As some of regular followers to the blog have noticed, there has been a distinct lack of updates over the last few weeks. It is true that Civilian Theatre rarely summons up much seasonal good cheer for Christmas-themed theatrical offerings, and with loathsome pieces of soulless corporatisation like Elf: The Musical on offer – so clearly produced with the singular purpose of extracting hard-earned wages from stressed-out parents – it is hard not to avoid a certain Grinch-like sensation.
However from a personal perspective, this lack of wonder is part of a wider malaise that has been affecting the blog – and my theatre going – for a few months now. It is the peril of any critic that the initial wide-eyed enthusiasm and joie de vivre may eventually drain away leaving the hapless blogger a shrivelled up husk of jaded cynicism. By year-end, I’ll have seen almost 90 shows, and approaching 300 since starting the blog. For some this may seem like small fry, but it is worth remembering that 94% of people go less than 10 times, and 78% see less than 4 shows a year (Source).
I often go with friends for whom theatre is a rare treat, and I am continually struck by just how more positive they are about what we watch. For them they still see the endless possibilities of what theatre can be; how it can transport you emotionally, make you believe a bare stage is a bustling street scene or amaze you with some live technical effect. For me, too often I am thinking back to when I have seen something similar, or done better.
The final curtain came watching the wonderful Kneehigh for the first time in a decade, remembering the importance of The Red Shoes in my theatrical education, and watching a hall full of teenagers, in rapt silence, going through exactly the same process of discovering the possibility of theatre. At that moment I knew I could never go back to regular blogging again.
Creating and running Civilian Theatre has been absolutely brilliant, and it has achieved pretty much everything I wanted it to be. I’m constantly surprised that people have engaged with my long rambling sub-academia theorising in an age where ‘listicles’ is both a word, and a genuine way that people are encouraged to write. I’ve found it heartening that enthusiastically, long-winded essays that are happy to go merrily disappear down tangentially-related rabbit-holes are something that can survive on the internet.
However it is time to say goodbye, step away and go back to enjoying theatre purely as an audience-member. The blogging world has exploded in the last couple of years and I know that there are many better writers than me who I am going to enjoy reading and engaging. (Yes, sorry folks, I haven’t quite laid up by mouse and shield, a life of being a keyboard warrior awaits).
And in an incredibly self-indulgent way, I am going to thank a few people. First and foremost is the rather wonderful Rebecca Felgate who, before fleeing to the safety of maple sugar and snow, was primarily responsible for bringing together a disparate band of introvert types who liked nothing better than to sit in the dark and go home to furtively bash away at keyboards, and forcing them to be sociable. Find out more about how to be involved at London Theatre Bloggers.
Thanks to WebCowgirl and There Ought To Be Clowns. In the relatively short history of theatre blogging, I hope they don’t mind me calling them veterans, but their blogs inspired me to get started and they are still going strong today.
I have enjoyed reading, and sharing the occasional press night mutual appreciation, with the (not very) Grumpy Gay Critic, Laura at (the original and best!) The Play’s The Thing, Shona at View from the Gods and Emma at Hello Emma Kay. Go on, have a read!
A shout out to the press agents who recognise and value what bloggers can add to the sort of theatre companies who aren’t going to get blanket companies across the mainstream media. Kevin Wilson and Chris Hislop consistently support and champion online voices, even when reviews are sometimes scathingly critical of what’s on show. Hopefully others will follow your example.
And finally a special mention to Chloe Nelkin (and not forgetting in this festive period, the importance of her regular, rotating troop of Angels!), who always provides great post-show chat and is responsible for getting me to see some absolutely brilliant plays. Thank you, and I’ll make it to the office one day, I promise…
Well, that about wraps things up. It’s been as self-indulgent as a speech at the Olivier Awards. And all that remains is to find some suitable Shakespeare to end with (well, who else could it possibly have been):
Goodbye – and if you wonder what becomes of Civilian Theatre –
“Think not on him till to-morrow. I’ll devise thee brave punishments for him. Strike up, pipers!”