The sisters of Litchfield Street

We’re off! Hail to the new year that is 2019 and good riddance to the piss-pot collection of putrid days that was 2018.

I don’t know about you, but I woke up with a deep awareness of my own mortality that I suspect was caused by the crashing realisation that I still hadn’t bought any theatre tickets. Not a single one. Not even for the matinee that I planned to attend mere hours later.

Usually I would never leave it so late to buy tickets. I’m the type of person who leaps into the box office queue as soon as they go on sale (and by that I mean the online queue. I don’t actually go to the box office. That would involve a level of human interaction that I simply can not deal with on such high-stakes days). So, I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be any room for little old me by the time that I got there.

But here’s the thing: I’d convinced myself that I wanted to day seat my first day of the marathon. And I wasn’t going to be put off by the mere fact that it was already afternoon-time and I was still in my pyjamas.

Some frantic activity involving eyeliner, washing a weird stain out of my shirt and a race across London later and I made it to Litchfield Street by 2pm.

First call: St Martins Theatre. Home of The Mousetrap. A choice I was rather pleased with. There’s something rather neat about having the first theatre in my year-long tour of London theatres be the longest-running show  around.St Martins Theatre from Litchfield Street“Are there any day tickets left by any chance?” I asked with an air of calm that impressed even myself.

You bet there were. Because no one wants to go to a matinee on new years day.

Even if you do get to overhear the cast warm up on stage as you wait at box office.

Ten minutes later, I had secured a front row seat and stepped back out into the biting cold of the West End wondering how on earth I had managed to be swindled out of £29.50 for a ticket to a show that has been running for more than double my life-span. Twenty-nine British pounds! And fifty pee! For a day seat to a weekday matinee? With tickets still available an hour before the curtains goes up? Are they serious? I still can’t get over that. That’s monstrously ruinous. I don’t think I have ever, in my life, spent so much for a theatre ticket that wasn’t… well, Hamilton, or something that provided equal bragging rights. And no offence to The Mousetrap… but, I’m was fairly certain that I wouldn’t be stepping out of the theatre with a song in my heart and an ache in my belly as I suppress the urge to rap the entire text at once.

Feeling rather woozy I stumbled down the street to my next stop. The Ambassadors Theatre. Thankfully located right next door.

“Any day seats left? By any chance?” I asked, feeling rather less certain of myself by this point.

There were. And for the considerably less heart-attack inducing £19.50.The Ambassadors Theatre from Litchfield Street until it was time to return to St Martins Theatre, lest I wander away and spend even more money.Instagram StoriesWith my ticket purchases for the day sorted, I busied myself making

It did give me the opportunity to admire all the signage around St Martins though. Did you know that The Mousetrap is the “world’s longest ever run”? Nor did I. I feel it should be talked about more.

(Incidentally, what does “world’s longest ever run” even mean? It sounds like something Eddie Izzard would do for charity. That’s an over-workshopped tag line if ever I heard one.)

I have to admit, for all my hours of prep, I went off to my first theatre trip of the year still not knowing exactly how I was going to write it up. Would I count the loos and inspect the access-friendliness of the entrance? Analyse the ease of navigating their website? Rant about the extortionate rates of booking fees nowadays? Am I supposed to have drink at the bar? Comment on their wine list? Rank the attractiveness of the ushers?

All these possibilities were considered and dismissed with rapid succession.

Instead, I headed straight over to the merch stand.

I fucking love merch. And there looked like there was some lush looking tea-towel action going on over there.

What I don’t love however, is merch queues. And the already cramped foyer at St Martins Lane was almost all queue. By my reckoning, there were at least three: the box office, the merch stand, and for the ladies’ loo. But which was which was impossible to make out, so tangled up were they.

My anxiety levels already dangerously high, I opted out of the entire ordeal and bought a programme from a conveniently located usher, who was very chipper considering it was the early afternoon post-the-new-year’s-eve before (he had a chill evening, involving cigars and had no hangover to speak of, as it turned out).

Now, kudos to The Mousetrap - programmes are only £4 and are filled with lots of tasty articles and a minimum about of ads. Speaking as a professional (no, seriously… I produce programmes for a living), I was impressed. Well worth the monies.

But even the programme wasn’t enough to distract me from the nagging thought that I should probably be doing something.

Like… taking photos maybe…?

You can probably already tell, but I’m not much of a photographer. I spent far too long trying to work out how to take pictures of the auditorium, but in the end gave up and just snapped the ceiling.

Then I realised I should probably prove I was there. So attempted some selfies which was equally unsatisying.

