Saturday, 20 December 2008

The full turning circle

Three years ago I bought the traditional Christmas present for my grandmother: tickets for the ballet, The Nutcracker at the Coliseum .

The plan was that she would go with mum (her daughter-in-law). They both loved going to the ballet and they both loved The Nutcracker. As it turned out, my grandmother was too ill to go, and it was the illness that killed her five months later. She was hiding how bad it was, worried that others might see her as weak.

Not being able to get a refund and not being anywhere near well enough to go myself, dad went. This was a palaver and a half because he was determined not to enjoy himself but to make it clear that it was a far, far better thing he did etc. That's fair enough when you consider that his only exposure to ballet was the Paul Hogan Foster's adverts ("Streuth, there's a bloke down there with no strides on!") and maybe a snippet or two of The Red Shoes.

On his return I was a little disappointed to find that his reaction was predictable. Whatever he felt on the inside, he was determined only to remind us all of the sacrifice he made by going, making sure the ticket wouldn't go to waste, helping mum navigate the dangerous waters of central London. I had hoped that the Gerald Scarfe designs might, at the very least, have given him some pleasure.

Three years dad, like his mother has passed on. Yesterday, mum, Diana and I went to see The Nutcracker at the Coliseum. It was a revival of the Scarfe designed production and I really can't see why dad too so negatively to it.

  1. It's short
  2. The music is mostly familiar to any one who has watched more than fifteen year of adverts on ITV
  3. The clever use of the sets in the first Act more than makes up for the quieter moments
  4. There's great value to be had in peering down into the orchestra pit
  5. Not only were the children in the audience majestically behaved (apart from a little raucous coughing) but one child was trying to copy the dancing in the aisle
  6. The Coliseum itself is a beautiful (if a tad gaudy) building
  7. Everyone is a fruit and nut case
I'm sure I thought of more. It hardly matters. Anyway, I couldn't come away saying I love ballet. I'd struggle to come away saying I can even see the point of it. But it was a good day and it's always interesting to experience new things (as long as there's no threat to life or limb).

There isn't a huge amount of plot, the second Act looks like a greatest hits package and forgets some of the inventiveness of the first. But the music is much better than before the interval so there's a trade off.

Having been to reasonable amount of live theatre (or legitimate, as Homer once said) this year, I'd much rather go back to see this than say, Six Character in Search of an Author. And it wouldn't be the first time a second half has failed to live up to the promise of the first with Never So Good starring that nice young Mr Irons being the best example.

I'm sure that, three years ago, dad probably did have an all right time. He just forgot how to express himself when it came to things that were outside his norm.

He was more worried about self-image than he ever let on. And at times like this I think it's important to let go of preconceptions. I had a good time at the ballet with two of the people who are most important to me. What else matters?

Sometimes life is simply about letting go of the preconceptions you have about yourself. I think I've got better at it over the last three years. If someone had wanted to make a funny remark about going to the ballet it would have said more about them than me. I wish dad had been able to see that a little more clearly. I worry that he stopped himself from opening up and that, as a result, he didn't get as much out of life as he could have.

I'm not about to become an advert for a new movie with a positive affirmation in the title. But I'm not going to rule anything out straight away either.

I might be trying too hard to find meaning from yesterday, perhaps it was (as Homer also said( just a bunch of stuff that happened.