It’s Saturday morning and I’m scrolling up and down the events page for the Platform Theatre. The theatre belongs to UAL (I think...) and today it’s the last day of their MA Directors’ Showcase. There are four plays on offer. One of which is Tom Wells’ Jumpers for Goalposts. I should really book it. Even after last night’s cry-athon at Curious Case, I’m still have a well of those big snotty tears ready to go, and this play sounds like the one most likely to deliver. It’s also not on until 7.30pm, which means I get to spend at least the next six hours in my pyjamas, which I think we can all agree is the best way to spend a Saturday. Jumpers is the right choice. The sensible choice. The only choice, really.
I scroll back down, chewing on my lip, because here’s the thing. I never claimed to be sensible.e
Further down there’s a play called The Fop Reformed, which I know nothing about except it has the word fop in the title, and I am totally into fops. If it weren’t for the tragedy of being born in the wrong time, and to the wrong gender, and, quite possibly, the wrong class, I like to think that I would have been in a fop. Or more specifically: a Macaroni, as it’s the fashion, rather than the foolishness, that I envy so much. The queued hair, the velvet coats, the satin breeches. I was born to live that foppish-life. Honestly, the universe should be ashamed of itself for making me live in this dismal time, lacking so badly in powdered wigs and lace cravats.
I book it before I have the chance to reconsider, and quickly run towards the shower. It starts at 1.30pm and I need to get all the way to King’s Cross.
There isn’t much time to pick an outfit, but in a concession to my foppish forbearers, I dig out my antique quizzing glass necklace and wind the long chain around my neck. There. With my floaty black dress this is very almost a look.
The Platform Theatre turns out to be in that fancy new part of King’s Cross. Or, at least, on a road that feels as if it’s kind of behind the fancy new part of King’s Cross. It is completely deserted back here. No shops. No bars. No people. I wander down this desolate street feeling like I’ve just wandered into a 28 Days Later re-enactment.
A window sign points me in the right direction, but as I reach my destination, I have to double check because this place doesn’t look like a theatre. It doesn’t look like much of anything. The great big windows that face the street are tinted dark, and inside I can just about make out a few tables and chairs, and beyond them, a great void of nothing.
In the entrance foyer there are twin a-frames displaying what has to be the most bleak set of messages I’ve ever seen in a place purporting to be a bar. “The prosecco party is over. Try our sparkling wines instead,” reads one, while the other kindly informs me that the place closes at 10.30pm on a Friday night. I know everyone jokes that Generation Z are all sober and in bed by 9pm (honestly, the dream), but I don’t think I’ve ever been so disheartened by a pair of blackboards in my life.
Thankfully, that seems to be it in the way of signage. I can only guess that the large counter on the other side of this bleak bar is the box office.
Someone else is there. He’s buying a ticket. Looks like I’m in the right place after all.
“The surname’s Smiles?” I say, wondering why I always say this as if it were a question.
“Oh, sorry,” says the woman behind the counter. “I’m just shadowing today. I’m new.” She indicates the man by her side. The box officer she is shadowing, I presume.
I wait, and when the ticket buyer moves on, I side-step into his spot.
“Smiles?” I say, spelling it out, just to make it extra clear.
He peers at his laptop, and a second later the ticket machine by his side splutters out a ticket.
Well, that’s something. They may have a vendetta against joy, signage, and atmosphere. But you can still get a freshly printed ticket at the box office.
That done, I wander towards the only bit of colour in the room - a small display of headshots and production posters for the plays (and film) that form the showcase.
There’s a little table below the display. With programmes. Fuck yeah. I’d forgotten this was a thing at uni productions. Free programmes. I fucking love a free programme.
I grab one and settle into one of the low purple sofas in the corners.
“Have you seen these,” says a young woman, flapping around a programme to show her friend. “They are gorgeous. They never used to be like this. Just look at it!”
I take her and look at it.
It isn’t bad.
Nice double page spread for each show, and a full page biography for each director. My director, by which I mean the young lad directing The Fop Reformed, seems to be a big fan of the 18th century. I think we’d get along marvellously. Or end up stabbing each other in an argument over an enamelled snuff box.
“The house is now open!” comes a deep voice from the entrance of the theatre.
No one moves.
If anything, the small gathering sinks even further into their seats.
I busy myself, slipping my programme into my bag.
When I look up, everyone has gone. They’ve formed themselves into a queue. Beeps follow them as they get their tickets scanned.
There’s lots of chatter and “how are yous?” as the queue progresses. No doubt they’ve all been in a Rattigan production together at some point.
I try to look like I belong, but the whole business of being at least ten years older than this lot and wearing a quizzing glass around my neck isn’t really helping my cause.
I make it through the scanner without my presence being questioned. Not out loud, anyway. And I head through the doors.
The Platform is a black box theatre. It looks like the seating is changeable. It’s only chairs, and not even the fixed kind, but there is a rake, which is always good. There are also programmes set out on the seats. That’s some quality audience-care right there. I mean, okay. They want to make sure that all the producers and casting directors and whatnot in the in audience know who’s involved, but still. I haven’t seen that at LAMDA or RADA.
There’s lots of “I haven’t seen you in a while,” “what projects are you working on at the moment?” “it’s all go-go-go round my way,” type chatter as people find their oldest-friends-that-they-can’t-quiet-remember-the-name-of on the way to their seats.
I put myself in the third row, towards the side. I don’t want to take a prime spot from somehow who actually has some potential work on offer.
There’s classical music playing from the speakers. I recognise it, but can’t identify it, much to my shame. It sounds Baroque though, so I’m very happy. Even if it is being played on a loop.
I’d been worried that this might be a modern dress production. All Ancien Régime Parisian manners without the outfits to match, but no. We’re safe. It’s all there. Emerald coloured suits, heeled shoes with rosettes on the toes, stomachers, satin, and side hoops. And for the next hour I’m in utter fop-heaven as our fop-hero wields his (fopplish) umbrella like a sword, flicks his (fopplish) hair around, wears the hell out of his (foppish) velvet suit, and absolutely, positively, refuses to do anything as gauche as admit he has feelings for his (non-foppish) fiancé.
Well, that is until his lady love and clever lady’s maid sorts him out.