True pleasure is a play without an interval
I’ll find myself in the office, at about 4pm, wondering whether I should go and see something at the theatre, looking online for availability that same evening, especially as the night draws darker and earlier. The good thing about going solo – which I mostly do – is that there is often a seat free, and discounted. I never plan ahead. I am lucky enough to live 20 minutes from the best productions in the world. Browse; book; bus.
The true joy is a play without an interval. Last year, the television writer Steven Moffat called for an end to intervals, which as an opinion earns a standing ovation from me. Intervals are rubbish: they disrupt the narrative; the toilet queues ribbon around the stairwells (I often just go to the men’s: discuss); and my fellow audience members are excruciatingly slow in leaving and returning to their seats (I thought I saw Vince Cable at the theatre once, and then realised that every single person at the theatre looks like Vince Cable). Intervals are getting longer and longer, too, like Peter Jackson films.
We need a break from intervals. We probably won’t get one, because the venues need the revenue they bring in: the £5 thimbles of ice-cream, for example. Defenders will tell you that an interval is a good chance to discuss the performance, as though one would go to a book club halfway through reading a novel. They will talk about a chance to stretch the legs, as if we were on a 24-hour flight, at risk of deep-vein thrombosis.
Shakespeare’s plays were written without intermissions. It is directors now who insert them at various points, running the risk of ruining them. I understand that sometimes a set change requires a delay in the action, and actors might enjoy a rest. But I much prefer to stay in the dark, belief still suspended, than hang around in a sticky-floored lobby clutching a flat Coke (read: actually Pepsi) in a plastic cup.
Instead give me, uninterrupted, a new world for the evening. Don’t allow me the temptation to check my phone, 45 minutes in, to have the politics and the work rush back in. Unwind me from scrolling. When I leave the building, I want the weather to have changed beyond all recognition. I want actors at the top of their craft, while I absorb every change in expression and movement. Give me a performance that changes my mood and my mind. Give me Pinter without the pause, and lines that inspire. Give me the lights down, and do not let them come up until we rise to our feet as one.