This week I’ve been enjoying art of a different kind.
On Monday evening I took my mother-in-law to a ballet performance, a late Christmas present. It was my first time at the ballet and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. We watched the tragic story of Giselle, a peasant girl who (without giving too much away) dies of a broken heart and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the performance.
There was only one scene change and the show relied upon a combination of costume, movement and expressive body language to convey the story; supported by the wonderful music of Tchaikovsky to create just the right mood. It reminded me of going to the opera, where the story is told through song, usually in Italian. However, with opera, many theatres these days put up a translation to help the audience follow the story. This doesn’t seem to be the case with ballet, but it didn’t impede my enjoyment and it was certainly intriguing to watch a story unfold without the use of words.
On Tuesday evening we had tickets to watch Mark Watson in stand-up comedy. I love stand-up and this was my first time seeing Mark Watson live, although I’ve listened to him aplenty on the radio and watched him on the television many a time. The venue was The Stables at Milton Keynes, a small auditorium that only holds about 500 people, but makes for a very intimate evening.
As expected, Mark Watson delivered an incredibly polished performance. After 10 years in the business, he really knows how to adapt his show and work with an individual audience to provide the best evening’s entertainment and, I have to say, he’s probably one of the best I’ve seen live for self-deprecating comedy in a long time. Plus I managed to get hold of his latest novel in my haul too, always a bonus.
What struck me about my two very different evenings were the similarities. The ballerinas learn the choreography and practise daily to ensure that they not only dance to perfection, but their moves are synchronised with the music to deliver their best performance. The comedian spends hours, days, probably weeks, writing his material; working the small clubs to hone it down, finding out which jokes work best, getting the timing just right, before he takes it on tour.
This ‘behind the scenes’ work was quite poignant to me in a week in which I’m working on my edits for Before It’s Too Late. I realise books are very different from the arts of ballet and comedy, but the background process strikes me as quite similar.