Tutto Bene, Mamma? is the next play at The Print Room, and I’m going to be giving some post-show talks on it, but the truth is, I am actually a little nervous about seeing the play — even in dress rehearsal. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way before about seeing a play. Or, I should rather say, NOT seeing a play. That is the point. Tutto Bene, Mamma? (which translates, “Are you alright, Mum?”) is, as the leaflets say, “a theatre experience in complete darkness”. The audience members are not supposed to see a thing for the entire time they are in the theatre until the final applause. On Friday, the director Ewan Marshall kindly assured me that it should all last about 50 minutes.
I’m not great with complete darkness. I think it all goes back to pregnancy fifteen years ago, when my right lung was compressed by one of my twins because she didn’t have enough space, and I didn’t know I was breathing through one lung. The last three months I would wake up every single night feeling unable to breathe and struggling to get out of the bed and out of the room. We had just moved into a new house and I didn’t know my way around. That feeling of strange darkness and breathlessness was pretty awful. In case I thought I’d got over this particular phobia, I remember about ten years ago finding myself on a roller coaster in complete darkness with my happy, excited family, and I thought I was in complete hell.
So, um, assembling to hear this play at The Print Room (15 June to 6 July) is going to be one of those confront-your-fears moments for me. I wonder how many other people will be feeling the same way. I wonder what it will be like hearing all these people just breathe before the play actually starts. I’m just sure I’ll hear heavy breathing . . . well, mine, at least.