Dom Joly: Hell isn't other people. It's an evening at the theatre

Share
Related Topics

Last week, continuing my rolling tour, annoying the British public for my new hidden- camera show, we rolled into Stratford-upon-Avon. As everyone knows, this is one of the UK's major tourist destinations (one of the reasons we were filming there). As the cameras rolled, however, I couldn't help feeling a little sorry for the international visitors. To put it bluntly, there isn't much to see in Stratford. Visitors wander around trying to ignore the expensive temptations of every retail chain in existence, while occasionally stumbling upon an old house that Shakespeare was supposed to have been born in or sampled his first doughnut in. Other than that, there are a couple of statues and the opportunity to brave the homicidal swans and go for a boat ride on the river Avon.

The big draw, of course, is the Royal Shakespeare Company itself. Its theatre is a mecca for the Shakespeare fan club, of which I have never been a member. I remember innumerable school trips to Stratford to see some of the classics. Sadly, I only ever lasted for the first act of each one. At the interval we'd sneak off to the pub and get completely rat-arsed before boarding the coach back to school and attempting not to throw up.

The best thing I remember seeing in Stratford was in the Dirty Duck pub near the theatre. I was there during one of my second-half escapes when I witnessed quite a punch-up between the singer Ian Dury (he was involved in a play at the time) and a member of the public. This magnificent spectacle kept us all hooked from the very first scene. It was so real, so visceral, so exciting – something I have never really experienced in a theatre.

"You just need to see the right production," cultured friends tell me. "We've got tickets for something so powerful it will blow your mind." So, despite my misgivings, I find myself trooping up to London to see something, and invariably, after 20 minutes or so, I find myself fidgeting in my seat and surreptitiously glancing at my watch longing for this torture to end. By the second act, I am dong everything in my power to prevent myself from standing up and shouting: "Anyone fancy a pint?"

For the same cost as two West End tickets, I can pretty much see every great movie made in the past 100 years in the comfort of my own living room and I don't have to queue up beforehand to reserve the opportunity to pay £20 for a glass of wine and a packet of cheese and onion crisps. So I genuinely don't see the point in theatre. It's all so... hammy.

I totally understand the purpose it served back in the Dark Ages, before TV and film, when people needed entertainment. Back then, it allowed men an avenue to dress up as women, let people learn a bit of history, and gave them a good night out to boot. And they were allowed to shout stuff out and heckle the performers, something that would greatly improve the modern theatregoing experience. But why stop there? We should bring back the glorious tradition of being able to bring in rotten fruit to hurl at the stage when you are bored.

"Hell is other people," said Sartre. No – it's an evening at the theatre.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£4848 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Outstanding...

Cover Supervisors/Teaching Assistants Secondary Schools in York

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leeds: Cover Supervisors/Long Term Teaching Ass...

Science Teacher

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher...

Cover Supervisor

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Cover Supervisors needed for seco...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: EU news, and other reasons to be cheerful

John Rentoul
The influx of hundreds of thousands of eastern European workers has significantly altered the composition of some parts of Britain  

Immigration is the issue many in Labour fear most

Nigel Morris
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker