Last night I had an emotional first-time experience with Tim Minchin. It was a one-off show, tiny, intimate venue absolutely stuffed with industry and me, siting at the back of the stalls. Tim specifically asked us not to review the show, that’s not what this is, but I was struck by the intensity of the feelings inspired.
My friend Charlie (nerdy about everything) is a big Tim fan. She bought a spare ticket, otherwise I wouldn’t have known it was on, and I happened to be in London.
I’ve encountered Tim over the years, mainly on YouTube. I know him to be funny, clever, talented. But live, in this small theatre, as he played a mix of really wonderful new songs and a few of his old comedy songs, with which I was no more familiar, it was pretty overwhelming.
He played a couple of crowd-pleasers from his musical, Matilda. I’d seen this when it first opened, when Charlie and I had tried to make a tradition of taking my Naughty Daughter to the RSC xmas production instead of a panto.
He also played a couple of songs from his latest musical Groundhog Day, which I’d seen last year in its West End preview. Charlie took me to that too, although she saw it seven times, most recently as the Broadway production closed.
I love a good musical, and GHD is a bloody brilliant musical. It’s so cleverly staged in its repititons, beautifully cast and performed, and the songs – including the anthemic Playing Nancy, a feminist ballad about being the pretty bit-part – are to die for. And when I think today of Tim playing Seeing You last night, my eyes well and I’m again overcome.
One of the most satisfying things about the gig was how well Tim Minchin knows his audience. And I don’t mean personally, although that probably accounted for a third of them. But he referenced his front row fans, made in-jokes about his own songs and the few people who didn’t already know his punchlines. He played with them and they loved him all the more for it.
So why am I so emotional about something Charlie’s the actual fan of? Well seemingly, that’s what I do.
I remember when Charlie told me about some rap musical she was excited to see on Broadway and that New Year’s Eve she sat on the floor of my new apartment rapping along to the original Broadway cast recording. Charlie! Rapping! I know! A mere 18 months later and Charlie, ND and I were rapping along to that same soundtrack on our US roadtrip, as we visited Monticello, the Lafayette tour sites of Savannah Georgia, the Richard Rogers theatre – all locations relating to Alexander Hamilton or, more importantly, Hamilton: an American Musical. As I write I’m wearing my cheap knock-off Hamilton t-shirt. Now, whenever I well-up listening to the Broadway cast recording I think of how much I’m going to cry when I see the show live in the West End in December. And I’m taking ND on her 18th birthday next year. That in itself can make me weep.
When someone asked why I was going multiple times I couldn’t answer. I don’t know why this is as important to me now, as I approach forty, as going to see Take That was when I was 12. Or the Levellers at 18. Or Maxïmo Park at 27.
Without Charles I never would’ve wept my way through the heartbreaking Fun Home on Broadway, or seen this weird comedy film Brakes at London Comedy festival, or pretended to be in a meeting and watched the last ever episode of Parks and Rec at work (then hiding for a further half an hour because I’d been crying so hard). Thanks to Charlie, I not only took ND to see her first production of Rent (which I bawled through) but I’ve read Anthony Rapp’s book about the making of the original show and had a much deeper experience of the piece, like the girls who come to it at the age of 16 and become obsessed.
And it’s not just Charlie. I can cry my eyes out when Fulham score in a rare televised match, even though I don’t see them live anymore. I’m banned from seeing Naughty Daughter’s shows because I get so tearful and embarrassing. I saw Zoë Coombs Marr’s show Trigger Warning twice this year in Edinburgh, because I was so off my tits on raw emotion I couldn’t take it all in during one viewing. Tears can pour out of my eyes during any TV show, movie, or even a particularly moving trailer for a movie (again, much to ND’s embarrassment).
Yet I can’t remember the last time I properly cried in real life. My Grandpa’s funeral maybe?
Why do I love Hamilton so much? No idea. Why do I get so overwhelmed when I’m chanting that Fulham are the greatest team, the world has ever seen? Haven’t a clue.
In 2004, when I wrote my BA dissertation, titled Being A Fan is Really Cool, I outlined different types of fans and fan behaviours. Compared to all those types, I’m not a good fan. I don’t put the hours in, do the research. I don’t know when people are touring or who wrote this or starred in that. I’m led by the nose by my friends and family, pointing me in the direction of things I then fall utterly in love with, but I don’t do the homework. I’m just in it for the feels, the glory, buy the tshirt, get to show off that I’m a fan of the thing that other people are talking about. Because I might love so hard I cry, but no matter how you come to a thing, love is cool. Being a fan is really cool.