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Shenton's View

A matinee, a Pinter play….

In Sondheim’s immortal “The Ladies Who Lunch” from Company, Joanne famously sings of a certain type of women’s desperate attempts to fill their days:
Another long exhausting day,
Another thousand dollars,
A matinee, a Pinter play,
Perhaps a piece of Mahler’s.
I’ll drink to that.
And one for Mahler!

Notwithstanding Elaine Stritch’s hilarious admission that when she first sang the song, she thought Mahler’s was a type of cheesecake, I always think of the song when I go to matinees — not least when they’re Pinter plays.

The other day the Guardian’s Michael Billington tweeted, “Let’s hear it for the much-mocked matinee. Have recently been to a couple and find actors and audience much fresher than in the evenings.”

I see a lot of matinees, too — partly at the moment because the schedule is so crazily busy that it’s the only way I can (try to) catch up. Just yesterday I saw Martin Sherman’s Passing By at the Finborough, which only performs Sunday and Monday nights and Tuesday matinees, so it was one of the few opportunities to see this rarely-seen play. And tomorrow afternoon I’m catching Roger Rees’s solo show What You Will, which opened on Tuesday night but I was at Brighton, reviewing the new production of Blue/Orange.

But I also like matinees. Partly its the change of temperature — it feels less pressurised for everyone. People who go to matinees aren’t generally rushing there after a hard day at the office. Of course, in my case I’m avoiding the office, so it has the added frisson of feeling like I’m skiving a little. Although of course I’m not — it’s also a big part of my job to go to the theatre, though of course that’s the most pleasurable part of my job. The harder graft is actually tying myself to my desk to write about it! (Though I enjoy that, too).

I’m fresher for matinees, too, even if the rest of the audience often isn’t. I enjoy watching the sight of nodding heads all around me at them. But more than that, I’m thrilled that they come at all. Matinees, which used to be draughty affairs where there would be small, cozy audiences, are I find these days often the busiest I go to.

Audiences seem to appreciate the convenience factor; it’s also easier, for out-of-towners, to get to the theatre and home again on a sensible train. And, working in reverse as a Londoner, I find getting to out-of-town matinees can be a good way of being able to get home myself easily from there.

Or perhaps it’s just a sign of my (and Billington’s) own advancing age that we relish the matinee. It’s a welcome antidote to the rat-race of life.


I really like going to matinee's as it is often the only chance I get to see a production, it also means that I don't have to worry about missing the last train home, indeed Long Day's Journey into Night had a Wednesday matinee and no evening performance. I wonder if any other shows might do this? The National used to have different matinee's during the week like the Globe does, but they now seem to have settled into Thursday afternoon's which is much like any other theatre. That said at least they have weekday matinees unlike the RSC at the Roundhouse which if I recall correctly didn't do many at all.

You make some good points, Mark, especially regarding the travelling aspect.
Sadly, I've made the trip from Glasgow down to London in the morning to catch a matinee so that I can travel back in the evening (so as to not incur further hotel costs) and have witnessed at least one less than fresh performance: ~For example if I not seen Wicked twice before (both evening shows) with pretty much the same cast I would not have noticed how little effort some of (not all) the leads put in to the matinee. Thankfullt on this occasion I had not paid as much for the ticket as on previous occasions otherwise I woudl have demanded my money back.
Of course this is not true of all shows and, as I indicated, if this were my first viewing I would have been none-the-wiser. Instead I would have been simply been unimpressed.
I think it a shame that there are performers out there who have this attitude in the first place - it is there job to give it their all on each occasion, especially when there are people paying more than good money for the experience. And, after all, if they aren't willing to put in the effort I'm sure there are many other performers who would relish the oppurtunity to do so.

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