Like an inept swarm of self-herding cats, various branches of the family managed successfully to descend on the pre-agreed restaurant for the beginning of the Family Birthday Night Out.
There were ten of us, spanning three generations: all with a genetic trait of “bumbling” – when “bumbling” is defined as the ability to get lost, be late, not realize the obvious, turn up in the wrong place etc…
It is because of this trait that the three of us (my sisters and I) – well, apart from “true love”, “destiny” and all that – married three rational-as-you-like accountants, all of whom have an enviable talent for getting from A to B without a stuff-up of some sort AND finding a parking space right outside.
But none of them were there.
It was just us.
Giddy with success/relief, we enjoyed our meal regaling one another with anecdotes of how wrong the day had almost, or indeed had, gone – between the leafy suburbs and semi-rural hamlets of Glasgow and the big, festively lit city of Edinburgh. But we had made it (busy towns, poorly thought-through travel plans, untimely fevers, blisters and impenetrable ticket machines notwithstanding)!
Because we usually need it, we had factored in a good length of time to get from the restaurant to the theatre to see “Wicked” at the Edinburgh Playhouse. So we set off through the melee, counting each other and hoping to arrive at the number ten whilst remembering to count oneself.
We had plenty of time for a group photo and a round of selfies before packing into the playhouse, over-estimating the amount of over-priced-captive-audience snacks we would need. We were pretty high up in the balcony with a floor angle that certainly wouldn’t pass health and safety in a new build with seats that certainly wouldn’t do for anyone with a BMI of 30 or worse, pretty much. We got our wee legs wedged in behind the seat in front and waited for the show.
As for the show, it was good.
It had everything: singing, dancing, little bit of romance, little bit of politics, a little bit of philosophy, …
In one sense it was a showcase of equality issues, with a dig at Nazism.
There were plenty of minority groups represented. Elphaba, the main character is born green and finds herself judged for the colour of her skin. Her sister Nessa was confined to a wheelchair and treated unfairly in social circles. The lecturer at their uni was a goat who was part of an oppressed minority – it was like a side step into Animal Farm with “two legs good four legs bad” being rephrased as “Animals should be seen and not heard”. The speaking animals were being marginalized though gradual changes in the law in Oz as the government was finding the majority of the population a common scapegoat for their ills. All very early-1930s.
In another way the show was about good and evil. It seemed to conclude that judgement of situations should be reserved, to allow for a different perspective to emerge – to look at things a different way. It was all about subjectivity and the dangers of that and the complexity of truth. This was the clever part of the show – how it functioned as part-prequel/part-parallel to “The Wizard of Oz”, as the audience got to see some of the events of the original book/movie from a different perspective which allowed for a different ‘reading’ of the original. All of the intertextual stuff was clever and I liked it.
The third angle I could take on the show is to use it to explore the theme of loyalty. In the beginning Alphaba is loyal to her disabled sister. When someone else is kind to her sister, she is then loyal to that person – so loyal that she gives up her ‘true love’ for her (at that bit!). Her loyalties are then shaken by events and she decides to be Wicked – but for her being wicked seems to equate with acting morally. She defends the oppressed minorities and challenges the equation of power with being ‘right’. She shuns popularity and good reputation for justice. So, her wickedness is only wickedness in the context of a speciesist regime like Oz. (Is this her being true-to-herself?)
So, the ten of us sat in a row and watched, either moved, sighing, utterly bamboozled with the plot, coughing every five seconds, lapsing in and out of sleep, whispering too loudly, passing along opera glasses, eating ice cream and generally enjoying a good show, apart from the unnecessarily loud bits.
Then 3000 people headed for the train.
We all lost each other then found each other at the station, crowding around an empty carriage that wasn’t even going to Glasgow. Then the actual train appeared, so we had to leg it back a bit to be sadly the last few on to a jammy packed carriage, full of amiable drunks giving us lively renditions of “show me the way to go home” and “sunshine on leith” while threatening to crush us to a pulp in their merry oblivion.
Eventually, the carriage thinned out enough for us to get a seat and we got back to Glasgow after midnight where our numerate counterparts picked us up.
We had made it.
Are you green with envy?