I grew up before the invention of healthy eating.
Actually, that’s not strictly true. More accurately: when I was growing up, the news of the invention of healthy eating had not reached my house. Generally the greenest thing on my dinner plate were the mushy peas which provided a vital on-plate barrier between the runny yolk of the fried egg and the chips.
Coco Pops, the cereal that claimed to turn your milk chocolatey – like that was a good thing – was the king of breakfasts in my house. These days it’s muesli and a banana. I know that it has to be muesli and a banana in place of my childhood breakfasts to avoid death by obesity and scurvy, but I’m not going to lie to you – boy were those bowls of chocolatey, processed, sugary cereals tasty.
It occurs to me that sometimes we view certain activities with the suspicion of my boyhood self eyeing my grown-up self’s breakfast. Things that are labelled “culturally enriching” or “rewarding” can be considered like the bowl of muesli, garnished with a banana – good for you, but not as much fun as the cereal that turns your milk chocolatey.
Sheffield Theatres has revived this year its short but important and brilliant tradition of celebrating a single dramatist with a season of work. It began in 2011 with a celebration of David Hare, continued a year later with Michael Frayn and returns this year with a presentation of the work of Brian Friel. Although it is a brilliant and clever idea to stage these mini seasons-within-a-season, one wonders if it isn’t something viewed with a degree of suspicion by audiences. Daniel Evans, the artistic director of Sheffield Theatres who introduced the idea of the writer’s season has admitted to me in the past that they are not exactly a financial bonanza for the theatre.
Box office smash they might not always be but they are important and – this is perhaps the surprising bit – they are hugely enjoyable. The opportunity to immerse yourself in the work of a single, brilliant playwright is rare and one that, if you can make the trip to Sheffield this month, you’d be mad to miss. It might be tempting to stay in and watch Celebrity X Factor in the Jungle Come Dine With Me Strictly. On Ice. You might be thinking that watching a load of “important” plays sounds like school work. Put the effort in, go see the Brian Friel season – see as many of the plays as you can – and the reward you receive for the effort will be beyond what you might imagine. That’s not all – and this is the tricky bit, because I really don’t want you to be put off – the added bonus here is that watching nothing but junk will rot your brain as sure as my childhood breakfast would have rotted my teeth had I continued with it. Treat yourself to a nutritious and surprisingly delicious bowl of theatrical muesli – tasty, enjoyable and in the long run, good for you.
You won’t regret it.