Witness her gate-crash my tiny hell

It is way too early on a Saturday morning for me to be awake. The sun is high in the sky and the birds outside my window are tweeting up a storm, but I am not ready for any of this nonsense.

Whatever demon possessed me to book a noon-time matinee has now vacated my body and left me to suffer through the morning all by myself.

At least I'm off somewhere rather thrilling today. Somewhere that I hadn't even heard of before this whole marathon thing. I'm going to the Crossrail Roof Gardens, which is apparently a place that not only exists, but also has a theatre. So, that's fun.

What does one wear when one goes to a roof garden? Layers, according to the email I got a few days ago from the good people at The Space who are behind the events there today. Says right here that it's covered (so no need of waterproofs, which I'm not entirely convinced I own anyway), but "it is 3 storeys above ground level so it can be a bit chilly."

I look doubtfully out the window. It doesn't look chilly. But sitting for two hours in the cold doesn't sound like much of a good time, so I stick a cropped sweatshirt over my dress and then sling on my 49er jacket on top of the whole thing. That'll do.

I don’t actually know where this place is, but thankfully the email has got me covered, with chunky paragraphs of directions both from the Canary Wharf tube station and the DLR.

“Take the large escalator up from the ticket hall,” it says. Well, there’s no mistaking that. The escalator is fucking massive. I take it.

“Turn right out of the main exit and walk through Reuters Plaza past the clocks.”

I don’t know what Reuters Plaza is, but I do see what looks like a little outcrop of clocks, planted like a walkway of trees either size of the path.

“Walk straight ahead through the set of glass doors underneath the steps and continue straight through until you come back outside.”

I spot the glass doors underneath the steps. They look dark, and a little bit grim. As if they belong to a political consultancy firm, utilising data analysis to bend democracy to their will. This is not the type of door that I would walk though. But the instructions have got me this far, might as well see where they lead me.

Turns out where they lead me is to a shopping centre.


What next? “Straight through until you come back outside.”

Okay then. Straight through it is and Ooo… they sell salt beef here. I could do with some of that. Nope. Don’t get distracted. Straight through. Off we go.

I push my way through one set of doors after another, feeling very dramatic as they swing shut after me, leaving me blinking in the bright light of Adam’s Plaza. Well, I’m guessing this is Adam’s Plaza. That’s where the instructions say I should be, so let’s just hope they’re right.

It’s quiet here. Just a few smart looking people strolling around in the shadows of skyscrapers. There’s a bridge overhead. Linking one building to another, like a relic from some dystopian film set, where the rich never stoop to walking at ground level and the rest of us are left in the shadows to fight it out over the rat droppings.

There’s a couple of sloppy fountains, the type where the water gushes over the edge and into a waiting drain without the showy travesty of flying through the air first. There’s nowhere to sit though. No benches. This square was made for walking, not hanging around in.

But I hang around all the same, leaning over the railings, looking into the murky water of the docks and feeling a bit of a rebel. A tired and slightly complacent rebel, but a rebel nonetheless.

It occurs to me, that if I’m after views, I’d probably get better ones on a roof garden than in a square, so I bring up that email again and see what it has to say for this last part of my journey.

“The entrance to Crossrail Place is in front of you,” it says.

It’s that building next to me, I suppose, now that I’ve gone off course.

“Go up the escalators to the Roof Garden and follow signs for the Performance Space.”

Well, aye aye, Captain. Will do.

I go inside. There’s a staircase. And signs for a lift. I ignore those. The email said escalators and if the email says escalators then I am damn well taking the escalators.

Ah, there they are. I see them. I hop on, and ride up in style to the first floor.

There’s a piano up here. One of those Instagram-bait painted pianos that are left out in public in the hopes that some maestro will play it and we’ll have a nice viral video to distract us from the end of the world.

The entrance to the bridge is here. The dystopian one. It’s actually a tunnel, and looks even more science fiction from this angle. Quite the dramatic visual, actually. A spaceship's corridor stretching out to infinity. There’s already someone crouching down in front of it to get a photo. I take a photo of him taking a photo. Mainly because I don’t want to wait for him to finish up.

One more set of escalators and then we’re there! At least, I think we’re there. Trees and plants and a transparent roof. If this is not the roof garden, then it’s a pretty darn good reproduction.

I wander between the bushes, following the winding path.

