I shouldn’t be here, I thought. No , I really shouldn’t – the ticket wasn’t bought with my own attendance in mind, it was for an exceptionally hacked-off, just-about-to-take-their-finals-at-a-university-230-miles-away child. The exam dates weren’t published until after the ticket secured.
But I really shouldn’t be here because I am an ignorant innocent about what is unfolding in front of me. London’s Festival Hall is thronging, throbbing, with that sort of bubbling anticipation laced with laughter that dives down into a sect or cult at the sinister end of the spectrum. Lots of sartorial homage on show – or maybe. that’s just how some/many people chose to dress.
Yes, I’m here amongst the adherents and admirers of the late Terry Pratchett, his still living literary sibling Neil Gaiman and, recently announced, the stars of the long-awaited TV adaption of a seminal work, Good Omens, one Whovian (David Tennant) and one son of Glamorgan (Michael Sheen).
And I know nothing about any of this. I have never read anything by Pratchett or Gaiman. I have never felt a desire to do so. The only thing I have read about them was theWiki page on the train into town.
The auditorium is packed. Mostly people not too young and not too old. Mostly white. Slightly more women than men. I swear that’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge to my left in the row in front. The noise when the troup of performers x 2, author, and host Kirsty Wark is a Niagara-like cacophony. Our heroes in the flesh returned to us.
Kirsty leads the discussion like an edition of Newsnight. Gaiman looks too comfortable, Tennant slightly unnerved by the reception but oh-so-still, rapt. Sheen is mischievous, and fidgets. References to “finding my tribe” from the platform – oh yes, the tribe loves that.
This is no inquisition though. It is an exhibition. The verbal equivalent of underarm bowling, uncritical adoring acclaim for every stroke – but suffused with joy and warmth. There’s a quip about standing on “the edge of absurdity” – I think they mean the book, but it could be the evening as a whole.
And all around, all the time, the presence of Pratchett. (Is “presence” too much for the atheist that he was? Possibly we should say “influence” or “admiration” or “affection” instead.) But it was there.
The relationship between Good Omens’ two main characters is described as people learning to dance with each other. That’s just how it seems between Gaiman and the audience. He’s always leading, and the crowd is willing to be led. The evening ends with a lively Q&A session – Kirsty manages to call 10 speakers in less than half-an-hour, which is a skill in itself. Does it mean anything that 9 of these are women?
Memorable quip of the night goes to Michael Sheen – Good Omens blows the myth that anything you enjoy doing as an actor can’t be any good.
I left knowing, really, not much more than I did when I came in. But I do now want to see Good Omens and might even read the book…..
Image: The Stage Is Set (author credit)