I'm nearing the end of my Camden Fringe adventure. And it has been an adventure. All these funny little spaces that I wouldn't have had the chance to see without their epic programming. I can almost forgive them for adding venues to the marathon. Almost.
Without the Camden Fringe I wouldn't have needed to check out any comedy venues. They're not part of the remit. But those igenious folks at the festival found a way to stuff some theatre onto those tiny stages, so off I go. To 2 Northdown this time. A place I've never been, or even heard of, which is something I'm starting to get bored of saying relation to Camden Fringe locations.
2 Northdown is on Northdown Street. Number two, as it happens, which is a pretty amazing coincidence. Don't you just love it when that happens.
I've arrived far too early, but there's already a group hanging around outside, waiting to go in.
I hang back and try to get a sense of the place.
It's small. Or rather, narrow. Like a terraced house. Except there are great big doors taking up the ground floor and a winch over one of the upstairs windows, which makes me think this building must have had a more industrial past. It looks nice though. Smart. A little bit classy.
Not sure I want to be hanging out on the pavement outside though.
So I go for a walk, up to Caledonian Road and around in a loop. By the time I get back, it's five minutes before showtime, and the group outside have all relocated. Presumably inside.
I follow their lead.
There's a tiny little foyer inside the door. Just large enough for one person to turn to the left, where there is another door.
Here a posing table has been set up, complete with cash wallet and printed lists. Looks like I've found the box office.
I give my name the girl on table-duty and she draws a line through my name.
"Got you," she says, and she steps back to let me through.
Two steps in and I'm already almost crashing into the back row.
This place is small. A single room. With the bar on one side and the stage on the other.
Even the loos are in here. One on either side of the stage, like soldiers standing sentinel.
There's a bench pressed against the wall, which seems to have become the unofficial line for the loo. The two sides aren't divided by gender. In fact, both of them have a male and female little icon on them, which seems a very binary approach to take for loo-inclusivity in 2019, but oh well. There's a sign underneath, which I figure might be there to explain that the loos are for anyone who wants to take a piss, but when I get my glasses out, I see it's nothing of the kind.
"Please don't use the bathrooms during the performance," it says. "They're not soundproof and it's awkward for everyone."
I turn my attention to the decoration.
Framed show posters cover the walls, and by the looks of it, they're all signed. They're from some pretty famous comedians. Famous enough that even I have heard of them, and that's saying something.
The rest of the space is filled with chairs.
And almost every single one of them is taken.
I spot a single spare seat at the end of the row, and ask the girl sitting next to it if I can take it.
"Yeah!" she cries out enthusiastically.
I don't think I've ever seen someone so happy to have a stranger sitting next to them.
But then, the excitement in this room is at last-day-of-school levels. Everyone is chattering and drinking and hugging.
As new people come in, cries of recognition echo around the room.
My neighbour squeals as she spots a friend and stands up to hug her, leaning right over me to do so.
Something tells me they all know the cast, and they are super pumped to see them on stage.
It's all rather sweet.
There's no way I could pack out an entire venue if I were to put on a show. Maybe, if I really laid on the guilt thick, I might fill out the front row, but the fact that every seat in this place is taken tells me a lot about these performers. Whoever they are.
Flyers had been left on our seats and I have a look at mine to find out.
Let's see. It's Denni-Tyla Bell and Olivia Martin performing in a play they wrote themselves: Bananas are a funny shape.
I mean, they're not wrong. Bananas are a funny shape.
They're also apparently being sponsored by Bonnie Tyler and in their list of thanks, they credit Russell T Davies. So, my expectations are currently sky-rocketing.
The house lights go down.
There's a roar from the audience. They are here for this.
Although, I'm not quite sure what here is.
The stage lights have gone on, but I can't see anything.
I lean out to the right and catch a glimpse of an arm, but whether said arm belongs to Bell or Martin, I can't tell.
And here is the point where I discover why theatre isn't programmed in comedy venues. The stage may be raised, but unraked seating is never going to be able to cope with the demands of an actor wanting to... sit down.
I do my best, darting from left to right, mirror the head waving of the bloke sitting in front of me, but it's no good. When the performers are sitting, they might as well be invisible to those stuck in the back.
So I settle back in my chair, and just listen.
Bell and Martin's characters are getting ready for a night out. They don't know each other, but they have a lot in common. They're virgins. Not that they're frigid, you understand. No, they're just picky. Like Cher from Clueless. But without the natty tartan suits. And like Cher, they want someone who likes them for them. And they're feeling a bit let down. By the boys who want to get in their pants, the terrible sex ed classes at school, and their own bodies.
I find myself staring at the wall of framed posters, where I can just about see what's going on in the reflections in the glass. They're getting dressed up, doing their hair, and all the while talking to us. Their invisible friend. Their diary. Perhaps even their conscious.
But when it comes time to go out, they take us with them.
Phones rise out of the sea of heads to film the girls as they bop around to club bangers. And I suddenly realise how these two young women managed to fill an entire venue, because they are completely charming and absolute darlings, and I want to be their friend too.
And when it comes right down to it, their show isn't about boys or sex and going out on the pull, it's the power of female friendship, and the importance of sticking up for one another.
And if it came right down to it, I would definitely want Bell and Martin fighting my corner.
And not just because they have Bonnie Tyler and Russell T Davies on speed-dial.
As the stage lights go into blackout, a good chunk of the audience bounces out of their seats and applauds. And keep on going, even when Bell and Martin clearly want to say something.
They thank us all for coming. And the person doing tech. A few tears are shed.
"Everyone can leave!" says Bell to finish things off with a big wave of her arms.
But this lot ain't going. A couple of audience members go up with bouquets of flowers.
Never have I felt so much love in a room.
But it's time for me to go, so that the pair celebrate with their people.
Behind me, the great doors have been opened out onto the street and I slip out, letting the party go on without me.