Let me get one thing started before you go getting any ideas. I know what you're like. Always thinking the worst of me. But, and I cannot say this strongly enough, I absolutely and definitely did not gatecrash someone else's date night.
I would say, if anything, they gatecrashed mine.
I was perfectly content taking myself off to see my last show in the Vaults. I've tramped up and down that black corridor, seeing plays about serial killers, and young people making mischief in foreign lands, and confidence tricksters, and I was ready to watch something completely different.
So I booked a ticket to The Talented Mr Ripley.
See, I have breadth. I can also watch a play about a young man who goes to Italy and ends up murdering multiple people while defrauding the father of a friend who thinks he's helping return the boy home...
Anyway, as I was saying. I was fine going by myself. I had my ticket all booked and ready.
But then Martha saw the show in my diary spreadsheet and wanted to come along. So she bought a ticket to the show.
And then a few days later, I get a Whatsapp message at nine in the morning from her. I knew it had to be important, as Martha isn't the type to send my Whatsapp messages at nine in the morning.
"Soooo I just told Luke about Talented Mr Ripley, and he was outraged that I hadn't invited him as it's his fave book and film... so I'm afraid we have a plus 1 on Weds, he's bought a ticket."
And that's a direct quote. Apart from the punctuation. I added that in. I got me those itchy proofreader fingers.
So, you can see. I am not responsible and I refuse to accept the label as gooseberry. Are we clear? Great.
Moving on then.
Martha and I took the bus down to Waterloo. It was only Wednesday but it had already been the longest week since records began. This was not the evening for any form of activity that could even tangentially be linked to healthiness. We needed stodge. And alcohol. And to be dropped at the door with the minimal amount of walking possible within the confines of the TFL infrastructure.
“I can’t download my ticket,” said Martha, stabbing at her phone screen with a frustrated finger, as we made our way down Leake Street.
“You don’t need it,” I said, slightly hurt. It was true. She didn’t need it. But she would have known if she had read any one of my multiple Vault Fest blog posts.
“No. It’s only bag checks to get through the main door and then you give your name at the actual venue entrance.”
But of course, I don’t need to tell you this. You’ve been with me enough times to the Vaults to know the system off by heart.
But for once, I was going off-script. I wouldn’t be heading straight to the venue door to start queueing. With a guest in tow, it was time to sample what the Vaults to offer in the way of emotion-drowning substances.
That is, if we could figure out how to get hold of it.
“Do we order at the bar?” Martha asked as we made our way past security and down the vein-like corridor.
“Yeah, I think so. But which one?” By my count we had already passed two, and there was a third coming up.
“Shall we just sit down?”
That sounded like a sensible option. I am very much in favour of sitting down.
At barely past six o’clock, the Vaults were almost empty. We grabbed the end of a long table, coated with a thick later of flyers and festival listings, and a few other overeager festival-goers over on the other end.
“I do like the Vaults,” said Martha, as I struggled with the stools. Shaped like beer barrels, they needed to be tilted on their edge and rolled in order to shift anywhere. Which is fine, until the cushion topper falls off. I was way too tired for that shit.
I could only sigh my agreement.
The Vaults are a fine place to visit. When you’re young. Personally I like proper chairs. And tickets. And good signage. And not to feel like the oldest, most uncool, person in the building.
Being around Martha, and the newly arrived Luke didn’t help, with their young, fresh faces, and ability to sit on a barrel without looking like a plonker.
“Drinks?” asked Luke.
Frankfurters were on the menu. Which sounded just the right level of stodge and carbs for a night like this. Bonus points for being topped with curry sauce.
“This is really good,” said Martha.
It really was. Nice soft bread. Lots of onions. The side of roast potatoes was mediocre (too soft. No salt), but the currywurst was really doing its job.
The G&Ts didn’t hurt either.
“So, why do you love Ripley so much?” Martha asked Luke.
Ah! Now that was a good question. I’ve seen the film (who hasn’t), and started off the year with a play about its author, but we had a bonafide fan at the table and I was keen to hear more.
“He’s just a great character,” started off Luke.
“Sorry to interrupt,” said a woman, interrupting. “Would you mind if I gave you this?” she asked, flapping a flyer around. “It’s a dark and funny show about eating disorders…”
We all made polite noises until she went away again.
I looked at the table, strewn with flyers, and saw in them a league of performers, desperate to drag people to their shows.
“We should probably go in,” I suggested, picking at the last potato. They may not have been great, but that didn’t mean that I wasn’t going to polish them all off.
We gave our names on the door and were whisked off into a wide corridor.
“Would you be interested in using our captioning service tonight?” asked a lady, poised to pounce on anyone walking through.
I wasn’t. Neither were Martha or Luke.
We pressed on. Down the corridor and… up a flight of stairs. That was new. I didn’t even know the Vaults had an upstairs.
Although, come to think of it, if I were to have imagined an upstairs at the Vaults, it would have looked exactly like this. Cramped up against the top of a tunnel, battered looking armchairs huddle together in groups on the opposite end to a neglected bar. In an effort to inject a form of whimsy, some plastic wisteria was draped around the doorway, giving the whole space a rather atticy vibe. Although I couldn’t decide whether it was more Jane Eyre, or Flowers in…
Across the room and we were transported to the back the Crescent’s auditorium, the rows of chairs descending before us.
Somehow, I had managed to save the best Vaults venue for last. It was a theatre. A real theatre. No temporary seating here. These chairs looked like they had been lifted from an art deco cinema - in the 1930s. Everything had a gently moldering air. As if we were the first people to step inside for decades.
Down on the floor-level stage, a man sat with his back to us, clacking away on a typewriter. The sound echoing against the rumble of trains above our heads.
This time, the promised 90 minute no interval really was 90 interval free minutes. 90 minutes is a long time in the world of theatre, and an even longer time at the Vaults. By the time we clanked out way back down the stairs and retraced our way down the corridor, the bar was full.
"So, what did you think?"
We both looked at Luke for his expert verdict.
"There was a lot of shouting," he started, listing off a ream of criticisms.
Somehow I don't think I've found a fellow marathoner here.