R’s back in rehab, the boiler’s broken and I watched a three-hour play at the theatre on marriage breakdown. I need some comic relief …
Oh, how I love to laugh. How I love to feel tears stream down my cheeks, to jiggle up and down in my seat, to laugh so hard at a situation that I slap my thigh repeatedly like a demented circus seal. How I adore the freedom and freeness of laughter.
“If you like laughing, why are you so obsessed with watching depressing drama? Cinema and theatre are supposed to be an escape from the trauma of life itself.” My friend Sam is referring to my recent trip to see Scenes from a Marriage, a three-and-a-half-hour theatre adaptation of the Ingmar Bergman film.
This was at the end of a week when R admitted himself back into rehab and my boiler broke down, leaving the house as chilly as the supermarket freezer aisle. Threes, I thought. Everything bad comes in threes, so I trundled off to the theatre to receive the final blow to my bad week, to observe the myriad ways in which marriage can break down.
From problematic sex lives to adultery, from drunken rows to pointless power struggles, from being unsure about having children to actually having children, it was mostly all there. Yes, the audience tittered in parts and there were elements of farce, but it was mainly gruelling and shouty (and in Dutch, with surtitles, it seemed even more of a challenge).
I fell asleep in the last half hour – most definitely more to do with knocking back a large glass of wine for stamina in the interval, and sitting in the womb-like warmth of the auditorium than because of a poor production. But perhaps my lethargy was telling me that when it comes to my current choice of entertainment, I should change the record for a while. There is such a thing as too much introspection, too much time spent living in the hazy past.
(I’m still drawn towards the darker side of life, the stuff that makes the heart ache. You can’t totally deny yourself the things you love, but like a person struggling with obesity who needs to go easy on the doughnuts, I need to limit my intake of the maudlin.)
I will put old favourites such as Kramer vs. Kramer, Don’t Look Now and Heartburn to one side for now. More recent laugh-a-minute films such as Fishtank, Blue Valentine and London to Brighton won’t feature in my December watchlist, not because I don’t enjoy them but because I’m after something more upbeat just now. Films such as these often work like two negatives in a mathematical equation for me: they have the power to uplift because I can relate to many elements of the story.
But at the moment I’m in need of more out and out joy: some light comic relief – to make me laugh enough to make my stomach ache.
Good job, then, that I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here is in full swing. It’s something I watch with my daughter, who would sooner die than sit next to me on the sofa and watch anything worthy or depressing. She already sees me as a pre-historic creature that would, if I hosted a party for her, play back-to-back Paul Simon LPs. I want to prove to her that I am not that bad.
She is surprised and delighted when I tell her that we’ll watch her favourite programme together.
Like many people, I find the show totally engrossing and hilarious. I didn’t even know who Joey Essex was until a couple of weeks ago, but now that I’ve seen his glacial tombstone teeth chewing on an ostrich willy, I will never forget.
On the first night we sit on the sofa, my daughter wants to know why I find the bushtucker trial – in which Joey Essex gags on a turkey’s testicle – so incredibly funny. I can’t explain. “It just is,” I say, slapping my thigh.
A few seconds later, I look over and see her sniggering away at wild-eyed Matthew Wright choking on the turkey’s other testicle. My daughter and I are going through a very trying time in our relationship (she hates me) but here, in front of the telly, laughter has never come so easily.
And when I’m a Celebrity … is over, I can always re-watch the Kanye West music video starring Kim Kardashian. Or read What’s Not To Love? The Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer, which to my mind is one of the funniest memoirs ever written. Certainly enough laughter to keep me going until Christmas.