I find it hard to sit still. So how did I fare at the theatre?

io find going to the theatre extremely challenging. You must sit perfectly still, and you have to concentrate. These are two things I find nigh on impossible. When I was a kid, everybody told me I had ants in my pants. In middle age I was told by a psychiatrist that I had attention deficit disorder. This pathologisation of having ants in one’s pants has been greatly reassuring to me, as well as a very useful sicknote for theatre invitations.

A volte, anche se, needs must. Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem, directed by Ian Rickson and starring Mark Rylance, demanded to be seen. I’ve met Ian a couple of times and like him. He’s a Charlton fan, and theatre people who are also into football I’ve always found to be excellent coves. I liked him even more when I saw a sign in the foyer indicating there would be three acts, with two intervals. For the neurodiverse this felt like nothing less than an act of compassion.

Comunque, notwithstanding the excellence of the production, there were moments when the challenge of keeping perfectly still, quiet and focused quite overwhelmed me. Inwardly I became frantic. The ants seethed in my pants. My mind raced. A school friend’s experience from 30 years ago came to mind. Vicky was taken on a date to the Birmingham Rep to see Waiting for Godot. Bored and baffled in equal measure, her heart broke with relief when it ended. But then it broke again when her date told her this was only the interval.

No such problems here. Rylance was luminously brilliant, even by his own standards. But I’m afraid that didn’t spare him the odd dark thought from me when I went through a bad patch. It’s all bloody right for you, I heckled inwardly – you can move around and shout and scream and twitch. Try sitting here!

Come the final whistle, I stood, applauded, and ran out into London’s glittering West End to shout, scream and twitch for all I was worth.

Adrian Chiles is a broadcaster, writer and Guardian columnist




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