Monday, 25 March 2013

Expect the unexpected

What I Saw.

Experimental theatre is not for the faint hearted, especially when you haven't the slightest idea what the evening entails, and even more so when you are given a list of instructions and warnings beforehand. 

We were told:
You must be able to walk up and down several sets of stairs.
There will be dark spaces and uneven surfaces - please wear suitable footwear.
Please tell a member of staff if you suffer from claustrophobia.
There will be no toilet facilities for the duration of the performance.
There will be no seating.
There will be flashing lights.
And finally... You must be prepared for full male and female nudity. 

That's my sort of theatre!

All we knew was that it took place in some disused tunnels and abandoned offices below Somerset House in London, a beautiful neo-classical building built in 1775. It was described as a promenade performance where you walk through at your own pace, discovering installations, film, art and theatre. Nothing at all about what it was about!

I invited 5 friends, thank god, because on reflection it could have been quite terrifying. Safety in numbers. The six of us sat in excitable apprehension, giggling nervously until our group was led across a courtyard and down a damp staircase, deeper and deeper into the bowels of the building, by a silent non-smiling woman, dressed in black. 

We were put in a conference room with a live TV feed showing an argument between an angry man and two others. We were then joined by a suited businesswoman who read figures aloud from an annual report, then apologised for being in the wrong room and left. She was replaced by the angry man from the other room, who began shouting a speech as he stared at each of us. It was quite unnerving... I began to take my coat off but then chaos ensued. Alarms went off, people in lab coats panicked and pushed us through rooms of flashing equipment and then suddenly they were gone and we were left to explore the dark corridors on our own. 

There were rooms filled with old computers; mathematical equations written floor to ceiling on blackboards; mad scientists doing experiments on fruit, speaking a mixture of languages (some people in another group, smiling smugly as they recognised smatterings of German, Spanish and Italian); nervous technicians introduced us to a pet robot (the Petbot) and a speaking computer, both malfunctioning during the demonstrations... the general feeling was of impending doom. There were small rooms off larger rooms showing films or filled with dozens of TV's. There was a 30 foot giant robot. We came to another room where office workers typed replies to complaint letters about robots disobeying orders, of them biting children and misbehaving. There was an irritable red-faced supervisor striding around the room reprimanding them, until one girl shouted back, yelling with pure joy and grinning as she took all her clothes off. Then the others began to strip off until we found ourselves surrounded by 8 or so naked people. Some of us didn't know where to look, some of us did! The nude people walked down a long corridor and up a grand spiral staircase, then stared down at us as we stared back. Other people in suits, fell in slow motion past the windows (physically being lowered on wires in the freezing cold outside) and some put on scuba equipment as rooms filled with water. We walked through a long dark hallway filled with beautiful light-boxes and then another that was a lemon grove.

And that was it... Utterly bizarre but highly entertaining. It was funny, it was clever, it was thought provoking. I have never been to anything like it,  and probably never will again. In the space of an hour, for only £25, we got to explore the guts of one of London's most beautiful buildings, and on top of that we had science, drama, mystery, comedy, art, film, acrobatics, adventure and lots and lots of naked people. You can't even get that on a night out in Soho!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Good, the Bad and the not so Badlies.

I'm glad my love life is of such interest. My dating life is being scrutinised from at home and afar with growing intrigue. I think my married and partnered friends are so relieved that they don't have to go through it, they can read about my exploits with smug joy. My single friends are reading it and making a checklist of what not to do themselves if they ever get that desperate. I'm happy to be of assistance.

Number 6 turned out to be the 5'6" chap. I had decided to meet him in a card shop as I was early, and it was freezing outside. The problem with such short men is that you can't see them coming. I was happily browsing, looking up and over the racks of cards every now and again and spotting no one that matched his description. Then suddenly he was upon me, like a midget ninja, having crept up unspotted from behind the display unit. Scared me to death! I composed myself and we went for dinner. I have been craving steak ever since the horse meat scandal and so we went to a fabulous steak restaurant for a glass of Rioja and a rump. He was very amusing and we had a lot of fun but he did talk about his ex girlfriend for two hours. When I asked if he still loved her he almost burst into tears. I suggested maybe he wasn't quite ready for dating and he agreed. However, I think we will stay in touch because I turned out to be a very good agony aunt for him and he also plays violin in an Indian Bangra band, which is totally up my street. As far as romantically though, no. NEXT!

