Knee High

Red January (#redjanuary2020) has been going so well, that without lying, I can boast that I have been knee high in physical activity – unspecified –  on each day of 2020.  This was until yesterday.

I was feeling torn because I was due to run the Gloucester Half Marathon today and the habit of my old, sensible, self is to taper before a running event.  When I booked my Gloucester entry I would have been envisaging a preparatory couch potato Saturday evening of carb loading and Scandi Noir. This in itself would have been controversial, for tapering is such a minefield that if you dare to turn up at a morning BMF session before a running event our British Military Fit bully/boss/coach/instructor (delete as appropriate) bans the T Word saying, ‘if you are tapering, you shouldn’t be here, end of. Now stop your whining, put your Voltarol away and get those burpees done!’.

Anyway, my intention was to give myself a day off from Red January and rest my legs so that I wouldn’t disgrace myself on the Sunday run.  My ‘Interesting Friend (IF)’  had other ideas, however  (‘IF’ is so called because she is so life-curious and so finger-on-the-pulse that if she invites you to something, you just know it is  going to be something left-side and fab.  You would be foolish to turn down an invitation from IF.

Months ago IF invited FM (Favourite or Fortunate Man, you decide) to see a performance of ‘KneeHigh’s ‘Ubu!’.  We said yes because we are lazy and heard her describe it as a ‘satire’ and assumed it would involve sitting in a theatre.  We must have zoned out when she premodified it as a ‘sing-along’ satire and revealed that the audience would be standing for over two hours in a converted indoor skatepark.  I am also so disorganised that I said yes without looking at the calendar to see that the event was last night and would clash with my sensible intention to rest my legs before today’s run.

‘…the best laid plans of mice and men,’ eh?

Before meeting up with IF and husband last night, I do some forensic internet research to see if there will be any seats at all for the audience of ‘Ubu!’ There will not.  Instead, on-line I read a description of the performance as, ‘part gig, part theatre, part revolution’.  More than a night at the theatre, the performance is described as ‘challenging, playful, brash and full of punk spirit’.  This doesn’t sound like tapering in my book.

I wonder whether to tell FM what we are going to see, but he is snoring on the sofa besides me, so I decide that a surprise will be best.  Without lying I am later able to assure him that we are in for a night of culture for the performance is based on ‘Ubu Roi’ a play written by Alfred Jarry in 1896 (FM is a sucker for a bit of history so his guard will be down at the mention of 1896 alone) which caused outrage when first performed because of its childishness, obscenity and disrespect (I’m a teacher, I am also a sucker and I should be fine with this triplet).

Anyway, short story very long, what a night!

Turns out that if you put an eclectic audience of all ages in a converted warehouse boasting a couple of bars and no seats, it really helps your wellbeing. It should be offered as a free prescription on the NHS.

Even as an English teacher, I can’t remember ever going to a performance where the audience is actively encouraged to leave their phones on,  take a  frequent ‘breather’ to visit the bar – where they can gargle with Tarquin’s Handcrafted Cornish Gin (oh, go on then) before returning to dance and sing along to some iconic anthems.

Confession time; mesmerised though I am by the performers, I am equally  mesmerised by a family positioned as close as they can squeeze up to the circular stage.

Both parents have taken up the invitation to become intimately acquainted with Tarquin – I know this because the husband gives us a wink every time he cuts past to the bar and leaves his wife to keep up  some relentless improvised personalised karaoke – this threatens to wipe out any low hanging audience as her dance moves quickly increase in range and ambition.

Their two teenagers are mortified and try their best to inch away from this mid-life performance whenever possible.  On each occasion, the mother sweeps them up and begins singing directly to them, holding her empty gin glass as an improvised mic.

Their children are clearly relieved when this ‘joyous bottom squeeze of a musical’  (Cornwall Live) introduces  distraction in the form of inflatables and ping pong balls for an improvised civil war.  Tension returns when volunteers are sought to play ‘swing your trunk’.  Fortunately, by this time, Knee High  – and site security – are colluding with the two teenagers to ensure that their mother will be ignored each time she volunteers and there is little chance of her achieving her wish to make it on to the stage itself and croon directly to their father. (This doesn’t stop her crawling onto the stage during one of the ‘breathers’, but her son grabs her sequinned boot and pulls her unceremoniously down into the bear pit before she can launch into a Bonny Tyler impersonation). Her husband, back from the bar, toasts her with another glass of Tarquin.

So as a Red January update, I can conclude that Kneehigh counts as both exercise and a hearty dose of wellbeing.  If you have the January blues, there are still tickets available (#themarblefactory) in Bristol for this week.

Instead of slathering on Voltarol, I have signed up for Kneehigh’s newsletter; I am hoping that in future tapering before a running event can be less couch spud and more ‘unhinged promenade musical’. Their performance certainly gave me something to talk about as we queued up at the race start this morning; we even had a little knees up in the pen. Now I need to think about Red Monday; I am hoping IF will invite me to do something interesting.

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