Friday, 30 March 2012

Who Celebrates Their 35th Birthday?

I finally got to see some new writing this week in the form of Zach Braff's "All New People". It was a truthful, if stylised, portrayal of people on the edge but not wanting to admit it. Everyone has a secret that has led them to become the fucked up person they appear to be and by the end of the hundred minutes they come to realise that maybe there are people more fucked up than themselves.
At the end of the evening I walked out of the theatre with some disconcerting feelings that I doubt the rest of my group were feeling. I had entered two hours earlier anticipating a play were everyone is sad for extremely over the top reasons, resolved them and felt better. Instead I came out realising how close to home some of the situations and feelings were to me.
Charlie Bloom enduring his 35th birthday

Braff's character Charlie has come to this deserted beach house to hang himself; not because he has slept with his brother's girlfriend or some other crazy reason. His reason for ending his life stems from being stuck in a rut and feeling that deep down he is lonely despite having many friends and acquaintances. Now, obviously I'm not planning on killing myself but I am at a point in my life where I'm stuck in a rut and distanced from the people I love most- my friends This is where theatre is at its best, when something that could have been pure entertainment unexpectadly reaches you on a complete other level. Whereas, to me, musicals focus on escapism plays can tackle the feelings you've tried to hide and possibly help you conquer them. I'm not the only person that has felt like this in real life or in fiction.

As Charlie revealed that this was his thirty fifth birthday I was taken back to the screening of Company I had seen a few weeks previously. Here we have two men both approaching middle age with little to show for it with noone to love or to love them back. Each is surrounded by people yet feels no attachment to them.

What I found fascinating was the differrent ways in which the central characters' pathways differed. Bobby in Company begins the play wishing to be alone but thinking the shallow affections he feels for his friends is enough. It takes those friends to realise that he needs something more in his life. I've seen a few versions of the show each with a different way of portraying Bobby's psyche in the final scene. Is he content with living alone? Is he actually planning to kill himself? Or has he found someone?I guess this is left deliberately ambiguous as to leave the audience to make up their own minds. Having first heard the show in my teens, my views and understanding have already begun to change and I feel will continue to change as I face new challenges and embrace new things.
What would we do without you?

For Charlie, he has already reached rock bottom but, as I often feel when I'm low, he wants to be alone, to sit out this depression without anyone annoying him. But (as I need to learn) it takes these three strangers taking an interest in his well being to make him open up and explore his suicidal thoughts. They aren't there to tell him everything will be alright as Bobby's friends do. but share their own anxieties instead. Maybe this is why Charlie chooses not to kill himself whereas Bobby feels more alone than ever.
But alone is alone...

Perhaps the passage of thirty or forty years, and changes in society, have altered the way we want our lives to be and how and who we feel able to open up to. In the seventies, one couldn't simply tell their friends how they felt but had to keep up appearances; just as Bobby does at his surprise party. He is their crazy friend- reliable but never exciting, stable but never happy. Charlie is allowed to feel down- these strangers even joke about his suicide attempt. As they continue to argue and bicker , he is able to see himself in the others resulting in an ultimately therapeutic evening.
Charlie is finally able to open up (to the delightful Eve Myles)

They say that society has changes for the worse but I disagree. We have saved Charlie from suicide and are more able to embrace our negative attributes which Bobby's friends refuse to do.

"I stood it"

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