Number 7 was a charming property developer and sailor living on the south coast. I had been at my parents for the weekend and so we met half way in a lovely market town for a pub lunch. Hands down it was the best date I have ever had. EVER. It was so comfortable and so easy with him and we laughed and flirted and turned a short lunch into a very long 3-hour gourmet meal. He paid the bill without me knowing and walked me to my car. He gave me a giant bear hug (he was 6'4" and an ex rugby player) which almost caused me to regurgitate my lunch and then kissed me. Whilst still hugging me, he told me how gorgeous I was and what a fabulous time he'd had and as I held my breath waiting for him to ask me out again, he just shrugged and said "oh it's such a shame, I don't think this will work". Shock. I was so surprised I didn't speak until I finally managed to squeak out an "ok" and got in my car and drove away. All the way home I racked my brain as to why he hadn't asked for a second date. I just couldn't understand it. When I got home I texted him asking if I had misread our date because I thought it had been amazing. Was there something wrong, was there something I had done? He replied full of apologies, that I was lovely and wonderful but he had to be true to himself and the only problem was that... "I was bigger than he thought I'd be". Oh my god. I then had hysterics for two hours and avoided all the mirrors in my house. He could have lied, couldn't he?

The next morning I was awoken by a long email from him saying how sorry he was, how shallow he felt, how he'd thought about it all night and he felt rotten and hoped we could still be friends and oh, p.s. would I still like to go sailing with him? Oh right, I thought, how sweet of you to ask, glad the guilt didn't last too long! I relied "I would love to go sailing but maybe when it's a bit warmer and I've lost some weight. I wouldn't want to capsize your boat. Love Orca." He wrote back how hilarious I was and that I'd brightened up his morning. Well so glad I've cheered you up! The thing that really annoyed me about his comments was that it shouldn't have been a surprise that I'm big and curvy. I had put it on my profile on the dating site. I also have a full length picture of me taken 4 months ago. Also, he is a big guy with a big belly and several chins. Made me a little cross at the hypocrisy. Later that day as if reading my mind, he wrote another text saying... "I realise I have been slightly hypocritical and so I apologise again if I've hurt your feelings." My response "Yes it was slightly pots and kettles as you aren't exactly slim Jim. Maybe you'll eat your words rather than the huge pudding you had the other day!" Haha. He thought that hilarious as well. So annoying! NEXT!

Number 8 was a stockbroker I met in a beautiful restaurant in Chelsea. I ordered... yes, another Steak. What's wrong with me? He was very nice and polite but quite reserved and terribly posh. The sort of posh where it sounds as if they marbles in their mouths... very hard to understand, especially when it's such low lighting you can't read their lips. He was very sweet and a proper gentleman and I liked him but I think it would take months to knock through that boarding school veneer and find any kind of emotion. He didn't laugh once the entire evening and when he smiled it was into his lap. I'm not sure I can be with someone so tightly coiled, so reserved, so guarded. But he has asked me out again so I might see what the second date brings. NEXT!

Number 9 I met for Sunday lunch. A well-to-do entrepreneur and fundraiser so full of life it was like sitting with Tigger in tweed. He was effervescent and incredibly good company, and who had greeted me with a beautiful bunch of white tulips (my favourite flower) and offered me his seat when he realised I was sitting in a draught. Sweet. After lunch, we went for a walk around a graveyard. Haha. I know that sounds terribly un-romantic but it's one of London's oldest and is overgrown and mysterious and quite beautiful. Then something happened and I freaked out a little. He tried to hold my hand. I know... a lovely gesture, but I was so surprised that I leapt five feet in the air and scared an amateur photographer so much, he knocked over his tripod. God, I've been single for so long, hand holding is like going all the way! I just panicked. He didn't seem to notice, thank god, but as we walked back to my car he put his arm round me and began talking of weekends away and things and it was just a bit too much for a first date.

Aaaaarghhh, why can't I find a happy medium? And by that, I don't mean a cheerful clairvoyant, that would just be weird. I just want someone straightforward and fun and that doesn't go full steam ahead on the first date nor is so reserved and ambivalent that they don't show any interest. I've had nine dates and I'm exhausted. Four of those dates were in 8 days. I can't remember any names at this point and numbering men is just a bit well, like a cattle market. That said, number 8 shows promise and maybe just needs a bit of encouragement... and number 9 seems worth a shot, just needs a cattle prod to keep him in line.