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Slings & Arrows

February 12, 2007

Next Sunday sees the start of the third and -- tragically -- final series of Slings & Arrows. The non-profit theatre sector doesn't on the face of it sound like the most captivating subject for a television series. It doesn't even have the seemingly indispensable reality angle of recent TV shows centering on live theatre productions (and even reality TV couldn't make Grease: You're The One That I Want compelling viewing.)

Yet with its bonkers take on life at a rep theatre in Canada, the series has rightly garnered a small but devout following both at home and in the US.

I've been hooked ever since the very first episode. I remember the opening shot clearly: the artistic director of a tiny, rundown garage theatre is seen from behind with his head stuck down a very grimy toilet bowl. At first you think he's throwing up, but then you realize that he's just trying to unblock the thing. That one ten-second shot perfectly summarizes life as the director of a shoestring performing arts venue.

The image resonated with me because it recalled one of my own very first memories of working in the non-profit theatre world in London. I'd been hired right out of college to serve as the assistant at Cheek By Jowl Theatre Company. The managing director of the company at the time -- who was about six foot tall and affected matronly monochrome outfits, the color green or burgundy covering her imposing torso from toe to neck -- strode up to me on the first day, planted her enormous hands firmly on my desk and said: "The first thing you learn about working in theatre as that everyone has to muck in. It's not unusual to find me stuck with my head down the toilet busy with the plunger." It was an eye-opening introduction to the performing arts world. I will never forget it.

Slings & Arrows is packed with many such moments. The show does contain some cliches of luvviedom: the artistic director is mad, the leading lady is a diva, the only theatre to come out of eastern Europe is expressionistic, incomprehensible and created by effete German-trained directors in tight trousers etc etc. Nevertheless, the show is so tightly written and full of fun and lyricism that it ranks, in my opinion, as one of the best dramatic comedy series ever penned for the small screen. It's right up there with The Office and Blackadder.

I'm going to relish every episode of the upcoming series. If only there would be more to follow.

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3 Comments:

  • Love your blog. Any chance you could make it available via RSS feed so I can subscribe in NetNewsWire or Safari? I saw that "theater alert" is available through feedburner, but the blog doesn't seem to be...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At February 12, 2007 at 5:03 PM  

  • Hi Chloe,
    Very impressed by your new site, I haven't subscribed to the theatre alert (what with me living in London) but I'll definitely be checking your blog regularly.

    By Anonymous Douglas, At February 13, 2007 at 4:09 AM  

  • "I have fixed the toilet!"

    That show is brilliant--it should be part of the shared vocabulary of theatre folk everywhere.

    By Anonymous sd, At February 15, 2007 at 1:00 PM  

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