By chance, I had my squeamishness put to the test in three very different situations.
Having enjoyed Serial Mom and Hairspray, I watched This Filthy World, a one man show by the filmmaker John Waters. As he stood on the dimly lit grave yard stage set, his appearance reminded me of a Hammer horror character. He is creative, funny and clever which made it all the more challenging when he began to paint gruesome images in our minds. He was like a 17th Century libertine who played at challenging boundaries of taste and prudishness.
I was at a museum in the West Country, designed to be fun and for all the family. Leaving the sunny lawn, we were lead by a guide in period costume into gloomy reconstruction of a barber surgeon’s workshop in the 17th Century. As the guide picked up instrument after instrument, he began to elaborate on the grisly cures that were applied to the suffering. Members of the audience were laid out the operating table to aid our imaginations. More gruesome images in my mind! (I wondered, are these horrors entertaining because they are safely in the distant past?)
Next, I was visiting an exhibition dedicated to Skin, at the Wellcome Collection, an authoritative modern museum with an up market cafe. As is the curatorial policy, art is interspersed with objects from the collection. I skirted around the exhibits catching glimpses of skin in various states and films of oozing and cutting. That was enough.