"...But she does know that my husband and I are avid theatre goers. She has very thoughtfully brought us tickets for the theatre as a Christmas treat. The trouble is that the tickets are for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and we hate musicals and would have preferred a gift voucher for the Almeida. What should we do?" - Musical Theatre-Hater, Richmond
Dear Musical Theatre-Hater, we all like to define ourselves in many different ways and theatregoers are no different. Some people pledge their allegiances by the brands they wear, the places they holiday, the coffee or whisky they drink. Others do it by the theatre they see.
Theatre is full of tribes: there are the moody new writing aficionados who gather in the bar at the Royal Court, the live art crowd, those for whom London theatre primarily means the NT, the Old Vic, the Young Vic and the Donmar, and who wouldn’t be seen dead watching Only Fools and Horses when it was at the Haymarket.
What this does is to pack theatre and audiences away into neat little boxes, where people who go to contemporary dance and circus never see Shakespeare, and those who love international theatre on big stages such as the Barbican seldom step inside a pub theatre or go to a musical. This is a particularly true in London because of the sheer range and availability of choice. Keen theatre goers outside of London will often sample a much wider variety of theatre because they are limited to what passes through their local theatre or arts centre each week.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
You may think you are confident about what you like and don’t like but until you try something different how do you know? Great Aunt Cecily says that she had always thought juggling was a load of old balls until she saw the sheer beauty and depth and layers of meaning in Gandini Juggling’s Smashed!
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a show about embracing being different. It is an absolute delight, as layered as any piece of new writing, full of craft and so full of life that you would have had to entirely misplaced your heart not to be touched. It’s very different from anything you will see at the Almeida but one of the great pleasures of the theatre is its ability to surprise. Unless you are two, like my grandson, you wouldn’t only eat food of one colour, so why limit your theatre diet to only shows of a certain hue?
I reckon your mother in law may well have done you a favour. Jamie may not have been what you would have chosen to see but it could open your eyes to the range and possibilities of form that London theatre presents. So, go, enjoy the experience of being back at live theatre, and-- who knows-- you may have your mother in law to thank for turning you into a musical theatre lover.
*Cover image from Nine Lessons and Carols, playing at the Almeida until 9 Jan and streaming on the 15 Dec.