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09 July 2013

Some things defy categories

I went to see the latest show at Circa Theatre a few days ago. It’s called ‘C—a musical’, and it’s about the writer and director Paul Jenden’s experiences with cancer. At least, that’s the easiest way to describe it. Really, it’s a funny, touching, surreal, and rather outrageous show about how Jenden got through a difficult time, and how his fantasies helped him.  It also has divine music, composed by the talented Gareth Farr, a long-time collaborator with Jenden.

It’s a brilliant show, and deserves to be a total success.

But it has a problem—it doesn’t fit easily into any known genre, so it’s hard to categorise and describe. I was talking after the Opening Night to Danny Mulheron, a well known comedy actor who plays Jenden in the show. ‘I wish Paul had called it ‘Fantasies of Venice’, sighed Mulheron. ‘That would appeal better to the punters who think a show about cancer is going to be heavy and sad.’

That started me thinking about the importance of titles, and how much we human beings like to put things into boxes. We seem to feel safest when we know what to expect, and how to categorise things…even if those boxes and categories don’t entirely fit.

How do you describe something that falls between several categories? Especially if you have to catch people’s attention with just one pithy phrase? That’s the communication challenge ‘C—a musical’ faces. Most of us fall back on stock phrases like ‘It’s terrific’, or ‘really worth seeing’.  We may even say the show took us by surprise, or really moved us. All of that’s true. But there’s so much more to say. You’ll just have to see the show so you can categorise it for yourself.

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