Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Children's Hour, or I Thought I Was Cooler Than This, But...

Now that I'm breathing evenly again, I can tell you that tonight was ah-ma-zing.

I've been a huge fan of Keira Knightley since I was fourteen years old and saw her in Pirates of the Caribbean (a movie I did not want to see, by the way, but then harbored an obsession for after seeing it, for many, many years.) I've also loved the play The Children's Hour since I was fifteen or sixteen. Tonight, I saw a play I love that starred an actor I admire.

I'd been getting more and more excited as the day got closer, but I seriously thought I would be cool about it. I mean, I'm an actor. I do theatre. What's the big deal?

IT'S A BIG DEAL. It's a very big deal to see someone you're a fan of, especially when you get to see them in action, let alone in a favorite play. We were sitting sort of far away from the stage on the stage level. We had been warned before we bought our tickets that there would be a pillar obstructing our view of certain parts of the stage. We thought it would be annoying when we first sat down, but I overheard one lady say that once you're into the show, you don't really notice it, and she was right.
The play was really good. I actually thought the first act dragged a little bit, but maybe that's because I know it so well, because Adrienne and Laura, who came too and who didn't know the play, said they didn't think it did. The performances were great from the start, though. All of the girls were at least eighteen (WHY did I not try out when they were casting in America?!?!) and they were pretty awesome. Ellen Burstyn was great as the doting, conclusion-jumping grandmother. Bryony Hannah was wonderfully hateful as Mary- I actually rolled my eyes and glared at her character numerous times. Elisabeth Moss, who is very famous here but who I had never heard was really good as the somewhat stoic (and later, very punchy and then very depressed) Martha.
And Keira Knightley... where to start? Well, first of all, her acting. She's been criticised a lot as an actor, but believe me- she can and very, very well. She was very authoritative and powerful with the girls, loving with her fiance, and terrifyingly angry at the end of the show- stuff you've never seen in her movies and is mind-blowing work. I actually thought she was remarkably comfortable onstage- I was expecting her to be too small with her gestures or awkward with the blocking, but she made the adjustment beautifully. Her American accent was pretty good. I couldn't figure out if the actors were slipping on certain words or if they were using Boston accents. And the movies don't lie- she's very beautiful in person, too.

It was also just wonderful to see the show itself- even if the cast hadn't been what it was, I would have been in the audience tonight. Though I love the show, I'd never seen all of it- I'd seen one scene done and then was in the same scene a few years later, but it's not the same as seeing it all full-out. It's just such a great show that comments well on the dangers of lying just because a person is bored. While I do think that the first act moved slowly, the second act was fantastic. I don't want to give away anything about the plot, but there's an incident that happens in the last scene that's horrifying and of course, I knew what was coming. As the final scene crept towards that point, I couldn't sit still, I was so nervous. I kept changing my position, finally sitting with my arms tightly folded, and I was actually shaking. My arms were crossed so tightly that I couldfeel my heart beating much faster than usual. And for the rest of the scene, I just cried and cried, and it was one of those performances after which you just want to sit there and cry. In fact, after the cast had taken their bows and the lights came up, I just sat there with my face pressed into my coat while I cried a little more.

I was determined to stage door stalk afterwards, and there weren't that many people there. Something that freaked me out, though, was the presence of paparazzi. That doesn't happen in America, and it made me really uncomfortable. It was very cold, and I knew that Adrienne and Laura were waiting there because I demanded we do so, so I was relieved when the actors started coming out. Sadly, none of the schoolgirls stuck around- even Bryony Hannah, who played the lead, only signed a few before she left, and that's because someone called after her to do so. However, we did get the autographs of Ellen Burstyn, Keira Knightley, Elisabeth Moss, and Tobias Menzies.

When Ellen Burstyn got to us, Laura commented on the performance (I, as usual, froze and could hardly remember how to breathe. WHY AM I NOT COOLER?!), and Burstyn exclaimed, "Oh! You're American!" Laura said that we were here studying and Burstyn asked where and what. I managed to chip in at this point... I had a conversation with Ellen Burstyn.

Keira Knightley came out then and signed everyone's program. I (along with everyone else) said how much I loved the performance and she smiled and thanked everyone before hurrying to her car. I love finding out that actors that seem nice, actually are.
After those actors left, most of the others had gone, too, so we made our way back to the tube station to go home. We were all extremely giddy, skipping down the sidewalk and talking a mile a minute. I know I couldn't breathe evenly and we were all smiling ridiculously. On the tube ride home, we alternated between talking super-fast and not talking at all, staring into the distance and grinning while stroking the covers of our programs. I seriously thought I would be cooler than this about this whole experience, but it was like I was fourteen again.

It was just an amazing, amazing night of theatre.
(Oh, and a little sample of how theatre nerdy I am- during intermission, we were all talking about different shows we'd seen and Adrienne mentioned a production of Macbeth she'd seen... and she said the title. In the theatre. She stopped in the middle of her story because I think I actually went pale. When she asked what was wrong, I was like, "You said... you just said... it. You said the title. In a theatre. You said it." If there's one theatre superstition I believe in, it's that one- I've seen and heard of a lot of shows having issues because someone's said Macboo in the theatre (in fact, I always call it Macboo, whether I'm in a theatre or not.) Because Adrienne is a normal person, she was unaffected by this utterance, but I actually considered telling her that she had to do the ritual (go outside, spin around in a circle three times, spit, swear, and ask to be let back in.) I knew that that would be too weird, so I didn't... but I was very nervous for the rest of the show. It makes me wonder, though- that's never happened to me while I've been in the audience. Is it just actors saying it that affect the show? 'Cause I've seen some pretty bad stuff go down after an actor's let it slip.)


Captain Stennous said...

First, Wow!
Second, I'm surprised you didn't die of excitement. But I am so happy that you were able to get so much out of this performance. I suppose this is a show I ought to see at some point.
Third, if I recall correctly, the Gamut Theater in Harrisburg did Macbeth as their first show, and they're still running strong. But I am well aware of the superstition (perhaps due to you, though I'm not sure), and the Gamut is certainly an exception to several rules, not just the Macboo one.
Fourth, You met Keira Knightley. Wow!

Rachel said...

First, I KNOW.
Second, me too, and yes, you should see it. Come to Arcadia next spring.
Third: Well, it's not *doing* the show that sets off the curse, and if you're in it, you're obviously allowed to say the name. But saying it anywhere outside of the text of the play is a recipe for disaster. And I do love Gamut :)

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