Benedick and Butterscotch
In the summer of 2015, I found out that Benedick Cumberbatch was performing in HAMLET in London from August to October. Quickly assessing my finances I realized I would not be able to go. So you can imagine my joy when National Theatre Live decided to live stream it in 2016, and that there was a theatre only two hours away showing it!
I bought my tickets months ahead...for more than I usually spend on a tank of gas. I couldn't find anyone to go see it with me, so I bravely jumped in my car by myself and listened to an audio book of HAMLET for warm ups as I made the two-hour trek. I buzzed with excitement. My heart pounded like a schoolgirl. My palms were damp. One of the great British actors of our time was going to portray what is arguably the best role ever written. And SHAKESPEARE to boot!
I pulled into the parking lot with 45 minutes to spare. No waiting in line, I had my ticket in hand. I looked around the theatre for what would surely be the longest line in the history of man...but...no. Not YET I thought. I grabbed some Dots in a box from the concession stand. The theatre doors were opened and I was the first one in. I surveyed the strange theatre which was full of these miraculous overstuffed Lazy-boy loungers with footrests and a mile of legroom between rows. Sweet. I chose the perfect seat in the middle of the middle and settled in. Slowly, others arrived and chose their seats. A really nice couple, an older man and woman sat on my right, and two middle aged women, each with a cup of wine, each on my left.
Sigh. Middle aged women TALK during movies. Especially when they are enveloped by the casual comfort of a Lazy-boy lounger, and a beer mug sized glass of WINE. Even though this was a live streamed play, not a movie, I was suddenly convinced there would be a stream of snappy repartee to preclude my hearing EVERY WORD Hamlet had to say.
I looked around for a possible escape, but now the theatre was packed. I was trapped in the middle of the middle with Aunt Bee and Granny Clampit swapping recipes during the Bard's pinnacle of playwriting. Tears swam in my eyes. I jammed a fistful of Dots in my mouth to stop up the oncoming groan of misery. Then, the house light dipped and dimmed. The show was about to begin.
At the interval, I relaxed a bit. Not one peep had emerged from my left side seat partners. The interval came, and they departed ... I thought for more wine but the sad thing is...they never came back. I felt bad they didn't love this like I did, but ...Oh well. More air for me.
After the break, I snuggled up in my comfy chair, ready to see this through to the end. Once again the lights dimmed, Benedict tore up the stage, Ophelia died, and then...and then...
Oh, no! There was something wrong with the film! There was this.. crackling. Very slow, unending crackling. I looked around to see if others noticed, but they all seemed unconcerned. Finally it stopped. Ok. Whew. And then it started again and I realized that the nice man next to me was evvvverrrr sooooooo slooowly unwrrrraaapppping his butterscotch candy. I know it was butterscotch because he CHEWED it. Loudly. Crunching with relish. Apparently with his mouth open. It was unmistakably butterscotch. And very very loud. Crackling and squeaking its way out of the wrapper. Granny and Bee were nothing compared to this guy. And I think he was trying to be quiet because it took him a whole soliloquy to free a butterscotch from its cellophane cocoon. I think he confused the concepts of "slow" and "quiet" which really are completely different.
Thankfully there were two intermissions. Thankfully Granny and Bee had vacated their seats. I moved over to the seat furthest from Butterscotch man and hunkered down just as the lights dimmed for the final time. Without incident the movie reached its sorrowful, deadly end. As the lights came back on, I stood and put on my coat, and scarf and gloves. I got my Dots box ready to toss into the bin, and turned to exit, then realized my hat had slipped beneath the footrest. I turned back to find Butterscotch Man glaring at me for holding up the line.
"This is really rude," his wife said, "you are holding EVERYBODY up. "
Speechless, I gave a pointed look to her husband, who looked me in the eye and said,
"You really should be more thoughtful of others, little lady."
Holding my tongue, I looked over my shoulder at the screen. There was Benedick, back from the dead, and he was smiling at me. Like he could see me all the way from London. Like he felt my pain.
I smiled at the two of them. "Sorry." I said. And that was it. I drove home daydreaming of playing Gertrude to Benedict's Hamlet. Margaret to his Richard. Elizabeth the his William. And I realized it was Shakespeare was worth it, butterscotch and all.