An Actor’s Life | To leave or not to leave

Dear Reader, hope this finds you well. As I write this, I have only four performances left of what’s been a truly memorable experience performing Harold Pinter’s ‘Old Times’. Small nuances have changed the way we and the audiences have responded to it. Fifty percent of our audience is students of one form or another.

They get the chance to study the text in advance and maybe even to act out some scenes themselves before they come to the intimate theatre that is Krudttønden. Teachers, who have taken this path and ask to have an informal chat with the actors after the show, say that it really helps their students’ understanding of how English is used in conversation. It helps with their confidence, which as we all know is such a fragile egg.

It’s one thing to read a play and another experience to see the words coming to life from real pretend people who are virtually in the same room.

Pinter, though, isn’t everyone’s cuppa tea. Some people must have seen some awful productions in which it was all taken too seriously, or in which the actors treated these famous Pinter pauses like they were religious dogma that must be obeyed, regardless of whether there was nothing going on in the minds of the characters. Seeing people internally counting to five for a pause and then 15 for a silence is deadly. I know. I’ve seen it and, because I’m a considerate person, have left at a suitable moment during the proceedings.

It was a course of action that three young Østerbro hoodies didn’t take earlier this week. They must have been outside the theatre just before 8pm and saw lots of teenagers piling in. “What’s going on in there?” they must have thought and decided to find out. They came in at the very last minute, telling the person on the door that they were with one of the student groups. This ruse worked and all of a sudden they found themselves in a dark room with 97 other people. There were three places left by chance, which they duly took. The seats were in the front row.

Cue a Pinter pause.

They still had no idea what was to jump out at them. I wonder what they were thinking as they looked at the set and heard the pre-show music? I’ll probably never find out, but as the play started with Pinter’s fragmented and funny dialogue, I could hear them saying things like: “What’s this all about?” Or words to that effect, without adding the expletives interjected into their short sentences. After ten minutes, they decided that they’d made a mistake and almost apologetically collectively stood up and walked out. “Sorry, just not for us!” one said as they left.

A part of me admires them for being curious in the first place and for having the bottle to chance it, to find out what was going on. You can’t please everyone, as someone much wiser than yours truly once said. Indeed, you will drive yourself mad if you try to.

If you came to see it on your own accord, then thanks. If you didn’t, maybe we’ll see you for the next production.

All the best, Ian