Fancy a night at the theatre laughing in the face of fear? Lucy Nichol prepares to embrace what scares her from the stalls.
Ever wonder why the unknown is more scary than the reality? Take the snap general election; having resigned myself to Tory leadership for years to come, there’s now a faint glimmer of hope – and I feel worse. Why’s that then?
Perhaps when we offset the worst case scenario against the glimmer of hope, it looks much darker and far more scary in comparison. Shine a light next to a monster’s face and you’ll see all the gory details. It reminds us how real it is.
It’s the same with theatre. Well, no, not the same exactly. I’d much rather enjoy a night at the theatre than Tory politics. But what I’m talking about is not just theatre, it’s participation theatre. Are you scared yet? You should be.
Something Terrible Might Happen is a new production (part theatre, part standup) from Leeds-based arts company Uncanny Theatre. It’s a response to our increasingly fearful society.
I spoke to the people behind the show, Matt Rogers and Natalie Bellingham, to find out why they thought it was a good idea to parcel up our fear and deliver it back to us in a theatre for fun.
“It’s a fact that we are statistically the safest people who have ever lived… but deep down I don’t believe it even though I want to.”
I’m intrigued. What can audiences expect from Something Terrible Might Happen?
Natalie Bellingham: Something unexpected, a conversation in the pub later and, if they are lucky, a cola cube.
Matt Rogers: It’s a show about fear, so not knowing is all part of it; but I’d say that a spike in adrenaline, cold sweats and prickling of the hairs at the back of your neck wouldn’t be out of the picture.
Hmm… I’m a little nervous. It’s interactive theatre. What if you pick me out of the audience and I die of embarrassment? It’s an interesting choice of format for the topic.
NB: It’s the only format for a show about fear!
MR: We do everything that we can to prepare the audience for the worst. I think we’re very reassuring; like the presence of a policeman with a machine gun at a train station, or a very long safety talk about something that you never considered to be dangerous before.
As to your fear of being picked… we don’t generally pick people. The group sort of self-selects after a fashion. Which in some ways puts us a little bit on edge too.
What inspired the show?
MR: There was a moment a couple of years ago where it started to feel like fear was the primary way that people were engaging with the world. Suspicion and mistrust seemed to be everywhere, but it was mixed with this air of nostalgia for a time when people ‘didn’t have to’ respond to each other this way. It just felt like that sentiment needed unpacking a little bit.
NB: As a company, we all have a very different relationship to fear, which seems important to share as we were all initially inspired by different things.
I’m a fairly anxious person and I’ve been brought up in a particularly fearful household which for many years coloured the way I saw the world and is something I have had to try hard to undo. I find the world exhausting and as things seemingly continue to get worse I just find myself asking if we’re all going to be OK.
It’s a fact that we are statistically the safest people who have ever lived… but deep down I don’t believe it even though I want to. The title perhaps connects with me the most; I found a particularly interesting article that looked at how people often think about the thing they definitely don’t want to happen, then become fixated on that worst case scenario, and how we then tend to adjust our behaviour to avoid it.
MR: The show is more about a kind of shared state of societal fear. I feel like blaming this kind of fear 100 per cent on media influence is a bit of a cop-out. It plays a big role, but we also take decisions every day that impact how we respond to one another.
I was chatting to a taxi driver the other day, and he was explaining that he didn’t pick up lone drunk women because he didn’t want to be the last person who saw them if anything bad happened to them. There’s such a complicated tapestry of fears woven together in that sentiment, that I can’t help but think that we’re talking about the right thing at the right time.
NB: The show looks at fear in relation to compassion. Does how much we fear affect how much we care? Can it actually see us retreating from the world? We are all people with experiences and we reflect (sometimes pushing to the extreme) how this can influence our experience and relationship to the world and what that could mean for us.
What are you most terrified of?
NB: I simply have only one thing to say. FUNGUS.
MR: I’m more concerned that my relative lack of fear makes me some sort of mutant that will be burned to death by an angry mob one day, but I think that everyone has that one… right?
Now you know it is interactive theatre, there’s every chance you could end up doing something silly and it’s all about fear. I can confirm that it will be terrifying. So now you know for sure, there’s really nothing to worry about. Is there?
So how’s about it readers? Are you game?
Part theatre, part standup, part childish prank by people old enough to know better, Something Terrible Might Happen promises a night of laughing in the face of fear, knocking on the doors of strangers and embracing all that we’re afraid of.
The show previews at GIFT (Gateshead International Festival of Theatre) on 29 April and then will continue to put the shits up audiences in Wakefield, Sheffield, Salford, Harrogate, Doncaster, Leeds and Derby. For full tour dates and tickets, visit the website.
Neurotic hen-keeper, feline friend and mental health blogger. Prone to catastrophisation and over excitement at the garden centre. Caution: do not give Diet Coke after dark.