gratingly sweet, but sex-tinged voice completes the sentence. She's always preluded by a downward arpeggio which might as well have been played by Gladys Pugh on a glockenspiel. It puts me right on edge, I tell you, I do. It's like being massaged by someone who's been sleeping on their arm and lost all feeling in their fingers.

I often wonder how voice over artists actually speak in real life. If the woman who whispered her way through the Marks and Spencer's adverts spoke like that in real life, no one would be able to hear her, and if the X Factor voiceover man ordered a pint in that ludicrous bark, someone would smack him. There's a way that news journalists deliver pieces to camera, stressing almost every word, that I also find somewhat distracting.

I had to do the dreadful thing of getting on a crowded tube train in rush hour today. I stood at Bank Station, and the crowd was four or five people deep. There's nothing worse than being on the platform edge as the tube train rattles into the station. One crowd surge from behind at the wrong moment and you're a dead man. You then stand in the carriage itself, people pouring in and out of the train on both sides of you, buffering you in circles, first left and then right. If I had a pound for every time I've had to shout "I am not a turnstile!" I'd be able to afford to sit in the stalls of a lot more West End Theatres.

The man to my left stank of plasticine and rabbit hutches, and the lad to my right swayed into me every time the train rocked, I could taste the chewing gum the woman behind me was chowing down on, and at one point, the train was making such a ludicrously loud screeching noise that I almost vomited, which, of course, would have completed the sensory attack by giving everyone in the carriage something to stare at, smell, taste, touch and scream at.

I was travelling to Stratford East to see Bad Girls at the Theatre Royal there. Hmm. Here's the thing. I don't think I'm the best kind of audience for that sort of show. I went to too many Edinburgh festivals in the 1990s, and saw too much fourth-wall-shattering student drama to think that I was watching something cutting edge, political or gritty. Musically, it was lazy. Performances were, in the main, weak. Accents were appalling. The double, triple, quadruple casting was confusing. A violinist in school uniform appeared on stage at the start of every soddin' number, and then self-consciously tapped her foot and swayed to the music. One of the composers kept tipping up, overacting her way through every scene and song. The show had no atmosphere. It looked cheap. I felt bored. I felt a bit embarrassed. I didn't give a damn about any of the characters. I didn't learn anything about immigration. I got the impression that a lot of clean, middle class student actors were jumping up and down on the stage pretending to be angry, and that in turn made me angry. For me, it was a rather nasty case of the Emperor's New Clothes. A dose of the missed opportunities. It could have been spectacular. I don't feel bad for saying any of this. The audience was good. The reviews for the show have been spectacular. The audience perked up at the end, and one or two people were even standing up. Everyone else, I'm sure, saw something that I didn't see and had a thoroughly lovely time as a result. People were pulled in by the genuinely important overarching message of the piece: namely that asylum seekers are still having a rough time in this country. Although quite why anyone thought that this musical shed new light on that particular issue I'm not sure.

So I am returning from Stratford feeling quite down cast. And old. Been there. Seen it. Worn the T-shirt.

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