As you know, I was feeling my age yesterday even before we got to the Seymour Centre last night, but by the time we staggered out of there at 11 o’clock, I was feeling positively grave-skimming. I doubt there are many things that could do a more efficient job of prodding me toward the dying of the light than those sound technicians managed last night. When you can’t hear the actors performing in a play, you may as well be dead. Or at least in bed, getting the beauty sleep I so desperately require.
“Eh?” I leaned across and hissed to Llew in the opening minutes.
A short time later, a sharp elbow landed in his ribs.
“What did she say?”
Llew didn’t know either.
“Did you catch that?”
A slow, bored shake of his head, and then this: “Do you think they’ll mind if I play a game on my phone?”
What were they saying? What was happening? When would somebody turn around? It was all a vast, infuriating mystery. I mean, I know Pirandello had a rich sense of the absurd, but I don’t think this production of Six Characters in Search of an Author actually intends the audience to miss whole chunks of the play. I looked up at the pitiable souls occupying the back row – what could they hear? Or were we the only ones going deaf, just the two of us, a peculiar coincidence of premature hearing loss while sitting in a darkened theatre? Or could there be a much larger problem at work? I leaned forward, I squinted (as if that would help – what was I thinking?), and finally I stared up into the sound booth and thought evil thoughts about the two people chatting away cheerfully inside. What the hell are you smiling about? I wanted to scream. Had packets of roasted nuts been allowed in the theatre, I most certainly would have started pegging them at the glass.
And speaking of feeling like a decrepit old hag, how about all the bright young things swanning around the foyer at intermission? I suppose they must have issued forth from Sydney University across the road and the surrounding suburbs of the shabby chic inner-west… but wherever they came from, they were uniformly dazzling. Watching them, I understood for the first time that they represent a time in my own life that is past. I can’t tell you how it shocked me, to see their abundant, stunning youth and realise with a jolt that I myself am no longer young, and never shall be again. I hope and expect to remain young at heart my life long, but it’s not the same as that magical age when you feel invincible and crucial and insatiable. And because I was digesting these unpleasant truths for the first time, their radiant exquisiteness utterly defeated me. Instead of celebrating their perfection and promise, I scowled in a corner, sullenly deconstructing a Cornetto ice-cream while watching Llew attempt and ultimately fail to scrape his jaw off the floor.
“Would you like to move so you can get a better look at that towering princess?” I asked.
“You’re the most beautiful girl in the room,” he deadpanned.
I won’t dignify it by calling it a lie.
Anyway, as the second act began, I quickly abandoned the idea of being able to hear it in its entirety – that clearly wasn’t going to happen – and contented myself with large snatches of dialogue and some great performances overall – particularly from Ian McDiarmid, who was sensational and managed to carry his voice most comprehensively. He dominated the entire production, really, and were it not for his brilliant contribution, I’d have left the Seymour Centre feeling really quite stung. I did a bit anyway. It wasn’t just the aural issue, although the acoustics were atrocious. And it wasn’t my belated understanding that I’m no longer 21 years old. No, that wasn’t it (and besides, I was a near train-wreck at 21, not a drop-dead gorgeous, achingly hip gazelle, so let’s stop with the nostalgic revisionism, shall we?). No, what really killed the mood was adding up the cost of the evening as against what I thought it was actually worth. As with Al Green last week, the tickets weren’t cheap. But the cab home? Well, that was a killer – I suggest you sit down. No, please. Sit.
Okay. Are you ready?
Sixty-three bucks. SIXTY THREE DOLLARS FOR A CAB HOME!!!!!!! And we barely stopped at any lights. The cab fares in this city are just out of control. And they’ve just gone up. And they add mysterious ‘service fees’ that aren’t GST, because it actually says ‘service fee plus GST’ on the receipt. And you can never get a cab when you want one. And when you finally limp into the only cab left available in the whole of New South Wales, well, then they never know where they’re going. I’ll give them this: they’ve turned it into an art form. In fact, that cab ride was about the same price as my theatre ticket. Maybe there’s something in that for next year’s festival…