There’s a sign here, pointing the way to the performance space. And a giant robot. Not sure what business a robot, giant or otherwise, has in a rooftop garden, but glad this place is covered. Wouldn’t want him getting all rusty when it rains.

Turns out, I don’t need the signs. I can hear the space. It sounds like singing.

I stop, trying to make out the words. Something about knowing someone is bad news because they have tattoos. It would almost be offensive if it weren’t so hilariously sheltered.

I turn a corner and I see them. The singers. Their childish faces just about visible through the foliage. They are very young, thank goodness. I would dread to think what kind of grownup is scared of tattoos.

There’s more signs here, for the Bloom Festival. That’s why I’m here. A few days filled with free events, split into ticketed slots of a few hours each. Mine doesn’t start until noon, and I still have a few minutes left, so I go for a wander.

I don’t get far though before I find something very exciting.

A short-story machine! I do like a short-story. I even write the bloody things on occasion. Mostly as gifts (my poor friends… they are very sweet about it all, but how they must suffer). The intro above the machine claims it can print one out of a one minute’s read time, two minutes, or five minutes. Just tap the button and a short-story of that length will be printed in some eco-friendly manner, just for you.

I immediately hit the five minute button.

Nothing happens.

The one minute button is lit up though.

Perhaps they are out of stock of the five minutes.

I try the one minute button instead.




I walk back to the performance space to watch the end of the singing.

It’s fairly open here, with nothing but the plants to shade the stage from view.

The kids finish and file off stage.

It’s time to go in.

No one stops me as I squeeze myself through the leaving audience-members. No one asks for my name, or to check that I have a ticket. I don’t suppose it matters when it’s free.

Two steps in though, and my path is cut off.

Someone is blocking the way in.

She’s grabbed one of the festival-workers wearing a Bloom Festival t-shirt. She’s talking very fast. It’s something very important.

She wants to leave flyers on the benches.

I wait for her to finish. And wait... And wait...

Who knew there was so much to say about flyers.

Eventually she moves enough to let me pass and I go in.

It’s very much a garden theatre. A floor level stage, with curved benches on three levels, backed by a wall of greenery. It’s like a mini amphitheatre, except more garden centre than gladiatorial. I pick my favourite seat, third row - right at the end. Which here is a nice little corner, cuddled up with the leaves.

A Bloom t-shirt wearer comes out and begs the seated audience to stay. “There’s lots more coming up,” he says invitingly. “Stay. Please!”

They go.

There aren’t many people left.

I mean, it’s a small venue. Only three rows and not all three go all the way around. The third row could probably only fit ten people if they were intent on getting cosy, but still.

There are some kids on stage. They give a short play about trainers. It’s cute.

Parents watch their offspring through the medium of their phone cameras.

People walk past the theatre. Some pushing buggies. A few stop to look in, just as I had done, but none cross the threshold.

I can’t blame them. Two people wearing Bloom t-shirts are blocking the entrance. Their backs turned to the gap in the fence. There’s no way a buggy could pass through without them having to ask for the Bloomers to move.

The children finish their play.

There’s another changeover of the audience.

It’s a younger crowd now. Teens.

The stage is empty. And remains so. No one knows who’s meant to go on first.

The teenagers are all called to the front to work out the order they’ll be going on. This goes on for quite some time.

Straws drawn, and first victim selected, a Spotify ad blasts over the sound system.

The young performer makes a swift joke about it as she struggles with the microphone.

Something tells me that these guys haven’t had the chance to rehearse in this space. Sound checks are presumably just a test of coolness round this way.

There’s a crunch of broken twigs behind me, I turn around and find a photographer lurking amongst the vegetation, like a creeping pervert on Hampstead Heath.

I turn back around.

A woman pushing a pram manages to inch her way into the space by using the other entrance, thereby avoiding the Bloomers.

That brings the grand total of people in the audience not directly involved in the performance up to three.

The photographer must have climbed their way out of the boscage, because they are now down by the stage.

I scroll through Twitter while I wait for the next act to begin. I see a photo of me. Sitting in the third row of the Crossrail Roof Gardens.


I look longing at the group of old people, laden down with shopping, sauntering past. They pause, watch one of the performers sing a song, and then move on.

Another woman arrives. She’s also a bit older, and carrying a great number of bags. She takes a seat on the bottom bench, and then, after a moment of consideration, picks up the largest of the bags, climbs up the benches, and then dumps it in the second row, blocking my exit, before going back to her seat.

