“Meet you by Agatha Christie?”
I’ve always wanted to be the person who says things like that. Well, ever since I read I Capture the Castle and fell in love with Topaz Mortain when she describes the British Museum as a place where "people do nothing but use it for assignations - I met him there myself once.”
My attempt at my own literary assignation is soon thwarted by Nicki’s look of confusion. “Where is that again?”
“It’s near the noodle shop. If you walk down the road towards Five Guys.”
“Ah!” She nods. “Next to the crossing. I know where that is.”
Somehow, this was all starting to lose the sense of romance I was going for.
We were going to see Six that night. Something we were both very excited about. So excited, even a battle with the TodayTix app for day seats that morning hadn’t managed to dampen our spirits. In our pursuit of cheap, or at least cheaper tickets, we’d both been poised on our respective phones, to hit that button at 10am on the dot.
But it seems we weren’t the only people who wanted to see this hit show on a random Tuesday evening and we were made to wait while other, speedier, app users made tea, tried to find a date, or otherwise occupied their time, with unbought tickets sitting in their basket.
Eventually, a few singles crept back up for sale. I grabbed one. I tried to buy another but the app wasn’t having it. No multiple purchases for a particular performance. Even if you only wanted the two tickets.
I ran over to Nicki’s desk. She was on a work call. There was no time for that. I grabbed her mobile and directed her through the medium of waving it in front of her face that she needed to unlock it. She did. App opened, I clicked the checkout button. Success! Single ticket in the basket and only a few seats down from the one I had bought.
After that, it was only a matter of finding somewhere to meet that evening.
Enter Agatha Christie.
Or at least her memorial on the intersection between Cranbourn and Great Newport streets.
Shaped like a massive book, it’s perfect for leaning against and getting in the way of tourists’ photos.
“Shall we get our tickets first?” I asked when Nicki appears at my elbow.
We dart across the road to the Arts Theatre and push our way through the packed bar.
“Is this the queue?” we ask people in general.
A man shrugs. “I have no idea,” he says before turning his back. Guess that’s a no then.
Nicki gets out her phone, but the app isn’t necessary. We are on surname terms here.
Nicki gets her ticket, then the bloke on box office hands one to me.
I frown at it. Right seat number. It has my name on it and everything.
“How…?” I start. “Did you give him my name?” I ask Nicki.
“Of course!” she says, surprised that I hadn’t noticed.
I stuffed the problematic ticket into my bag.
We went to Five Guys. Might as well.
“Shall we share a milkshake?” asks Nicki as we stand in the queue.
“No!” I exclaim, horrified. I’m a grown woman. I can buy my own damn milkshakes.
“Max, I’m going to force intimacy on you if it’s the last thing I do. We’re sharing a milkshake.”
I opened my mouth, ready to let forth a very articulate refusal that would leave poor Nicki quaking in her shoes, but after one look at her face I shut it again.
We shared a milkshake.
“Shit, it’s five to,” I say, catching a glimpse of my phone.
We scramble for our coats. Nicki puts her leftover fries in her bag. I grab the milkshake.
“Shit, they’ve all gone in,” I say as we reach the Arts. The foyer is completely empty.
A man opening the door quickly steps to one side to let us through, terror in his eyes.
“Thank you!” I shout over my shoulder, as we run across the foyer towards the auditorium entrance. “Can we take this in?” I ask, holding up the milkshake.
“Thank you,” I say at the same time as he says: “Err…”
No time to stop to take photos or even buy a programme. We aim straight for our seats.
Our separated seats.
Oh. I had forgotten about that.
The man sitting next to me stood up to let Nicki pass.
“Sorry,” I say. “Do you think it would be possible to move down a couple of seats…” I let me request trail off.
I mean, fair does. He was under no obligation to move because a pair of women, who arrive seconds before curtain up, can’t get their act together enough to buy two seats next to one another.
He grinns. “Only kidding,” he says, moving down a seat.
Well, there we are then. True love reigns supreme. Or at least joint-milkshake ownership.
Down on the stage the, and here I'm pausing for effect, Olivier Award-nominated Queens, are squabbling over their crappy husband. There's music. And glow-in-the-dark ruffs. And electro-Tudor dresses. Anne Boleyn has a little B necklace. And Greensleeves is being pumped out with a techno beat.
70 minute refreshers of prep school history never felt so good.
I didn't even mind that we were asked to get to our feet for the last number. If I stayed in my seat, I would have missed the best bit. When one of the Queens grabbed a phone from someone sitting in the front row and started filming herself and the other Queens with it before handing it back.
"That was so good," I say as I try to capture a photo of the confetti-deluged stage. I'm nothing if not original in my post-show opinions. "I need to buy a programme."
There's a queue at the merch desk. There's good merch on offer.
"Signed posters!" I gasp.
"Sold out," says Nicki, pointing at the price list which has multiple sold out stickers next to the items. "How can they sell out? Like... the cast is right there."
"Don't lose your head..." I say, reading a t-shirt. "I want that."
I still want that. But I limited myself to a programme. It's a good programme. It has all the Queens' autographs on the front. Like... the actual Queens. Not the actors. I mean, not the actual Queens. They're long dead. But the Queens in stage. Or at least the characters.
We got Aragon followed by a cute heart. A Boleyn signed off with a little kiss. Seymour and Howard also went with the heart action. Cleves struck two lines through her second s to make a dollar sign. And Catherine Parr, well, she's a classy bitch. No doodle-nonsense for her.
Inside the Queens get their own biogs too, with a mixture of factual info (birth and death dates, children and DID YOU KNOW? facts) alongside the more... well, let's just say that Catherine of Aragon's Queenspirations were apparently Beyoncé and Shakira.
I loved it so much I actually wrote to the programme-makers to tell them how cool it was. Because programme-people don't get the appreciation they deserve... and yeah, I'm pausing for effect again here. God dammit, I just want someone to email me about my programmes for once.
Cheaper than my programmes too. Only four quid. That's less than a milkshake at Five Guys.
Buy a programme, kids. And support your local arts administrator .