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Ask Lyn: Crying

Ask Lyn: Crying

Ask Lyn: Crying cover photo on Stagedoor
"Dear Lyn, Last week I went back to the theatre for the first time since lockdown, and I cried during the show even though it was a comedy. Will this happen every time I go to the theatre?" - Clint, Raynes Park

Dear Clint,

The short answer is probably no, unless you keep paying premium prices for indifferent shows. But you are far from alone in finding a first trip back to the theatre an emotional experience. There is something about at last being in an auditorium with other people that turns on the taps. A lot of theatre feels as if it’s produced against all the odds, and that’s more true than ever at the moment when there has been almost 14 months with no or very few performances and when the freelance workforce who make so much theatre have been so badly hit by the shut-down.

I’ve always wept a great deal in the theatre and there are some moments in particular shows—unless the production is a calamity—that are almost guaranteed to set me off, whether that is Hermione coming back to life in King Lear, the Duchess’ death in Malfi, Sonya’s great speech at the end of Uncle Vanya, or One Day More in Les Mis. I am particularly susceptible to having a good cry at a musical. I love it. Musicals feel as if they are giving you permission to cry.

I suspect that there will be many more tears over the coming months and years as theatre opens up, and many of us find that sitting in the dark watching the light on stage offers an opportunity for us to express our grief and loss over all that has happened over the last year and more. Those Greeks knew a thing or two about the power of theatre when they talked about catharsis. I reckon those shows that offer catharsis may do very well. I wasn’t surprised to see that booking for Come From Away has announced it is booking into next year.

But sometimes, as you experienced Clint, it is the unexpected thing that sets us off in the theatre. There is a reason we talk about crying tears of laughter. The two emotions are physiologically very similar. I think that many of us over the next few months we will find ourselves caught off guard and it is testament to theatre’s power that it feels like a safe place for us to be vulnerable. So, if over the coming months, the person in the socially distanced seat next to you starts to cry, don’t glare. It could happen to any of us, and it will at the most unexpected moments.

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Lyn Gardner

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