The only thing that matches my love of sci-fi and all things geeky is my love of theatre. This combination often surprises people – I still find myself up against the preconception that theatre is ‘highbrow’ and sci-fi is ‘lowbrow’ and never the twain shall meet – but really, there’s far more crossover than you’d think. In fact, I’d argue, if you’re a geek and you don’t go to the theatre, you’re really missing out.
So why is theatre so rarely covered by the ‘genre’ press? Is it because it’s location specific – so editors presume that readers won’t be interested in something happening at the other end of the country? But if that were the case, they’d never cover comic cons: face it, in terms of cost and travel, theatre is more accessible than a convention for most of us. Is it because it’s still considered an elitist art form? Or do theatre companies and their PR simply not push to these sites and magazines: if you’re used to sending your press release to The Stage, I can see you might not think of sending it to SFX. Either way, I think both sides are missing a trick: there are some truly exciting things happening in the world of theatre that I’m sure the average geek would be keen on, and theatres are losing out on a huge potential new audience.
Theatre has always been the medium of the fantastical: from the gods and monsters of Greek tragedy to the ghosts and witches of Shakespeare, theatre is a world where normal rules don’t apply. And when it works well, there’s simply nothing like a live experience to transport you: The National Theatre’s production of His Dark Materials was far more engaging than the lacklustre film, and London has recently hosted well-received adaptations of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Frankenstein and Howl’s Moving Castle, while Punchdrunk’s Crash of the Elysium gave audiences a chance to enjoy their very own Doctor Who adventure. Horror fans are particularly well-served; The Woman in Black has been terrifying West End audiences for years before they made the movie, while at the other end of the economic scale, small companies like the Theatre of the Damned are providing scares on a shoestring, proving you don’t have to spend a fortune to make (or see) innovative and exciting theatre.
Sure, you’re saying: that’s fine if you live in London and have deep pockets. Of course, while the capital is richly served in terms of theatre (and venues) and a trip to the West End for two won’t leave enough change out of a hundred quid to buy popcorn*, it’s simply not true that you can’t find great live theatre elsewhere, or that it’s always unaffordable. Many of these companies tour, and there are plenty of fantastic groups based outside of London (Kneehigh, for instance, who specialise in wildly original takes on fairytales and folklore, are based in Cornwall). Most venues offer discounts for certain age groups or local residents or through corporate sponsorship: with a bit of careful shopping, you can have a night of fantastic live entertainment for the same price as a cinema ticket. Even if you’re based somewhere that is short of traditional theatre venues, it’s worth looking around; cities like York, for instance, have a great tradition of ghost tours which allow you to get your scares and have a pint at the same time. Sure, it might not be something you want to do – or can afford to do – every weekend, but there’s a thrill to a live experience that even the biggest budget blockbuster can’t match. So why not get your geek on at a theatre near you?
*DO NOT eat popcorn at a theatre. Or I will find you. And I will kill you.
Tempted to try? The London Horror Festival has a load of great shows on this October, and The Woman In Black is currently running in London. The hugely fun Alien War experience has returned to Glasgow until April next year, while Newcastle’s Theatre Royal is doing a Halloween production of Frankenstein. If you know of any other great shows for geeks, please let me know in the comments.
I’ll be back in a fortnight, but in the meantime feel free to pop by Body of a Geek Goddess and say hi, and of course should you have a couple of quid to spare, why not help a jobbing writer out and buy my book, Dark Dates? If you’re after a live experience, you can imagine me reading it to you.