Beginners @ Unicorn Theatre, 7th April 2018
I love these because little kids are so Theatrical without realising it. Once the parents show them the empty pumpkin-bucket, they either throw themselves to the floor like they’re in a Greek tragedy, pretend to not be upset like Emma Thompson in Love Actually, or do some very aggressive draw-opening and hard-staring like they’re creating a political performance art piece.
My favourites are when they launch into passive-aggressive tirades and unwittingly imitate their parents.
‘I’m not mad. I’m not exactly happy.’
‘No it’s Fine. It’s FINE.’
‘I can’t even look at you’
Imagine those lines said by a four-year-old waving their hands around, eyes comically wide like an angry Winnie the Pooh character. It’s amazingly funny.
Children see everything, they mirror everything. So much so that it took me until 15 minutes into Tim Crouch’s Beginning to realise that the 40-somethings on stage were playing children. They acted like adults, kept their mannerisms as adults, but gabbled like children and I didn’t even realise.
IT WAS BLOODY BRILLIANT. Great idea Tim but GOOD LORD the acting in this was second to none.
The children are on holiday in rainy Cornwall, left to their own devices, they are encouraged to stay in their room, out of the adults’ way. They complain that there’s no towels.
‘Every year there’s something.’
They talk about themselves and their parents as a unit.
‘It was on the market for half a million, we thought about putting an offer in’
They are navigating the relationships that even adults can’t handle. Grief, illness, separation.
Sometimes they are cruel.
‘Maddie hasn’t always been ill but Joy has always been a freak.’
They argue, cry and dance with their ghostly younger selves.
How much is parroted from their parents and how much is them?
How much are they their parents?
When do they stop being children?
When do we stop being children?
By the end of the play, the children are the children. They’ve put on a show for the audience. The adults went to the pub.
‘That wasn’t in the PLAN!’
But they created something. Maybe they’ve started to heal? Maddie the kind auntie feels much better for watching it. I feel better for watching it. There are moments in this show which are genuinely healing.
The Radiohead karaoke duet
The midnight ballet dance
Bart’s Dad coming back.
Amalia Vitale as the dog (in my head she’s a golden retriever) is SUCH a delight. Poised, playful, gorgeous and totally genius as a performer. She has the standout monologue of the play. She is a Shakespearean Chorus, a chaotic Ariel, a substitute parent, the runner of the show. I’ve not fallen so in love with a performance for ages. She runs around the stage with pillows, makes mess, gets dressed up in golden sequins, hugs the crying adult-children, is stage manager for the mountain range utopia finale.
When kids and dogs are messy and naughty, they survive and thrive. If they do what they are told, they sit on their beds in silence. When they mimic adults, they are cruel to each other.
I worked as a camp counsellor teaching performing arts in the summers of ‘15 and ‘16. I loved it, but was the Worst camp counsellor in terms of discouraging bad behaviour. I once got reprimanded for giving two of my charges $5 each to walk around the canteen bleating like goats at strangers and dropping lemons on people’s heads. I found it hilarious, and honestly, I figured that when they were breaking the rules, they were at their most inventive and creative.
Children are always told to sit down and shut up. Entertain yourselves, but don’t make a mess. You’re not allowed on your phones. But don’t make any noise. You’re old enough to look after yourselves. For goodness’ sake leave aunt Maddie alone.
Also. I’m referring to myself as an adult when I’m much closer to the child actors in age (I’m twenty-one) than the adults I seem to be aligning myself with. I don’t want to grow up if it means stagnating like we see in this play. I want to stay in a world of giant flowers, raucous songs and stabbing death to death.
My friends and I tend to react to theatre that we like very physically. We grasp our heads in our hands, laugh loudly and paw at each other’s arms at our favourite bits. We did lots of that in this. I don’t want to stop playing.
I’m graduating soon. I’ve been dramatically telling friends that I’m quitting theatre and never speaking to them again. But all my favourite plays recently have been, on some level, about making theatre. I hope I’ll stay in play.
This is a play about playing.
This. Is. The. Play.
This is play.
We are playing.
The play that they made is over.