Gradually, more people arrive. They go sit by the older lady. She greets them all with a lifted hand and a wide smile, until one half of the space is packed with what looks like three generations of a single family.

The teens finish their set. Within seconds, every single one of them has gone.

The next performer arrives, and she starts setting up a table full of props.

The family all get up and take up new positions in the middle of the benches. The prime spots, head on to the stage.

With the bag to my left, and the family everywhere else, I am utterly trapped.

There’s no one else here. Just me, the family, the Bloomers, the creeping photographer, and a single performer: a spoken word artist.

I seem to have found myself in a private performance.

One of the group looks around at me, her eyes scraping up and down as if trying to work out how I had managed to wangle my way into their family show. Frankly, I’m wondering the same thing.

The spoken word artist asks us to raise our hands if we believe in luck. I’m not sure I believe in anything right now, least of all luck. I keep my arm down.

The poem is all about the serendipitous-stuff apparently. Not that I can tell. I hear a lot of words, but over the sound of the breeze blowing itself through the roof gardens, I can’t figure out how any of them join together.

The microphone stands unused and unnoticed as the performer's words are lost to the wind.

A few minutes later, the words stop and we all applaud.

Our performer goes over to one of the Bloomers and whispers something.

“Are you finished?” asks the Bloomer.

She is indeed, finished.

The Bloomer comes forward to the mic and draws the session to a close.

It’s time for me to get out of here.

“Excuse me,” I say to the woman boxing me in. I stumble over the bag, down the steps, and flee.

But then I stop.

There is one last mystery to solve.

I walk out, past the performance space, leaving the gardens behind me.

There, up ahead, is a sign. “Giant Robot.”

It’s a cafe.

Oh well.

Perhaps I can get myself a salt beef sandwich, u think as I hurry back down the escalators, past the sloppy foundation, under the tunnel, and back through the shopping centre.

I stand before the salt beef place.

It's closed.

Of course it is.

I trudge back to the tube station, sans salt beef sandwich.

At least I got another theatre checked off the list today.


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Because we're Addamses

, if I say the Broadway in Catford, what kind of mental image do you conjure up in that wee head of yours? Some sort of grotty arts centre that hasn't been painted since 1972 perhaps. Or maybe a tower of glass and steel and fingerpaintings. Either way, I'm willing to put money on your not picturing this gothic extravaganza, complete with stone gargoyles and pointy windows, and a grimy slate roof, and a grass-fringed canopy, and, and, and... it's like a theatre built out b-movie off-cuts, and I love it.

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Lose hope all ye enter Eltham

I’ll give the Bob Hope Theatre this: it’s well named.

Everywhere you look, you see him. From the huge photo next to the box office, to the bust near the door, to the portrait glaring at you through the front windows. He’s everywhere.

After my crash course in the horror that is Great Northern Rail on Wednesday, I was determined not to suffer the vagaries of the rail networks again. Leaving the office a full two hours before kick-off time, I found myself enjoying the most stressfully drama-free journey south of the river I have managed to undertake since beginning this marathon. No crowds. No cancellations. Not even a hint of a delay. I even managed to get a nice photo of the Shard while I lazily hung around on the platform at London Bridge for my train that disconcertingly arrived exactly on time. It was most disconcerting.

As this meant that I arrived in Eltham a tiny bit early. Forty-five minutes worth of early.

No matter, I thought. I was in Eltham. A new, exotic, local for me. I could explore! Buy myself a little snack perhaps. The rain-sogged air practically fizzed with possibilities.

As I made my way up from the train station, fighting with, and inevitably giving up on, my umbrella, the fizz dissipated like a forgotten can of Fanta.

Everything was closed. The intriguing looking Wiccan shop had its shutters firmly down. As did every cafe that I passed. Even the police station was dark.

I was beginning to get worried. I really didn’t want to spend the next three-quarters of an hour standing around in the blustery rain.

I pressed on.

Finally, up ahead, I spotted something.


What a relief. Maccy Ds never close. Not until all the drunks have cleared out anyhow.

“We’re closed,” said a lady blocking the doorway as a man tried to get in.

“But-“ he started.

She shook her head. “Nope. We’re closed.”

I hung back, marvelling at the exchange. What was this place where a MacDonalds closes at 7pm?

