After venturing to LAMDA on Friday night, I was off to RADA on Saturday. Comparison wasn't my intention, but hitting up two major drama schools back-to-back, within a single weekend does rather beg for it.
And if there was a race between the two mighty institutions, it was RADA who got their running spikes on first - sending out a booking confirmation email that detailed the entrances to use for each of their venues, followed up a few days later by a reminder email packed full of access information, content warnings, bus routes, tubes stops with step-free access, and basically everything else a visitor could possibly need.
There was even a rehearsal shot featuring all the actors looking relaxed and happy - which was, if anything, an anti-trigger warning considering the play they were rehearsing was Sarah Kane's Blasted.
"See?" their sweet, smiling faces seemed to say. "It's all fine. We're fine. You'll be fine."
I wasn't so easily taken it.
Still, that didn't stop RADA from trying to hold my hand. Metaphorically, of course.
Everywhere I looked were signs giving detailed instructions on where to go. Not just arrows vaguely pointing the way, but step-by-step instructions. Turn here, go past one staircase, take another staircase, right, than left.
They really didn't want strangers wandering around and getting lost in their warren of a building.
I can't blame them.
Knowing my predilection for getting lost. they'd have probably found me, three years later, dazed, confused, clutching a diploma and muttering about the Stanislavski technique if it weren't for their signage.
So it was rather a relief to make it to the GBS Theatre and discover that I had indeed taken the right staircase (which is to say: not the main one, but the next one) and wouldn't have to make a life for myself in the RADA basements after all.
There were plenty of ushers down there. No doubt for when they inevitably needed to send out a search party to track down any missing audience members. Two on the door. One inside. Another busy making up the bed that composed the sole piece of stage furniture. I watched as he plumped a pillow case, rearranged the cushions, smoothed down the sheets and tucked everything in neatly. He made a much better effort than I can ever manage of a morning.
But what the front of house team had in numbers, they lacked in programmes. There wasn't a single one to be had.
Ah. I had neglected to buy one while upstairs because the one person I'd spotted selling them had been busy talking to someone who sounded very important.
I looked back at the door, debating whether I dare risk the return journey up the stairs to get one, but I decided against it. While yesterday I may have been all for becoming a theatre ghost, starting a second career as the Phantom of the RADA hadn't been exacting what I was going for.
Programmes would have to wait.
I had a seat to select.
At LAMDA, I'd noticed that the bench seats varied in height so that the floor didn't need to. Here at RADA, they did have a raised dais for the seats to sit on, but still found the need to utilise the same multi-height trick. I'm beginning to think this must be a drama school thing, because I haven't seen it in action anywhere else.
The first row of seats had legs as short and stubby as those of a Corgi. While four rows back we had their Great Dane cousins.
I made the Goldilocks choice of the third row (what would that be? The Labrador row?). Not very adventurous of me, but I've always been the sort to keep both feet on the ground.
And I have say, I got through the play easily enough.
Perhaps it was those cherubic rehearsal shots sent out in advance, or the anxiety-reduction of the intensely detailed signage, but I made it through to the other side of Blasted with only a minimal amount of trauma.
Feeling pretty pleased with this personal success story of mine, I found my way back upstairs and went in search of a programme.
The programme seller was busy. Talking to someone who sounded even more important than the very important person of earlier on.
I waited, checking my emails.
He was still talking about his next project.
I moved closer, put on my best I-would-like-to-buy-a-programme-please face and waited a bit more.
Nothing. Not even a nod of acknowledgement from the programme seller.
The very important theatre person wasn't running out of steam. He was still talking about his project.
Would it be rude to cut him short? And if so, is it more or less rude than monopolising the time of someone at work?
"Sorry to interrupt," I said, interrupting. "Can I just... quickly buy a programme?"
It turned out I could and that they were a pound.
I decided not to comment on how they are free at LAMDA. But, like, they are totally free at LAMDA.
I left them then. The programme seller and the important person. I wonder if they are still there. Talking about his project. With a line of people queuing up behind him. Unnoticed, unseen, and without a programme to occupy their time.
As for me. I had plans.
I was going to head home, bash out a blog post, squirrel under my duvet, and snooze.
I managed the first two.
And got half way through the third.
But then I started thinking about Blasted.
And those sweet faces from the rehearsal room, screwed up and tortured on the stage.
And I cried, and I cried, and I cried.