Note to self: remove glasses first.The domed ceiling at St Martins Theatre. What’s up there? I want to know!Now how to I get this here thingamyjig to take photos?You’ll be pleased to note that the show started shortly thereafter, saving you from any more of my attempts.

Which I suppose is my segue to telling you about the show itself.

But really… what can I say about The Mousetrap that hasn’t already been said a million times since it opened? It’s funny, and dark, and comforting in the way that all Agatha Christie’s always are. You just want to snuggle down in your seat and get cosy, knowing that you are safe while the characters battle with blizzards and each other. If you haven’t been, you definitely should. If only for the eavesdropping potential during the interval as everyone tries to work out whodunnit (the two women sitting on my right figured it out). I’d already seen it, so I was denied the pleasure of joining in, but who doesn’t love a rewatch of a murder mystery, when you can spot all the clues?

Anyway, back down the street and off to Switzerland!

The Ambassadors Theatre is actually St Martins’ sister venue, designed by the same architect. And pleasingly currently features a new play by another female playwright: Joanna Murray-Smith. Not only that, the play itself is about a female crime writer, the magnificent Patricia Highsmith. There’s more Sister, Sister action going on here than in a 90’s Nickeloden sitcom. It’s almost like I planned it… almost.

More ceiling photography followed. And more selfies. (Sorry, I swear I’ll do my best to figure this out).The royal icing ceiling at the Ambassadors TheatreCan’t take selfies. Send help.The Ambassadors is a titchy-tiny theatre. Intimate. But without the black-boxiness that usually goes along with that descriptor. It only has the one circle. With an ornate ceiling and painted a pale cream, it felt like I was sitting inside a wedding cake. Which was not an unenjoyable experience. Despite the grim look on my face (at least I remembered to remove the glasses).

I actually liked it so much I started getting angry at the idea of long running shows hogging the pretty (sorry The Mousetrap). I’d never made it to The Ambassadors before. Mainly because Stomp lived here for 15 years. I think there needs to be a limit. A show should get a maximum of two years before it’s out. I’m not saying end long runs, just keep them moving. Like a massive game of musical chairs.

That’s the platform I’m running on.

Max for Theatre President, 2020.

And I don’t want to hear any nonsense about “practicalities.”

Errr, apologies for that strange turn… on to the play - I need to insert a chef’s kiss gif here. I don’t know why, but something about a bitchy, misanthropic, hermit writer really speaks to me. The programme (another £4 wonder) is filled with fascinating facts about her and I’m totally into it. I’m not saying I want to be Patricia Highsmith when I grow up, but I wouldn’t be angry about it if I did. Except for the racism. That’s like… so not cool. And living off cans of soup. Not into that either.

A++ work to everyone involved. And at 90 mins, no interval, it really can’t be beat.

Closes on Saturday. I’m glad I caught it. You should go too.

Phew. That’s it. I’m spent.

I can’t believe I have to do this all again tomorrow. And every day. For a year.

It’s fine. It’s all perfectly fine.

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New Year's Heave

Is it normal to feel quite so queasy on New Year’s Eve?

Let me rephrase that.

Is it normal to feel this nauseated before going out drinking?

I mean, seriously. Have you thought about the logistics of visiting every theatre in London within a single year? That’s 5 shows a week, for 52 weeks. In a row. No weeks off to go lie on a beach far away from any soliloquy beyond: can you make me another of those delicious daiquiris?

233 shows. In 356 days.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

And it’s not just the time constraints (although let’s not ever forget the time constraints). There’s so many other things I need to consider. Like… am I ever going to eat dinner again? What is my stance on re-visiting a theatre if they programme a show that I really really want to see? What about immersive theatre? Do I really have to put myself through that? How the heck am I going to get tickets to Hamilton? And do I need to see both parts of Cursed Child? And how am I going to pay for all these tickets?

Oh yeah… how am I going to pay for all those tickets?

That’s not a rhetorical question. I’m really asking.

I guess it’s homemade sandwiches for lunch for the duration.

And let’s not forget the programmes.

Oh my god… the programmes.

I love theatre programmes.

I make theatre programmes.

For a living. That’s my job.

I can’t even remember the last time I went to the theatre and didn’t come away with a programme. It must be years.

There is no a play out there bad enough for me not to want a programme.

The 6 (six) 35 litre plastic containers I own, so filled with programmes that the lids don’t fasten down, are testament to this fact. And now my papery children are about to be joined by another 233 brothers and sisters.

Where on earth am I going to put them?

