I'm an old curmudgeon who was clearly never cut out for theatre-going because every one else annoys me far too much, and perhaps on this basis, I'll throw in the towel and just perform the plays myself to an audience of me and then I can't complain.
I'd read the book and listened to the audio, so with one box left to tick we'd booked tickets to see Susan Hill's The Woman In Black at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth.
'It's really scary' I said to Bookhound and off we trotted, foregoing a pre-theatre meal because Bookhound is hoping to get some building work underway here soon, so we're on maximum economy and £40 on the tickets seemed expensive enough when a night out used to cost a fiver.
We settled into our Row C Dress Circle seats worryingly surrounded by an ominous number of teenagers waving to an even more ominous number down in the Front Stalls, and I could feel the tension creeping up the back of my neck, teeth starting to grit.
'The schools are in' I whispered...
though heaven knows why I was whispering, you couldn't hear yourself think.
Before I go any further we really must get several things straight.
I love teenagers.
After all I was one, and once upon a time I had three of mine own to play with, so I have nothing but kindly thoughts for the breed.
I'm also really thrilled to see teenagers filling a theatre, it's brilliant that books like The Woman In Black are on the curriculum and can be seen in performance, but perhaps it might be an idea to offer the schools their own performances...just a thought.
The performance began and as if by magic we were surrounded in an instant by quadrophonic sweet packets and synchronised crackling, slurping, hissing water bottles and much giggling and whispering and so it continued.
Bookhound did the 'look over the shoulder' thing and was most disconcerted to find that the teacher was making as much noise with his water and his Revels as his pupils.
So we soldiered on but it became increasingly difficult to lose myself in the mysteries of Eel Marsh House.
Sadly all was lost once the screaming started as Dress Circle tried to outdo Front Stalls and it rolled around the theatre in a sort of audible Mexican wave, any sense of dramatic tension dissipating in a flash. There are moments of gentle comedy in this production juxtaposed with that supposed serious tension, plus a couple of jumpy moments when anyone with a heart condition might need a de-fib, but as to whether it was 'scary', well it might have been given the right atmospheric conditions, who knows.
I can also see how nervous laughter may occasionally prevail but the hordes around us thought the whole thing was ridiculously hilarious comedy. Any pretense that we were attempting to watch something serious was finally shattered when the lead actor, pretending to throw something into the audience was greeted with a loud 'ouch' from some bright spark in the row behind us.
Actually the bright spark's timing was immaculate and completely spontaneous, the lad will go far.
'Siiiiiirrrr' went up the chorus, eyes down texting madly during the interval,
' We thought you said this was really scary?'
Sir managed to disengage from his whale-sized packet of Revels and his jeroboam of Malvern Spring long enough to pronounce with authority,
'Oh just you wait until the second half...'
as if his troops weren't wound up enough already.
Eventually anything that moved was greeted with rounds of prolonged screaming, pin-drop moments required a sledge hammer to be heard, the actors valiantly kept acting, we valiantly tried to hear the words and couldn't, and in the end I think we were all mightily relieved to get to the end, out of the theatre and on the road home.
The moments of supposed high drama just had them rolling in the aisles around us and I suddenly had a vision of the roaring boys and the bawdiness of the Globe in its first incarnation, just when did it all become civilised and our expectation for silence rise accordingly?
Bookhound did ring the theatre manager the next day, not so much to complain about our hard-earned £40 down the drain as to ask for our thanks to be passed on to two superb actors who we guess couldn't wait to leave the city but still had several nights to go. In fact we were only one of hundreds of calls he had received through what had been a dreadful week, many performances greeted in this way apparently and as well as advising us to go on a Friday in future (no teachers will take school parties on a Friday) he very kindly offered us free tickets to a performance of our choice.
'He says would we like to see An Inspector Calls next month'
declared Bookhound when he came off the phone.
'You're joking' I said, 'have you seen the GCSE.syllabus?'