The Gnome’s experience of the performing arts is limited to trips to the RSC and the occasional visit to the ballet. The latter is entirely at the behest of Mrs Gnome, and is a visit to be endured rather than enjoyed. He finds ballet dancers distract him from listening to the band – particularly as the sound of all those feet thumping across the stage recalls the wildebeest migration across the Serengeti.
Still, a love of the arts is a sign of a cultured man and it was therefore not an unpleasant experience for the Gnome to find himself in the impromptu role of theatrical consultant to a West Country seaside resort.
Exactly how this situation arose is far too complicated to explain, but an offer of free tea and digestive biscuits was involved. There was a time when nothing less than a chocolate hob-nob was expected in exchange for his time and expertise, but now freelance, no biscuit-related offer can be dismissed. With control of one’s destiny must come sacrifice…
The artistic brief was to create a new summer spectacular, the current version looking tired and past its sell-by date. Given the average age of visitors to the resort, the same could well be said for many of the potential audience.
The Gnome’s contribution to the process was limited – his suggestions of avant garde productions such as ‘Tin Mining on Ice’ and ‘Songs from the Fudge Production Industry’ meeting with blank stares and polite, but firm, shakes of the head.
What intrigued him though was a palpable feeling of time and history passing by. The original show was a forties night – all big bands and sounds of the Blitz. To have been in your twenties in 1940, and therefore at the age where music and happy memories are most likely to go hand in hand, means being at least eighty now. Few visitors of that era are capable of making the trek to a fading seaside resort.
The upshot was the new show would be ‘Songs from the Sixties’ – still chasing the grey pounds of the sixty plus demographic, just changing the era about which they come to reminisce.
It struck the Gnome that in only another 20 years he will be in this demographic. Forced to sit in a bath chair, knees covered by a tartan rug, will he appreciate the irony of a tribute act called ‘The Marmalade’ playing ‘Going Underground’ as his life ebbs away like the tide from Weston-Super-Mare?