The Nightmare After Christmas

You'll be relieved to hear that I've given up on selfies. And not just because I forgot to put on eyeliner yesterday. Yeah, I thought that was impossible too, but apparently if you stop midway through doing your makeup to rush back to your laptop in order to add in another paragraph to your high-stress-making blog, you can forget to go back and finish it off. Shout out to my lovely coworker who offered up the use of her fancy Dior mascara and absolutely saved my life. Even if my Goth points are currently running on empty without my trademark dark wings.

It was a very distressing day.

Not helped by the fact that I needed to go to the one show in London that I had absolutely no intention of seeing. Ever.

If you read yesterday's post you'll know that I'm a big fan of shows moving on and making way in theatres for something new. So, I wasn't entirely unhappy to hear that one of my favourite theatres was being freed up this year. I mean, sucks for everyone working on the production (totally been there... and in this theatre as it happens), but dammit - stop hoarding the pretty.

Unfortunately, this closure wasn't to be followed by a show switcharoo. It was going into full darkaroo mode. Long-term darkaroo.

So, I need to give another shout out. This one to the wonderful theatre klaxon of twitter that is @weez for pointing out that if I don't get my arse to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane by the end of the week, I'd be locked out for the refurbishment until 2020.

Just think - I nearly failed this entire challenge before even getting through week one!

So, I went. Not only that, I spent money. Real, hard earned money. On tickets. To a show I just knew, deep in my soul, that I would hate. For this challenge.

You had better all be bloody grateful, that's all I'm saying.

As I walked into the West End, I could feel my feet dragging beneath me. So badly did I not want to go, I even took a detour back to Litchfield Street to try and get another photo of the Ambassadors and St Martins Theatre (it was bothering me that I didn’t have a shot of the two of them together for yesterday’s thumbnail).

It was like I was daring myself to miss the show.

No wait. That's mean. I'm sure 42nd Street is a perfectly wonderful show for those that are into that sort of thing. Me? I'd rather smear my eyes in butter than sit through that again.

Okay, now that really was mean.

It's not that I thought it was bad. It was all very glossy and well presented, in that sequins-and-stockings kinda way. Unfortunately, the world of technicolor leaves me cold. I have no patience for razzmatazz - the music has the same effect on me as nails down a chalkboard does to others.

But even I could see that everyone on stage sung and danced themselves into a frenzy. The strain of their megawatt smiles was visible all the way from the tippy-topp of the auditorium.

Having worked on a show while it lived in this theatre (I won't say which one, as that will date me hard - let's just say it was pre the last refurbishment), I should have known better than to sit up there. But for ÂŁ19.50 that's the best I could hope for, and I sure wasn't going to pay more. And, well... so what if I missed bits of the show? I was there to do my duty, not have a good time.

Still, I hadn't anticipated quite how much I would miss. There were entire scenes during which I did not once manage to catch a glimpse of the principal cast. I could hear them, so I knew they were there, but what they were up to was an utter mystery to me.

They even print a note on the tickets advising you that you may need to lean forward, which every experienced theatre-goer knows is the ultimate no-no as it blocks the view of the person sitting behind you. You know when a theatre is telling you to do that in their balcony that things are bad up there.

And I had completely forgotten.

Though admittedly, the last time I'd sat up in the balcony there'd been a massive dragon pinned to the ceiling, so I might have been a little distracted.

It's a good thing this is the 21st century, because in a less polite time, such nonsense might have provoked a riot.

Which is why it is only sensible that the balcony-dwellers are cut off from the rest of the theatre. Barred from walking through the main building, they are forced to use a separate entrance on the side of the building.

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Look familiar? That's because this covered walk-way has been used in every period drama ever filled in London.

Once inside there are no plush carpets to be found. No glossy hard wood banisters. No massive paintings decorating the walls.

Just stairs.

And more stairs.

And yet more stairs.

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And what is your reward when you do finally reach the pinnacle?

The bar.

A relief for everyone who has just climbed the theatrical equivalent of Mount Everest and is in need of a glass of wine and a sit down to accompany their oxygen tank.

Except the whole prison-vibe they’ve got going on back there extends to the balcony bar too.

I don’t think I’ve been anywhere quite so bleak and depressing.

I didn’t stick around.

Two of the four chairs in the balcony bar at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Two of the four chairs in the balcony bar at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Prison-like bar in the balcony at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Prison-like bar in the balcony at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane

I was not to be outdone though.

This intrepid reporter was determined to show you the glamour and the beauty of this magnificent old beast of a theatre, and wasn’t going to be put off by mere stairs. No matter how many there were.

As soon as the house lights were up for the interval I raced to the door and flung myself down all those stairs, intending to run around the building, through the front door, blag my way into the main foyers, up the main staircase and head to the upper circle.

What’s in the upper circle I hear you ask? Only a frickin ghost! That’s what.

Don’t ever say that I don’t bring you drama. I’m giving you a personal ghost tour here!

The theatre’s wikipedia page has some fantastic details on the various spectral entities of Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and I am very disappointed to tell you that I can corroborate none of them. I have never had the tiniest sniff of a ghost in any of my many visits to this grand old dame. I don't think they like me. Which is really quite distressing as I am desperate to be their friend. Or even their enemy.

Dammit, how much is it to ask that some floating phantom just notice me for once?

Perhaps I'm just too needy... I suspect that I should start playing it a bit cooler.

I can't help myself though. I just love ghosts so much. And I was determined to find one.

And the upper circle was the place to do it. The Man in Grey is one of the few front-of-house ghosts at Drury Lane, and that's where he likes hanging out. Spotting him is also, apparently, a sign of good luck. So as ghosts go, one might say he's beginner-friendly.

Except, when I got to the bottom of the stairs, I found myself foiled. By a closed door.

Hmm.

The usual procedure in such situations is to open the door. Which I did. But here’s the problem: this door can only be opened from the inside. If I were to leave, the door would shut behind me and with no usher posted on this tricksy door to let me back in, I would have been locked out.

The prison vibe extends far beyond the bar. The balcony-dwellers are truly trapped inside for the duration.

Or rather, they can leave, but they can never come back.

I did seriously consider risking missing the second act for the sake of some ghost action, but in the end I trudged back up the stairs and focused my attentions on taking photos of the ceiling.

There are some compensations for being so high.

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I can’t pretend I’m not disappointed.

Here I am attempting to do a tour of London’s theatres, and I couldn’t even get into the main bit of one of London’s largest and oldest.

And while I haven’t technically failed the challenge yet, I do kinda feel that I am not exactly succeeding.

I hope the ghosts stick around for the refurbishment.

I’m looking forward to seeing Frozen. And, just putting this out there, any ghost is welcome to join me as a plus one.