Well it’s Saturday night. On the river outside there’s a party boat. It’s the third or fourth boat that’s been past my window in the last hour. I remember those party boats all too well from my student days. Big loud noisy dancey boats with expensive bars where you overheat and try to snog that person despite the fact that both of you are drenched in sweat. They get so hot you feel like you’re cooking, and if there’s a deck it’s tiny and everybody is smoking and puking and kissing when you go outside for fresh air. You’re thirsty, but the bar only sells warm bottles of lager for £6.50 and they refuse to give you tap water as it’s not plumbed in. You’re trapped. There’s no launch to take you back to land when you suddenly decide you hate it. You’re stuck with the DJ and the heat and the shouting and the sweat. Everybody else seems to be having a brilliant time. The person you like is already kissing somebody else. There’s two more hours to go and you can’t really afford another crap beer.
Mm-cha mm-cha mm-cha mm-cha
Wa oh wa oh wa oh wa oh
There’s another one. Five now. They’re constant this evening.
From a distance you could almost mistake it for fun. I can hear people literally screaming over the music. Maybe it IS fun that they’re having. Or maybe they are the damned, forced to endlessly parade in circles around this tiny residential section of the Thames listening to DJ Urban repeating things he’s heard other people say through the mic while pushing play on any one of thousands of smug and forgettable party tracks. Oh God they’re doing some sort of a call and response. “All the boys in the house say ‘GET ME OUT OF HERE!’ all the girls in the house say “I WISH I WAS DEAD!’ ” aaaaaaaa
But yeah. There they are in a tiny boat oblivious and sweaty, living inside each other’s juices while just down the river at The National Theatre the latest play is going down with a half capacity audience, and in Scotland they are currently intending to tell us that performers have to put on a mask if they get within one metre of each other. What?
“A person who is performing does not need to wear a face covering if there is a partition between that person and other people or if there is at least one metre between that person and other people.”
Ok, at least here in London we can all dance in a boat or snog our secretary and the performers can all be on stage without having to don protective gear before they touch each other. But that fucks touring theatre. And makes every offering in Scotland much more sterile.
It’s all so hard to countenance. I want to get back on stage. And this distancing will at least help train a generation of actors. Nervous young actors love to grab one another. You feel pretty exposed up there. When you’re new you often precipitate towards others. I’ve been grabbed so hard it has bruised me. At university, I’m sure I bruised my fellow actors. Control takes time to learn but if you constantly go towards the other actor, you risk killing the scene. Sightlines, darling. So long as the people in the cheap seats can see one of the actors they won’t get restless. It doesn’t matter how much you’re fizzing with energy, if they can’t see you you’re already losing them. Plus it’s interesting to see the space between the lovers. The moment before the kiss is fuller than the kiss. Stretch that moment out.
Not that the people in those boats are thinking like that. Maybe I’m just bitter that I haven’t been to a party for over a year. At least I’ve found somebody to kiss so I’m not having that need pulling on my attention. But yeah, part of me wants to just dance until I don’t know who I am anymore. It’s been a long year.