Tuesday night's Melbourne Festival show was IRAA's Private Eye, a one-on-one show in various hotel rooms of the Grand Hyatt Hotel. By one-on-one, I mean one audience member and one cast member, sharing a room, or a couch, or a bed, or a scotch, or personal stories. Not one for the sociophobes,but despite this it's also one of the most intense, original and personally affecting experiences you're likely to have in the name of theatre. I left shaking. And by the love of all that is good, I want nothing more than to reveal what happens during the show, but to do so and have someone read it who might have already scored a ticket would be criminal. It's like The Sixth Sense of live theatre It's completely sold out, so there's not even any chance to tell you to go out and buy one if you haven't already. So what do I do? Two things: firstly, I say bad luck if you miss the show. And secondly, I am beginning to wonder if this Festival Is Becoming A Problem. I've seen a lot of stuff in the past week or so. And I've been cramming in more than is probably healthy. So I decided to give myself a quick and easy test, devised a few decades ago by some government health official.
IS YOUR ARTS ATTENDANCE BECOMING A PROBLEM?
1. Do you attend arts events because you have problems? To face up to stressful situations? (Do you think that it relieves anxiety?)
No. That's ridiculous. Nothing arty ever solved anything. It's just a bit of fun, and I can stop whenever I want.
2. Do you go to the theatre when you get upset or angry? Or when other people hurt you? (Do you think it helps to remove pain?)
Of course not. Although the comfortable chairs and soothing low lights do seem to make all my worldy worries just...slip away...
3. Do you go alone as well as with friends? Or do you often prefer to go to shows alone?
Well, I do go alone quite a lot but only because my friends have mostly stopped. More because of the bad experiences they've had than anything else. Soft. They're soft. That's it.
4. Is your work life starting to slip? Are you missing work because you can’t get up in the morning after going to arts functions? (Does it also effect other areas of your life?)
Funny that - I have noticed that some mornings are a lot more painful than others. Also, there are some days when I sit at my desk and all I can think about is getting out of there for a quick visit to one of the inner-city galleries. Just during lunch, or something. No one would know.
5. Have you tried to stop attending...or attending less - and failed?
No, I'm sure if I tried to stop I could. Next question.
6. Have you begun to visit art galleries before work, to "calm" yourself for the day/event?
Ooooh, yeah. That sweet, sweet first viewing of the day is the best.
7. Do you consume your arts events as if to satisfy a great thirst?
Hey! That's exactly how I'd describe it! It's like I run around all over the place and just can't get enough of it! And then I fall over and when I wake up, I just want some more ART!
8. Do you ever have loss of memory due to your viewing?
Not that I can recall. Although there was this time that I found myself standing alone in a puddle under the Westgate at three in the morning, my torn clothes hanging limply in the chill breeze and my hands clutching a mud-spattered program for an MTC show. No idea what was up with that!
9. Do you avoid being honest with others about your attendance?
Only because they wouldn't understand. They're so quick to judge! So I tell them I'm going out boozing instead.
10. Do you ever get into trouble when you are at arts events? (Examples: fighting, compromising sexual situations, etc.)
Is that unusual?
11. Does your attendance cause injuries?
I suppose. A numb ass, callouses from fingering through programs, opening night ego, atrophied chin from too much stroking, ground molars from cabaret, a disproportionate sense that "all the world's a stage" and I'm currently going through it. Also I suffer from Playwright's Whack - this is a little known condition whereby playwrights feel the sudden urge to smack me across the back of the head.
12. Do you believe (be honest) that "sitting through the whole thing" is some type of achievement or something to boast about?
That's pretty much the foundation for my entire sense of self-worth.
So - do I have a problem? Is it a problem if no one else is getting hurt by it? Should I seek professional help (from some kind of professional and accredited Philistine!!!)