I turned the corner, trudging in the opposite direction to the theatre, desperate to find anywhere were I could get something warm to drink before diving into the frantic world of amdram theatre.

Closed. Closed. Closed. Everything was closed.

Except. There. Just ahead. A Costa. And open until 7.30pm. Thanks the theatre gods, I was saved. Thirty minutes later, an overpriced hot chocolate warming my belly, I retraced my steps, back towards the theatre.

Eltham really is a sleepy little town. Permanently sleepy by the looks of it. I passed two funeral homes on the short work to the theatre.

Which might go some way to explaining this architectural memorial to a dead comedian. When considering their highly specific decorative themes, the Bob Hope can only truly be matched by the Pinter for shrine-like dedication.


I gave my name.

She looked through the ticket envelopes. It didn't take long. There were only two of them.

Did you get an e-ticket 

Now, I never select an e-ticket by choose.




I looked at the list. "It's Maxine," I said, indicating my name. But there was an Emma just below me. Emma Smillie. My god. There were two of us.


Are they still giving tickets out

Yeah, if you come here, they give you one. 

So that's the truck.


What is it with these small local theatres and tea? Do these people, when they go to the west end, march up to the bar and demand a cuppa?


Chairs and weird boards everywhere, membership, the young theatre group, Bob hopes involvement


Very high stage. I wouldn't recommend sitting in the front row 


Yeah, a real stage 


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O, so that's how it is

One of the best, and perhaps also the worst, thing about doing this marathon is having to go all over London to get to these venues. To areas that I have never been to before, have no reason to go to again, and could possibly have spent my entire life without ever visiting.

Last night was the turn of Barnes. A place I had only vaguely heard of, and had to Google multiple times to double check that it was actually in London.

Getting off the train in a sleepy looking village didn’t help matters.

As I walked down the lane (yes, a literal lane) I felt like I was stepping back in time, all the way back to my teen years when I lived in Somerset would take the train to visit friends in neighbouring counties, a huge bag slung over my back and the hoot of owls chasing my down the dark roads, praying that there would be a car waiting for me at the corner.

With the towering shadows cast by the woodland to my left, I could almost convince myself that I was 15 again. Almost.

Except the West Country never smelt quite so thick, and the roar of cars just beyond the tree line reminded me that yes, this was, technically, London.

Gradually, the lane widened. Streetlamps emerged. And houses replaced the trees.

Big houses.

Big old houses.

Big old Victorian houses. With decorative windows and fancy flourishes.

I followed the road further. More houses. A hair salon. A church.

So, this was Barnes.

Pretty. But imagine doing that commute every day... Nu uh. No way.

But just as I was crossing Barnes off my list of places to live, I spotted something. A sign.

“The Gothic Cottage.”

Well hello!

Barnes is one of those former villages that at some point over the past hundred years got gobbled up by the great monster that is London. I haven’t looked that up. I don’t need to. You can see it in a thousand different ways, from the village green to cards parked up on the pavement. But most telling up all is the lack of front gardens. Houses are built right up to the road. Or rather, the road stretches right up to the front doors of the homes that line it.

Which meant that all I could see of this Gothic Cottage was an expanse of white wall.

So, obviously I cross the road to get a look at it.

Ah. Now I see why people live here. 

House-hunting now concluded satisfactorily, it was time to make my way over to the next theatre on my list. The OSO Arts Centre.

Except, where the hell was it?

I looked down at the Google Maps screen on my phone, and then up at the street. I should be there.

Except I wasn’t.

Instead I appeared to be standing in front of a rather depressing looking office block.

Trusting the theatre gods would not lead me so far astray, I checked OSO’s website.

“The OSO entrance is at the rear of the building and faces Barnes Green, so you need to walk around the corner from Côte Brasserie to find us.”

Ah ha! I could see the Côte Brasserie. I walked around the corner and there…

Found it!

For the first time in this marathon, I actually stopped to take a few photos of the venue’s view before the venue itself.

Even in the dark I could tell it was rather fine. A lake. Tree. A wide flat green.

I wish I hadn’t wasted my trip on a wet March evening! This is a summer view, for sure.

Oh well. That’s something to look forward to for next year, I guess.

Up the stairs, through the door and… I almost bump into a tiny desk, standing sentinel by the entrance.

“Are you taking names?” I asked the lady behind it, noticing the print out covered in tiny check-marks.

“I am. What’s yours?”

