Or how online arts reviews have the potential to become the hot new place for musical lonely hearts.
For Guardian theatre critic Michael Billington it was just another review going up online. The veteran reviewer had just seen a new staging of Stephen Sondheim and Richard Rodgers’ 1964 flop Do I Hear A Waltz at an off-West End London venue (a luke-warm 3-star affair for those interested). But for some in the audience the night was yet young…
Spotting Billington’s review on the Guardian online website, the cryptically named 100Objects decided to get the following off his chest: “Mmmm left at half time. Underpowered show. Tunes no good and not enough light and shade for me. Shame.”
Seeing that, and feeling the need to leave a comment of his own, the more candidly identifiable Oliver Beatson wrote, “It’s a shame you didn't see the end. I think the performance of the actor playing Leona was worth sticking around for alone (not that it was the show’s only merit at all), although I feel the story indeed declined in Act II.”
Pretty straightforward you might think, but that innocuous comment turned out to be a shy pretext for Beatson’s real reason for posting: “On a less relevant note, but to be honest, the motive for my reply to you, was that you and I attended the same performance and so, I wonder if you were accompanied to this show by one other person, a young man?”
After this to-the-point sally, Beatson poured his heart out in admittedly rather tortuous prose: “I’ve been plagued by thoughts onset by the exchanged glances of fellow audience member, who left in the interval, with whom I shared a few brief looks, and regrettably no words. It is with fate-level serendipity that I saw this comment and so I request that if you know of whom I speak, that you might be able to direct him to my communication.”
He then proceeded to nail his ‘Sondheimite’ musical theatre credentials firmly to the mast: “I have only the most tender intentions and yet, like Benjamin Stone of “Follies” – or perhaps Cindarella’s prince in Into the Woods (“What’s as intriguing – or half so intriguing, as what’s out of reach?”) – seem especially unable to let go of “the road you didn’t take”, hence the borderline obsessive nature of this (I am aware – public) request.”
He then signed off hopefully: “Thanking you in advance, and apologizing both to my future self for how embarassing this all is and to you, if you were not even the person I am thinking of!”
Poor Oliver then waited an agonising 10 days before 100Objects spotted his post. “I’m glad you enjoyed the show, and agree there were some fine performances,” 100Objects wrote. “I was indeed accompanied by a young man. I’m not offended at all by your query but you should know he is my 16 year old son.”
What happened next for Oliver and 100Objects junior we will probably never know but since then, the thread has really taken off and the Guardian have had to remove several off-theme, off-colour posts. “Is your son taken?” writes Jay Freeman. “This is everything UKIP tried to warn us about =( ”, writes getoutofmydreams, alluding to the right wing UK Independence Party.
So, perhaps not the happy ending that Oliver Beatson hoped for, but maybe the good-natured frankness of the exchange may encourage others who generally confine their amorous attentions to the popular Guardian ‘Soulmates’ section to cut to the chase and see the Arts pages as a viable alternative. Any comments?