And more pressingly, how am I going to pay for them?

If each of those 233 programmes costs £5 (a conservative estimate given the price of programmes in the West End) that’s going to work out at… oh god…


Over a thousand pounds spent on programmes before the year is out.

I’m going to need a second job.

Or a second mortgage.

Not that I even have a first mortgage. I spent my deposit on friggin’ theatre programmes and avocado toast.

I think I might have just made the biggest mistake of my life.

So, please do excuse me will I barf into this bucket.

And then down a bottle of gin.

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Time to pre-game this shiz

I have a question: what is the proper preparation procedure one should undergo before embarking on a challenge to visit every theatre in London? Some sort of regime based on early nights, a diet rich in protein and fruits, and comfortable shoes is what I’m guessing. Possibly the introduction of early morning runs. For stamina building. And a daily multi-vitamin.

Yeah, well. I’m not going to do any of that. I mean, I take vitamin D every day. But with my need for factor 50 every time I dare venture outside, those little white pills are the only thing that stands between me and my bones crumbling to dust inside of me. Oh, and biotin. For my hair. Not sure if that counts.

Basically, what I’m saying is that to me, healthy habits is just the name of the local convent’s jogging club.

But don’t let that convince you that I’m just barrelling into this unprepared.

Look around you… I built this website/blog thing. Pretty swanky, right?

A website/blog thing, no matter how swanky, is just a glorified diary. Except this one doesn’t have a pink quilted cover with a lock on it. Which is probably for the best. And not only because pink isn’t my colour. The public nature of this challenge, and potential for abject, hideously embarrassing failure is just the thing I need to keep away from the tempting lure of the box set.

So, the website is important. But not as important as: The List.

The list of all the theatres I need to get to over the next year.

I was looking forward to the most exciting step of the entire process. Putting together the spreadsheet. Who doesn’t love some fancy spreadsheet action? Just give me a mug of tea, packet of chocolate hobnobs and a fresh spreadsheet just waiting to be populated with data, and I am set for the evening. So, when Friday night roles around, kettle boiled and the seal and packet of hobnobs teased open I sat myself down with my laptop on my knees and got ready to work my magic on the official list of theatres in London.

Three cups of tea and severely diminished pile of biscuits later I realised the problem.

Did you know that there isn’t an official list of London theatres?

Because there isn’t an official list of London theatres.

I don’t know about you, but I’d expect there to be an official list of London theatres.

I mean, there are plenty of lists. If you google “London theatres list,” there are plenty of websites clamouring to show off their wares. But start clicking on those links and you’ll soon start to notice that though all the lists are all very impressive, what they lack is the one thing I want from them: consistency. LondonNet’s offering doesn’t go much beyond the West End. London Theatre, who you’d think would be the definitive source, seems to have something against pub theatres. While Wikipedia, surely the home of minimally-useful list, seems to also be missing a few. Did you know there was a theatre on the Cutty Sark? Because none of these websites did.

So there was nothing for it. I had to create my own.

All that research. It was going to take days.

Honestly, I’d never been so hyped.

That feeling lasted precisely as long as it took me to insert the COUNTIF formula on my spreadsheet.


That’s a fucking lot of theatres.

There are 365 days in 2019, which means I need to see a show every 1.7 days. Or just over 4 shows a week.

Daunting, but let’s be real. That’s totally manageable. I can even have weekends off.

And then I remembered something. I had a list of theatres. Saved in the expansive personal filing system I call my inbox. I had emailed it to myself back in 2014 (I told you that I had been thinking about doing this damn thing for years). I’d even counted them. There, at the bottom of the list, was the total figure: 241.


That’s nearly 5 shows a week. Every week. For a year.

That doesn’t leave a lot of room for, like… illness. Or holidays.

I went back to the list.

It didn’t take me long to realise that things have moved on in theatre-land since 2014. There’s been a hell of a lot of closures. And this list was a lot more generous in its definition of London than I’m being now.

After an evening spent with a red pen in hand, a highlighter sticking out of the side of my mouth like a old man’s pipe, and my fingers busy smashing away on my laptop keys, I managed to put all my lists together and come up with the one you can find here.

That’s it. That’s the list I’m working to. Those are the theatres I’m going to visit next year.

All 233 of them.

Except, perhaps not. The list includes a lot of theatres that are due to, but haven’t yet actually opened. And there may well be some sneaky pop-ups that may, well… pop-up at some point. But for now, that’s the list.

So, yeah. That’s me done. 2019, I am ready for you.

Although, should probably buy tickets at some point. Hmmm.

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