I seem to be cursed where the National Arts Centre is concerned. I bought tickets to five plays, five dances, and one symphony. I have fallen asleep during three plays, one dance, and the symphony – so far. Tonight I did not fall asleep.
I had a ticket to see a Japanese dance troupe – Pappa Tarahumara – performing Ship in a View. I assumed the dance started at 8:00 because every other thing I’ve ever seen at the NAC started at 8:00. I checked my ticket as I was heading out the door at 7:20, and dammit, the performance was starting at 7:30. It was literally impossible to get there on time.
I’m the kind of person who would rather be an hour early than a minute late. I even considered not going, but I figured they’d let me watch from the back of the theatre until intermission, and then I could find my seat. And, as an extra bonus, standing up might even keep me awake.
I arrived at 7:50. Big sign: This performance does not have an intermission. Damn. But the usher graciously escorted me to my row, and left me to stumble past five irate patrons who glared at me. I wasn’t sure which seat was mine, but all of them were occupied. The usher returned, took me back upstairs, explained that someone was in my seat and offered to give me another seat much further back. Since the mixup was at least partially my fault for being late, I graciously accepted. I then had to make my way past seven irate patrons, and I apologized to each of them as I passed them. If looks could kill: each of them mustered some variation of a hostile, withering, or disdainful glare.
If I had been them, I would have been irritated too to have to disrupt myself, however briefly, for a latecomer. But I would have accepted their apology with a smile. You never know what kind of a day someone has had, or why they’re late. Maybe their dog died or they found out they had cancer or they stopped to help a lost Alzheimer’s patient. You never know. Each of them, I’m sure, assumed I was just too inconsiderate to arrive on time and therefore deserved their contempt.
I settled into my seat and tried to behave myself. Then I got a tickle in my throat, the kind that you try to suppress but soon you just have to cough. I coughed. The tickle subsided for about 30 seconds, then repeated itself. And again. I wondered if my neighbours would hate me more for coughing a little cough every 30 seconds or for interrupting them again to leave. I briefly considered being considerate enough to smother myself with my scarf. I stayed and tried to time my coughs with the noisier bits of the music.
The performance was weird. People were dancing and pouring water on themselves and throwing things at each other and riding bicycles and dancing with empty dresses and climbing on furniture. There were remote-control bicycle wheels and ships and robots. The music ranged from eerily beautiful to pulsingly exciting to absolutely grating. I was fascinated and thoroughly entertained, but completely baffled by the whole thing. I have no idea what it was about – kind of like that feeling you have when you leave a David Lynch film (“Great film, but WTF??”)