New crushes are so exciting. The sweaty palms. The distracting daydreams. The thumping heart. The papercuts as you riffle through their playtexts…
You know you have a writer crush bad when you use your precious pre-show minutes to rush over to Foyles in order to stare at their words.
After my Cyprus Avenue-dissection with Helen on Wednesday devolved into a doughnut-based intervention, I was left confused.
Helen had no recollection of the Tom Cruise incident from watching it in 2016.
And I had no memory of, well, let’s say the use of a particular, very strong, word, from watching it on Monday.
This needed further investigation.
And thankfully, Foyles, with its generous theatre department, was just across the road from last night’s theatrical destination.
Even better, they had the original edition of the playtext. The 2016 version. Complete with very strong word.
I snapped a picture and sent it to Helen.
“Thank god I wasn’t imagining it,” came the reply.
Not wanting to put down David Ireland’s words just yet, I wandered around, examining all the lovely plays.
By 7pm I still wasn’t really to let go, so I was forced to buy it.
That’s how they get you, these writers. With their tricksy ways. Writing good shit that you then want to read. Damn them all, I say.
I left before I had the chance to discover any more potential writer-crushes sitting on the shelves.
Probably for the best, as by the time I made my way back over the road, there was a massive queue snaking out of the box office and right down Phoenix Street.
“Bloody hell,” said one bloke as he walked down to the end of the end (and walked, and walked). I could only agree. You’d think they were selling Supreme-branded tea bags in there or something.
But bless the Phoenix Theatre staff - the queue moved fast and I was soon inside, bumping into people as I gazed in rapture at the ceiling.
I’ve been trying to remember if I have ever been to the Phoenix before. I’m fairly certain I saw Goodnight Mister Tom here back in, oh god, 2012. But I must have gone in via the servants’ entrance because there was no way I would have forgotten that foyer if I’d walked through it.
Or stumbled about it, rather. As I still hadn’t managed to look down and was rapidly developing a crick in my neck.
Eventually, as I was forced to move again out of someone’s way, I realised that I should probably go to my seat.
Not that I had one.
Come From Away have been selling standing places on the day, and despite all my recent experiences of standing screaming at me not to do it, I had bought one that morning.
"Standing?" asked the usher on the door as she checked my ticket. "You're just here, anywhere along the back," she said before giving instructions about not leaving bags and coats lying around. But I wasn't paying attention.
"They're not assigned?" I asked, surprised, as if the exact same thing hadn't happened to me at the Pinter.
"First come first served," she said with an apologetic shrug.
The long bank of standing spots, directly behind the seats of the Grand Circle, was already looking rather busy. I joined them. As close to the centre as I could, which wasn't very close at all.
The leaning-bar we were provided with was a glossy, dark wood, carved with a satisfying curve, leaving a trough that you could slot your forearms into. Which was useful, as the bar was much lower than I was used to.
I gave it a go, locking myself into position before leaning in.
The wood creaked.
Just what you need during a musical.
I gave it another go, just with my elbows this time. It creaked again. But not quite so loudly.
It still managed to draw attention though.
The man sitting just in front of me turned around and touched my arm. "Why are you standing back there?" he asked, no doubt wondering why there was some woman breathing down on the top of his head.
This is true. Standing tickets are only a tenner.
Bloody bargain, if you ask me.
You may not get to sit down, but you do get pretty much the same view as the person who paid four times as much to sit in the row in front. Like this gentleman.
"Did you hear that?" he asked the person he was with. "You should have asked for a discount."
I'm not quite sure it works like that, but we all laughed obligingly regardless.
And then the show started and I spent the next hundred minutes lost in a loop of laughing and crying.
I wasn’t the only one. Everyone was laughing and crying.
This damn musical had managed to tap into all those repressed British emotions that haven't had an proper airing since Princess Diana died.
Stiff upper lips properly covered with snot, when the final note sounded, the entire house burst from their seats as if their bottoms were spring loaded, in the fastest standing ovation I have ever seen.
Clapping, cheering, waving of hands in the air.
I stood on my tiptoes, the bar creaking alarmingly under my weight as I tried to stretch out my full five foot three inches in height to the maximum to see these wonderful people who had smashed my heart and then stuck it back together with cod au gratin.
It wasn't working though.
I couldn't see a damn thing.
The band had come out from hiding at the back of the stage and started up the music again. And I was missing it.
Ignoring the instructions not to leave my coat and bag unsupervised, I left my coat and bag unsupervised and made my way to the aisle where a few of the standers had gathered.
"Here," said the usher, stepping out of the way and giving up her view for me.
Then, as the riotous music of the finale took hold, something amazing happened.
I clapped along with the beat.
Without shame, or embarrassment, or rhythmic ability.
"That was amazingggg," said one of my fellow standers as we returned to our abandoned places at the bar to retrieve our coats and bags. A happy grin wasn't the only thing painted on her face. Two twin lines of black mascara trailed down her cheeks.
I grinned back, fairly certain that I had my own Gothic Rothko-action going on.
My knees shook as I made my way down the stairs. I had to cling onto the balustrade for support, but then I found myself not wanting to let go. The cloakroom lay on the other side of the foyer. I wanted to check myself in. To snuggle up to the forgotten coats and sleep there in stasis, only brought out in time for the next show.
But it was closed. Probably for the best. The lovely front of house team at the Phoenix don't need me cluttering up their cloakroom.
As I left, I was handed a tiny badge. "I'm an Islander," it read.
Sadly, I think it's right.
Back down Phoenix Street, I stood on the corner and looked across Charing Cross Road. I wonder if Foyles has the libretto in stock...