We are living in a golden age of live theatre. For the price of a dvd you can see an entire company produce magic in front of your very eyes. They are doing it in village halls, school halls, regional theatres , stately homes, cricket pavilions and pub courtyards. The Internet has helped enormously; the tiniest venues still rely on local papers and selling tickets through local shops, but any theatre which has an on-line booking system is immediately in a better position to fill the seats.
One of the reasons I don't bother with TV soaps is that it is painfully obvious that many of our so-called professionals are nothing of the sort. They could no more deliver a line than I can sing opera and the clunky direction gives them the fluidity of a call centre slave in India trying to scam you. Pause....click...Good evening Mam, am I speakin' to Mrs Raft? No, sorry, you are not.
You will experience more in a single evening spent watching a local company, which will show performances ranging from the competent to the breath-taking, than you will in a month of Shouty Cockerneys. There's something for everyone; companies are refusing to stick to the tried-and-tested popular productions and tackling new works written by company members. Obviously, that's going to be a mixed bag; there is always an element of lucky dip about a new work but who knows, one might see a little slice of theatre history being made. You hadda be there.
Beloved of all is a farce: these work best where the audience can see the actors sweating to bring the staging to the correct point to make the joke. Farce is the theatre magic where you have to see most of what the conjurer is doing because the audience is in cahoots with the company. The ignorant character, the one who is going to get the surprise, is on the stage, which reverses the traditional expectation that it is the audience who will receive the revelation when a secret escapes. Doing it on telly is cheating; we all know they can cut away and come back tomorrow - where's the panic in that?
Down in Paignton the Bijou Theatre Company is performing a pre-Christmas farce of impeccable pedigree "The Happiest Days of your Life" by John Dighton, which hinges around school inspections, disapproving parents and people's careers hanging by a thread. That should bring a groan of recognition to the throats of teachers everywhere, but it is still very funny (unlike real life).
Previewed by The Jolly Lion - who is in it - the production is at the Palace Theatre, Paignton and runs from
Wednesday 30th November - Saturday 3rd December 2011 - 7.30pm
Tickets cost £11 but concessions are available
Telephone Palace Theatre Box Office on