I always like to keep abreast of current affairs in both the UK and international; I feel it’s important to have a certain amount of knowledge about the things that are going on around the globe. I don’t need to know all the news though, and in fact, actively try to avoid knowing too much as the world seems to be nothing but doom and gloom these days. Every day there are thefts, rapes, abductions, hate crimes, suicides, homicides, mass murders… by both men, women and ever increasingly young children. It would appear that the world is descending into a dark abyss of chaos and that things will keep getting worse until we bring about our destruction.
Bad news makes gripping news though. People are more interested in hearing about a big, dramatic event like a bomb explosion that killed dozens of people, than a feel-good story about a local hero who saved a woman from being mugged for example. That’s just human nature. Yes, there are bad people in the world, but there are also just as many good people here too; we just don’t always hear their stories. When you witness people’s capacity for kindness and the lengths they can go to to do good, it’s incredibly moving and reminds you that the world isn’t such a bad place after all.
I was reminded of this recently. One of my closest friends is currently fighting cancer for the second time in her life, and this time, it’s an extremely rare form of the disease that carries very limited options in regards to treatment. She is an amazing, beautiful woman who has overcome so much in her life already, and I have felt a lot of anger that someone like her should have to go through this when there are awful people out there who glide through life untouched. A small group of her closest friends and family decided to organise a fundraising day to pay for a private alternative treatment which carries the best chance of success for her and we have been stunned by the level of response we’ve gotten so far. Local people have turned out in droves to show their support for her, by arranging/volunteering for sponsored events, giving items for our raffle and auction, donating money, offering their help and services for the day and so much more. In just a few days, our small idea has already turned into an extravaganza of a day and it’s still growing. We have all, especially my friend, been overwhelmed by the generosity of these people. It just goes to show that the world isn’t as lost a cause as some think. I have found it so inspiring to see our community come together like this to help a fellow ‘Romney Marshian’.
Inspiring stories such as these can be found everywhere; you just have to look past the bad to see them. Our view of the world and the people who inhabit it is all about our own interpretations. Theatre serves as a great example of this. Is Billy Elliot a story about the hardship the Thatcher regime put on the coal miners and a boy who is limited by his class and upbringing, or a young boy who overcomes the struggles in his life to achieve his dream, against all the odds? Is Matilda one of those too-familiar story these days about a young child neglected and unloved by her family, or an uplifting message that a bad start in life doesn’t define the rest of your life and that it can become better than you ever thought possible? Both Matilda and Miss Honey could be said to find this. Then of course there’s Rock of Ages, which could be a show which highlights the dangers of the rock and roll lifestyle – mainly drink and drugs – or one which reassures that dreams can come true for the good guy if he has the talent and belief. It could also show that that it’s never too late to turn your life around, as with the character of Stacee Jaxx; a concept which is repeated in Scrooge. How about The Phantom of the Opera? A dark tale of how ugliness can breed madness and murder, or an hopeful one of how love can transcend appearances? Is this what Shrek’s story is about too? Of course, Les Miserables could be seen as the most depressingly morose musical in all the West End; it’s very name translates as ‘The Miserable Ones’ after all. Les Mis is the story of a woman forced into prostitution by poverty, an abused child, a group of idealistic students who are mercilessly cut down in their youth and a man whose life is stolen from him, first through a lengthy incarceration for a petty crime of desperation and then by having to spend the remainder of his years running to keep his freedom. Or is it? Les Mis could also be the story of the strength of a mother’s love for her child, two lonely people finding love and happiness with one another, a group of students who are willing to stand up and fight for their beliefs and a man’s journey from thief and convict to a good-hearted man of God. As I said, it’s all about interpretation.
I like to believe that most people who go to the theatre interpret it in a positive light. I can’t imagine so many would go again and again for several hours of what they perceive to show the ugliest sides of human nature. Theatre makes people feel good. They go home happy, not sad or depressed. If we can see the good in the make-believe world of musical theatre, maybe we should open our eyes more in the real world; then we may just see more of the good that surrounds us here.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)