Standing outside the now familiar double doors of the Arocola, I took a deep breath and steeled myself. I was back. My first return visit since starting this challenge. Last month I wrote up the theatre's Studio 1. This time I was there to tackle Studio 2.
If they let me in, that is.
Not that I had said anything bad about the place. I had actually really enjoyed the whole experience.
Still, it managed to feel like I was somehow returning to the scene of a crime.
But it's hard to feel nervous there, standing in the pink haze of the light filtering through the glass panel that was fitted above their door.
Chances are they didn't even remember what I wrote - good or bad.
But I did. It suddenly hit me, right in the belly. Oof.
I had compared them to scrofula. In a tweet. Or rather, I had compared myself to scrofula. Whatever, scrofula had definitely been mentioned. In the same context as the Arcola. I don’t know about you, but if someone mentioned me in the same sentence as a medieval disease, I would remember. It’s not a mental image that’s easy to forget, what with all the neck pustules and all.
It was no good.
I had to go in.
Studio 2 could not be missed. The marathon demanded it.
I figured I might as well just get it over with.
I pushed through the door and headed over to the box office, with its happy yellow Tickets sign, and gave my name.
For the first time in my life, I wished my surname was slightly less memorable.
“Smile?” asked the young woman on box office duty, her voice filled with doubt.
“Smiles. With an s...” I said. “Two Esses,” I corrected myself. (This is when @weez would have inserted the longest-name-in-the-world joke if she’d been around. But as she wasn’t, I’ll allow you to work out the punchline for that one yourself).
She pulled the ticket from the box. Then paused, looking at it.
Oh dear. She recognised the name. She was going to throw me out.
There it was. She was thinking of neck pustules. No one wants to think of neck pustules. Not on a nice, quiet, Monday evening. Not on any kind of evening. But especially not one at the start of the week. You need a good five days to work up to pustules.
“Was that a comp?” she asked, looking up.
“Oh, yes,” I admitted. Thanks to a bit of Twitter magic, I had indeed got my hands on a comp for that evening’s performance of Stop and Search.
She smiled. “Here you go.”
That was the smile of someone who was definitely not thinking about neck pustules.
Which meant that she hadn’t read the tweet.
That was good.
I felt a little deflated.
You know, I may not tweet as much as I used to, but there was a time when I was considered quite funny. A wit, if you will.
I considered telling her this.
It wasn’t all neck pustules, you know. I did puns too.
She was still holding out the ticket.
“Oh,” I said, taking it from her. A little embarrassed.
“There’s no latecomers and no re-admittance,” she pressed on, ignoring the fact that she was talking to someone who wasn’t capable of taking a piece of paper that was being offered to them. Or perhaps not, as she then went on to detail exactly where Studio 2 was, how to get there, and when I should go, in the simplest, neatest, most user-friendly language I’ve ever encountered.
I’ve said it before, but the Arcola really do walk-the-walk (and talk-the-talk) when it comes to making theatre open and accessible to all.
As the main house (Studio 1) show had closed that weekend, the building was lovely and quiet.
I found myself an empty table, settled in and tried very hard not to think about glandular swellings.
I had almost, but not entirely forgotten about the incident (let’s be real here, I’ll be mumbling about the scrofula-tweet to my nurses as I lay on my deathbed) when it was announced that the doors were open. It was time to head downstairs.
With the stone walls and tunnel-like corridors, I could almost think myself back in Unit 9 at The Vaults, but as we turned into the theatre it was not a shed that appeared out of the gloom, but a cosy space with proper seating on three sides and the heating thwacked on high. And seat numbers. No unreserved seating nonsense going on here.
If I have one criticism of the Studio 2 it is this: legroom. Or rather, the lack of it. Or even more rather, trying-to-squeeze-between-the-rows-to-get-to-your-seat room. Three seats in an I ended up with two banged knees and a rather satisfying bruise this morning.
Now, I admit, I’m a klutz. There’s no use being coy about it when I spend my days in the near vicinity of some of the most graceful people on the planet. But still, I’m beginning to think that the Arcola is out to get me.
My neighbour for the evening, having examined the narrowness of the rows, was having none of it.
Setting down bag and coat and umbrella, she proceeded to climb her way in.
We all watched with admiration and a touch of envy as she skipped happily over row A, before retrieving her bag and coat and umbrella, and plonking herself down next to me.
I almost applauded.
“Rather you than me,” came a voice from down the row.
Absolutely. Fairly certain I would have died if I attempted to do the same thing. And you know what, the Arcola really don’t deserve that.
Not after all the quality theatre they’ve been throwing at me this marathon.
That’s a lot of words to be chucking around in such a confined space. A lot of words. Good words, for sure. But so friggin’ many of them.
I came out feeling spent. Every word in the world had been utterly used up.
I had to stand in the pink light of the foyer for a moment, quietly recharging, until the memory of neck pustules chased me home.