How not to make friends

25 March 2016

by Joseph Winer

On telling people that no, I am not with a show, no, I am not part of the company, and no, I don’t even go to a university associated with one of the shows, I receive a general response of “Well done!” and “Wow, that’s brave!”. To combat the potential loneliness that would have isolated me to the realms of my B&B, with nothing to do but write for Noises Off all week, I made the conscious decision to mingle.

I am pleased to say that after a week of voicing my opinions too honestly, joining conversations uninvitingly and lurking in the Spa bar for my next group of prey, I have come up with some suggestions for how not to make friends.

Don’t breathe in people’s faces. Unless it’s done stylistically. And certainly don’t lick. In fact, even the suggestion of licking someone’s hand can terminate that friendship before it has even begun. Eating their hand would be totally unacceptable (unless of course the entire point of your existence is only for the purpose of metaphorically representing the fall of the Berlin Wall), but cannibalism is generally not a good start to a relationship. And apart from the odd university lecturer or police detective, no one would sympathise with this sort of behaviour.

Don’t attempt to join a large group of people. These packs can be dangerous, and before you know it you could end up paying £27,000 to attend the Durham University. And they don’t even have a drama course. Instead, look for the singletons. The loners. Don’t go to tall people, as tall people are likely to have other friends that they won’t tell you about until it’s too late. Look for the guy browsing through leaflet stands, waiting for the green man at the crossing or checking their twitter feed more than twice in the space of thirty seconds.

Don’t criticise a show as an opening line. If you do, then your new friend is definitely the unseen director of said show and there’s just no recovering from that point. You could try buying them a drink and hope that they’re a happy drunk. But chances are they won’t be. If a director asks for criticism, tell the truth, but don’t be too honest. You need at least two drunken nights at the bar and a one night stand before you can be too honest. And by this point you’ve opened yourself up to them already, which can only make things less awkward as a result.

OK. On a serious note. I made the decision at the beginning of the week to completely immerse myself in everything that was happening. I’ve done workshops that have thrown me out of my comfort zone, had deep meaningful conversations with people I’ve met in the gents and gate-crashed debates that have aroused my curiosity.

An arts environment creates an immediate community that – despite all the debate – is full of accepting, interesting people who all have a common interest. I could’ve glided through my schedule this week with nothing to fill the gaps, but as Chris Thorpe has been saying all week: the workshops and discussions are only the start of the conversation. Taking these discussions to the bar opens up a whole world of political, social and theatrical babble that really pushes our opinions to their limits and questions our own perspectives of, not only theatre, but the world we live in (in all it’s fucked-up glorious ways!).

If you speak to someone you don’t know and they’re a bit of an arse, then do not worry. Because someone who is not even willing to say hello is never going to survive in this industry, so just ignore them and move on. Jump into the big groups, speak critically to people about their work, lick their faces, eat their flesh, just get involved!

Throw yourself in at the deep end and you’ll come out a whole lot better, if perhaps a little wet.