A second later I was ticked off and handed over to the programme seller.

“Would you like a programme?”

“I would,” I said, committing myself to programme ownership before I had even asked the price.

They were two pounds. My bank-balance would survive another day.

“I keep my pound coins seperatly,” I comment as I open my purse. “So I'm well prepared.”

She laughed at that. “I'm very impressed,” she said sweetly.

“So am I,” I agreed. I really was. I'm not usually anywhere near so organised. But I'd had a bit of a wait while buying my afternoon slice of cake at the Sadler's cafe earlier that day, and I'd made good use of the time.

From the programme seller they tried to pass my off to the bar, but my days as a parcel were over. I had no more layers to unwrap. Taking a sly sidestep I went the other direction, diving deep into the cafe, with its long wooden tables and pot plants. And signs.

“Please keep the tables free for our adult customers to meet up, work, drink coffee, chat. Thank you.”

Wow, that’s… okay.

Here am I, in my thirties, and I’m back in my school uniform for the second time that evening. Except this time I wasn’t having a slightly hung-over walk down a country-lane, but was instead hopping from foot-to-foot outside the local petrol station, waiting for friends to finish buying up all the Quavers, as apparently bad things happen if more than three teenagers are in a shop at the same time.

Look, I’m not the most kid-friendly person in the world, so perhaps I’m the wrong person to criticise this but… no, wait. That’s exactly why I’m a great person to unpack this. I’m not a born baby-cooer and yet I still think it’s utterly obnoxious…

Why should non-adult customers (and there is no reason to presume they are not customers) have to give way to adults? If they are not in fact customers, then OSO could write just that on the sign. “Please keep the tables free for our adult customers.” No need to bring age into it. Or their table use for that matter.

Look, I get it. Nothing irritates me more than a child taking up a seat on the tube when there are people standing everywhere. If they're old enough to have their own seats, they're old enough to stand. But on the other, grownups are jerks, let's not teach them how to be like that before they be had a chance to grow into it naturally.

As if to prove my point, an older couple came over to the table I was sitting at and dumped their belongings all over it with such force that the wobbled on its sturdy legs, without even an excuse me to give notice of their intentions, despite there being an empty table next door to us, just waiting to be cluttered up with their heavy bags.

After long minutes of table-rocking as they made themselves comfortable, one of them noticed something.

"There's no light here" the man half gasped, suddenly deciding our table was not fit for purpose. He got up, smashing the chairs around so violently that an usher rushed over to help.

Chair now fully subdued, he rampaged around, waving his programme, saying that it didn't say anything about the play.

“There's no synopsis,” he said, failing to notice the page dedicated to introducing each of the three short plays we’d be watching that evening, and the logic of not including a synopsis in a programme. Theatre has a very long history of trying not to spoil the stories they are telling before they even have the chance to tell them. “Keep the secrets,” didn’t start with J.K. Rowling.

Somehow I don't think it's the kids that the OSO should be worrying about...

When the house eventually opened, I made sure to sit as far away from him as possible.


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Very non-'U'

You’d think after my near-fainting incident at the Wanamaker on Friday I’d be taking it easy this weekend. A couple of days off to laze around in bed and eat toast.

Unfortunately, the theatre gods had other ideas. A marathon won’t wait for no woman. So, I was off again, to Ealing this time, for theatre number 28 on the list - a spot of Polly Stenham at The Questors Theatre.

Don’t worry, I still got my toast.

I was actually really looking forward to this one.

I do like Polly Stenham’s work. Even if her plays are all about posh dysfunctional people. Perhaps that's the appeal. As a (somewhat) posh and (somewhat) dysfunctional person myself, I mean.

I’d never been to Ealing before. Stepping out of the South Ealing tube station was a bit of a shock to the system.

It was completely deserted.

Empty pavements. Closed shops. Every house a collage of darkened windows.


Where had everyone gone?

It was as if the entire neighbourhood had been abandoned.

Do the people of Ealing go to bed really early on Saturday nights? Or were they already out partying?

It was hard to tell.

If it weren’t for the constant flow of cars coursing down the road, I might have thought I was in some 28 Days Later kind of situation.

Feeling a little creeped out, I headed straight for the theatre.

This road looked very residential. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice residential, with fuck off massive houses. The type you can imagine being the home to a sweet family of children who rule over a magical kingdom at the back of a wardrobe during the school holidays. But it was residential none-the-less.

