We’re off! Hail to the new year that is 2019 and good riddance to the piss-pot collection of putrid days that was 2018.
I don’t know about you, but I woke up with a deep awareness of my own mortality that I suspect was caused by the crashing realisation that I still hadn’t bought any theatre tickets. Not a single one. Not even for the matinee that I planned to attend mere hours later.
Usually I would never leave it so late to buy tickets. I’m the type of person who leaps into the box office queue as soon as they go on sale (and by that I mean the online queue. I don’t actually go to the box office. That would involve a level of human interaction that I simply can not deal with on such high-stakes days). So, I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be any room for little old me by the time that I got there.
But here’s the thing: I’d convinced myself that I wanted to day seat my first day of the marathon. And I wasn’t going to be put off by the mere fact that it was already afternoon-time and I was still in my pyjamas.
Some frantic activity involving eyeliner, washing a weird stain out of my shirt and a race across London later and I made it to Litchfield Street by 2pm.
First call: St Martins Theatre. Home of The Mousetrap. A choice I was rather pleased with. There’s something rather neat about having the first theatre in my year-long tour of London theatres be the longest-running show around.
“Are there any day tickets left by any chance?” I asked with an air of calm that impressed even myself.
You bet there were. Because no one wants to go to a matinee on new years day.
Even if you do get to overhear the cast warm up on stage as you wait at box office.
Ten minutes later, I had secured a front row seat and stepped back out into the biting cold of the West End wondering how on earth I had managed to be swindled out of £29.50 for a ticket to a show that has been running for more than double my life-span. Twenty-nine British pounds! And fifty pee! For a day seat to a weekday matinee? With tickets still available an hour before the curtains goes up? Are they serious? I still can’t get over that. That’s monstrously ruinous. I don’t think I have ever, in my life, spent so much for a theatre ticket that wasn’t… well, Hamilton, or something that provided equal bragging rights. And no offence to The Mousetrap… but, I’m was fairly certain that I wouldn’t be stepping out of the theatre with a song in my heart and an ache in my belly as I suppress the urge to rap the entire text at once.
Feeling rather woozy I stumbled down the street to my next stop. The Ambassadors Theatre. Thankfully located right next door.
“Any day seats left? By any chance?” I asked, feeling rather less certain of myself by this point.
There were. And for the considerably less heart-attack inducing £19.50.
With my ticket purchases for the day sorted, I busied myself making Instagram Stories until it was time to return to St Martins Theatre, lest I wander away and spend even more money.
It did give me the opportunity to admire all the signage around St Martins though. Did you know that The Mousetrap is the “world’s longest ever run”? Nor did I. I feel it should be talked about more.
(Incidentally, what does “world’s longest ever run” even mean? It sounds like something Eddie Izzard would do for charity. That’s an over-workshopped tag line if ever I heard one.)
I have to admit, for all my hours of prep, I went off to my first theatre trip of the year still not knowing exactly how I was going to write it up. Would I count the loos and inspect the access-friendliness of the entrance? Analyse the ease of navigating their website? Rant about the extortionate rates of booking fees nowadays? Am I supposed to have drink at the bar? Comment on their wine list? Rank the attractiveness of the ushers?
All these possibilities were considered and dismissed with rapid succession.
Instead, I headed straight over to the merch stand.
I fucking love merch. And there looked like there was some lush looking tea-towel action going on over there.
What I don’t love however, is merch queues. And the already cramped foyer at St Martins Lane was almost all queue. By my reckoning, there were at least three: the box office, the merch stand, and for the ladies’ loo. But which was which was impossible to make out, so tangled up were they.
My anxiety levels already dangerously high, I opted out of the entire ordeal and bought a programme from a conveniently located usher, who was very chipper considering it was the early afternoon post-the-new-year’s-eve before (he had a chill evening, involving cigars and had no hangover to speak of, as it turned out).
Now, kudos to The Mousetrap - programmes are only £4 and are filled with lots of tasty articles and a minimum about of ads. Speaking as a professional (no, seriously… I produce programmes for a living), I was impressed. Well worth the monies.
But even the programme wasn’t enough to distract me from the nagging thought that I should probably be doing something.
Like… taking photos maybe…?
You can probably already tell, but I’m not much of a photographer. I spent far too long trying to work out how to take pictures of the auditorium, but in the end gave up and just snapped the ceiling.
Then I realised I should probably prove I was there. So attempted some selfies which was equally unsatisying.
Note to self: remove glasses first.
You’ll be pleased to note that the show started shortly thereafter, saving you from any more of my attempts.
Which I suppose is my segue to telling you about the show itself.
But really… what can I say about The Mousetrap that hasn’t already been said a million times since it opened? It’s funny, and dark, and comforting in the way that all Agatha Christie’s always are. You just want to snuggle down in your seat and get cosy, knowing that you are safe while the characters battle with blizzards and each other. If you haven’t been, you definitely should. If only for the eavesdropping potential during the interval as everyone tries to work out whodunnit (the two women sitting on my right figured it out). I’d already seen it, so I was denied the pleasure of joining in, but who doesn’t love a rewatch of a murder mystery, when you can spot all the clues?
Anyway, back down the street and off to Switzerland!
The Ambassadors Theatre is actually St Martins’ sister venue, designed by the same architect. And pleasingly currently features a new play by another female playwright: Joanna Murray-Smith. Not only that, the play itself is about a female crime writer, the magnificent Patricia Highsmith. There’s more Sister, Sister action going on here than in a 90’s Nickeloden sitcom. It’s almost like I planned it… almost.
More ceiling photography followed. And more selfies. (Sorry, I swear I’ll do my best to figure this out).
The Ambassadors is a titchy-tiny theatre. Intimate. But without the black-boxiness that usually goes along with that descriptor. It only has the one circle. With an ornate ceiling and painted a pale cream, it felt like I was sitting inside a wedding cake. Which was not an unenjoyable experience. Despite the grim look on my face (at least I remembered to remove the glasses).
I actually liked it so much I started getting angry at the idea of long running shows hogging the pretty (sorry The Mousetrap). I’d never made it to The Ambassadors before. Mainly because Stomp lived here for 15 years. I think there needs to be a limit. A show should get a maximum of two years before it’s out. I’m not saying end long runs, just keep them moving. Like a massive game of musical chairs.
That’s the platform I’m running on.
Max for Theatre President, 2020.
And I don’t want to hear any nonsense about “practicalities.”
Errr, apologies for that strange turn… on to the play - I need to insert a chef’s kiss gif here. I don’t know why, but something about a bitchy, misanthropic, hermit writer really speaks to me. The programme (another £4 wonder) is filled with fascinating facts about her and I’m totally into it. I’m not saying I want to be Patricia Highsmith when I grow up, but I wouldn’t be angry about it if I did. Except for the racism. That’s like… so not cool. And living off cans of soup. Not into that either.
A++ work to everyone involved. And at 90 mins, no interval, it really can’t be beat.
Closes on Saturday. I’m glad I caught it. You should go too.
Phew. That’s it. I’m spent.
I can’t believe I have to do this all again tomorrow. And every day. For a year.
It’s fine. It’s all perfectly fine.