A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood & a Terrible Day for an Ex-pat

I woke up feeling pretty spectacularly awful. Radio 4 never helps.

  • Top news story: Mid-term election in the US went exactly as expected for anyone who knows about our politics: incumbent president's party is hammered, most people don't bother their arses to vote, ghastly amounts of money are thrown around by corporations and nefarious neocons. Joyful, really. 
  • Next story: Despite EU immigrants making a net contribution to the UK economy, Migration Watch are still wondering whether it's worth the pressure on public services. (What?) Non-EU migrants are just a burden. My visa runs out next month. You're all invited to my deportation party, should the event arise.  

So if the sun hadn't been shining so convincingly, purely & fantastically, I *might* have considered a murder spree. Instead of indiscriminate killing (typically the wrong path), I biked to work with this song in my head:

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was like your Magic Roundabout. But the puppets were way less scary and the framing for the whole thing is just a nice man, being a nice man. (No, he was not a pedophile.) I watched it for years, starting before I could talk. But for the first time, on this beautiful day, I realised that Mister Rogers' Neighborhood is pure theatre ...

First off, he didn't can his theme song & repeat it. He performed it new each time: putting on a different sweater, tweaking his emphasis, rolling with the flow of zippers and shoelaces. And when I looked back at the video, I remembered the theatricality of the opening: the model city giving way to his entrance into the room. the onstage costume change -- and that's all before he feeds the fish and heads into the Neighborhood of Make Believe. It's TV, but it feels close up and familiar. Almost live. (I might also be having flashbacks to being a 10-month-old.)

Accidental is kicking off a new venture this Thursday -- our first Playwrights' Bootcamp. It's a longstanding idea of mine, and the aim is to work with playwrights in ways that are fully theatrical, not just literary. The meaning is not only in the words Mr Rogers sings, but the fact that he changes his shoes and that the Neighborhood of Make Believe is much tinier than our world, and all those other visual & physical decisions that make up a performance. It'll be great to work with a bunch of writers as theatre-makers.

And as for my sunny-today adopted homeland? Mr Rogers' message is a pretty damn healthy one for a country with a global population. We could insert his theme song over all of John Humphrys' interviews on the Today program. Humphrys is not invited to my deportation party.