As horror looks you right between your eyes

When I announced that I was doing this marathon to my friends ahead of the website launch, Thriller Live came up a few times in the discussions that followed.

"Are you actually going to see it?"


"No, but really. You're not are you?"

“I am.”

"You. As in actual you, Max. Are going to see Thriller Live?"

“Yes. Me. As in actual me. Am going to see Thriller Live.” 

The ‘at some point’ remained unspoken. Over the summer perhaps. Or maybe towards the end of the year. Once I’d built up some momentum. Worked myself up to it. Perhaps taken up a drinking habit. Or been so broken by this challenge I didn’t care where I was or what I was seeing anymore.

But then there was an offer on GILT. A good offer. And where ticket offers lead, I am bound to follow.

So off I went. Actual me. To see Thriller Live.

I mean… someone has to.

"Ah," said the man on the door, examining my ticket. "The balcony is closed tonight. So, if you go through over there," he said, indicating the merch desk just beyond "You'll be moved."

"Great!" I said with as much enthusiasm as I could muster. Thriller Live from a slightly better seat. Yay?

I shouldn’t be so cynical... it was a significantly better seat. Fourth row centre. In the stalls.

That's a mighty upgrade.

Benefits of going alone to a show that’s been running nearly ten years. On a Tuesday.

Why can't these type of things happen at Hamilton?

One week in and I’ve got myself into a bit of routine. I arrive at the theatre early, pick up my ticket, wander around a little to get a feel for the space before heading into the auditorium, while it’s still fairly quiet, to take some photos, read the programme, and wonder how on earth I got myself into this mess.

Last night’s wander taught me two things. Firstly, that the Lyric is in a sorry state. The carpets are held together my duct tape, giving the poor theatre the look of a third-rate county-house hotel. And secondly, I am completely justified in my views about shows moving between theatres on a regular basis. Thriller Live needs to get out of here, if only to give this poor building a chance to be refurbished. Or at least re-carpeted.

Feeling a bit sad about my walk-around, I headed to my seat and began the next faze of my process.

My contemplation of both the programme and the state of my life was cut short however by the sound of a man in my row, clapping in time with the piped-in music. Loudly.

I usually wouldn’t mention something like this. Let the man clap if he wants to. But I am obligated by the rules of storytelling to include it. This is what writers like to call: foreshadowing.

I went back to my programme.

£5, by the way. Which might have almost been reasonable if they could decide on a spelling of hip hop and stick to it. Look, I’m not here to criticise the programme… what am I saying? I’m totally here to criticise the programme. I mean blimey, in 3 biographies they managed to get through 3 different ways of writing hip hop (or Hip Hop, or possibly Hip-Hop). That’s too many ways.

Okay, I get it, no one but me cares about the consistency of the spelling of hip hop, but I’m just trying to delay writing about the actual show. I’m still a little traumatised.

I went in not knowing anything about it.

For some reason I thought there was some sort of storyline, but 2 minutes in I realised this was not the case at all. Thriller Live is a musical revue, the songs punctuated by some inane commentary about Michael Jackson. It was almost like watching one of those “100 top music videos of the 80s” type of shows that used to be on TV all the time a few years back. And therein lies its success. It’s perfect tourist fodder, requiring little to no knowledge of English in order to enjoy it.

Actual me, about to watch actual Thriller Live

And I did almost enjoy it.


Except they couldn’t just let me be.

There I was, perfectly content in my fourth row seat, watching the dancers tear up the stage, when it started. The dreaded audience participation.

Why? What did I do in my life that was so bad to deserve this?

And this was not just hollering when we heard Antwerp being mentioned. Oh no. This was full scale, standing up, putting arms in the air, wriggling hips and basically reliving every terrible moment from my childhood dance lessons.

Let’s not forget: I was in the fourth row. There was nowhere to hide.

I longed for death to claim me, but even he wasn’t having with any of that nonsense, and I was left there, to suffer, alone and in agony, the song stretching out into eternity.

And then there was the clapping.

Here is the point where I have to admit my secret shame: I can’t clap in time with music.

I know.

It’s a tragedy.

I lack all forms of rhythm.

You probably think that this is the source of all my problems when it comes to audience participation - and you’re right. How very perceptive of you, Mr Freud. Struggling with clapping to a beat sure makes enjoying this kind of thing a challenge. Combine that with a hefty dose of social anxiety and, well… physical laziness… and you’ve made yourself the exact type of person who will hate Thriller Live.

But you know what? I’m glad I saw it.

Because now I never have to see it again. And that’s something we can all be grateful for.