Was there really a theatre down there? And if so, what did the neighbours think?

I had to ask myself: would I want to live next door to a theatre? Perhaps, I decided. It would depend on the theatre.

As I was making a mental list of the theatres that I wouldn't mind living next to (yes to the Almeida and the Bush, no to the Young Vic and the Polka) I passed a primary school.

Ah. Okay. 

If living next to a theatre means also living next to a school… even a fancy preparatory school, I’d rather nope out of the whole thing. Sorry Ealing. I won’t be moving quite yet.

Amongst all these gargantuan houses, Questors itself was a surprise. It was not the converted mansion that my brain had been expecting, but a modern, glass-fronted building, set back from the road behind a packed car park.

As I picked my way between the vehicles and made my way to the front door, I realised why the pavement here are so devoid of life: everyone drives.

As to prove my point, two cars pulled in and manoeuvred themselves into the last free spaces.

I definitely wouldn’t fit in around here.

Still, you have to admire the people of Ealing for their dedication to amateur theatre. This is quite the building.

There’s a huge blazing sign over the doorways (there are two - with separate entrances for the studio and the main house). I mean, yes - the ‘u’ has burnt out. But I’m sure that will be fixed after the next fundraising drive. It’s still bloody impressive.

As are the staff... or should I say volunteers?

"Is this for the studio?" asked the lady on box office, already reaching for the box of studio tickets. "Or the playhouse?"

"The studio. Good guess," I said, wondering what gave me away. Do I look like a Polly Stenham fan? And if so, what does a Polly Stenham fan look like? It’s my nose, isn’t it? Always gives me away.

Ticket collected (oh, yes - they have real tickets here), I headed back outside and across the way to the Studio door.


Within minutes a queue had formed.

“A queue for the studio? Bloody hell,” laughed a bloke as he came in.

Looks like there are a lot of Polly Stenham acolytes in Ealing. I suspiciously looked up and down the queue, checking to see if we shared any characteristics.

There was one thing I couldn’t help noticing.

We were all very white.

And very theatre.

"I can't believe this is our last proper rehearsal.”

“I’ve just come off 11 weeks of panto.”

“I’m on lighting and sound tonight.”

“What did you think of the script?”

I debated whether I should announce my own theatre creds ("who are we going to commission to write the programme notes?") to indicate that I too was just like them, but somehow I didn't feel necessary. I was there. I was already one of them.

"The play as one hour, forty minutes. No interval," came a booming voice from the front of the queue. "Please use the facilities now, as there's no readmittance." And then, just in case we didn't understand the full implications of this: "It's in the round so you'll be walking across the stage."

The theatrical equivalent of the walk of shame, that is.

"And please read the sign here." He paused. "It says there's smoking and a lot of bad language."

This declaration didn't get the reaction it deserves. 

He tried a different tact.

"There's smoking and a lot of swearing," he said, moving down the line and tearing tickets.

"A lot of fucking swearing," piped up the man behind me.

Too much. The ticket tearer attempted to reign in this unruly crowd.

"A lot of interesting language," he amended as he tore the final tickets.

Finally, we were let in. 

Even after seeing the fancy frontage, I was taken aback by the scale of the studio. 

A good size square floor was surrounded on four sizes by neat rows of seats. 

Where did I want to sit? 

At the back. Obvs. 

But somehow I found myself heading to a front row seat. 

After my incident at the Wanamaker, I was feeling invulnerable. 

Actors don't scare me no more. So, they want to catch my eye... well, let them. They can even talk to me if they want. To hell with it all. 

Though, I still put myself in the corner. Just in case. I was feeling brave. Not stupid.

Plus, there was a nice little gap between the chairs for me to dump my coat and whatnot. 

Congratulating myself on my seating choice, I settled in for a good read of my programme. 


Oh, yes. They have them too. 

I suspect not professionally printed. No bleed on the images. But hey, they were only a pound ("although a donation is always welcome" - they've got a 'u' to repair after all).

The power of the Questors soon became evident as the play started. Piles of black-clad stage hands flooded in, furnishing the space under cover of darkness. 

100 minutes later we were done.

As I stepped back out, buttoning my coat in preparation for the fifteen minute walk to the station, clunks sounded all around me. Car doors opened and slammed shuts. Engines started. 

And very soon I had Ealing all to myself once more.