I know I diss Peckham a lot in this blog. But that's only because it's so damn hard to get too, and yet still apparently contains half the theatres in London. I've been to Peckham more in the past eight months than I have in my entire life. I mean, seriously. What's up, Peckham? Why so greedy on the theatres? Some of us have to go through life living with only one theatre within walking distance, and you have them everywhere. In drama schools. And old munitions factories. And now, apparently, car parks.
Yup, I'm off to a car park. To watch some contemporary dance.
Anyway, this place, Bold Tendencies, is apparently not just a car park. Or it's not a car park anymore. It's like, a bona fide venue. Or possibly an art gallery. I hadn't heard of it before. But I suspect that's just because I ain't cool enough to be hanging around in car park in Peckham on the reg.
They did send a super intense pre-show email, though.
E-tickets need to be scanned on the rooftop. But the performance is not happening on the rooftop. You need to get a wristband, and then that will allow you down onto Floor 8. But wait, when getting your ticket scanned, make sure the barcode is expanded to fill the entire width of the screen and the brightness is turned way up high. And when you have your wristband, make sure that it's visible to security.
I ignore everything else. Door times. And bar locations. And the artworks on display. I've hit information overload.
But it's fine. I can do this. Download ticket. Fill screen. Get scanned. Wristband on. Down to Floor 8. Flash wristband. Into venue.
I'll figure the rest out when I get there.
If I ever do.
Now, I don't want to turn this whole thing into a rant about trains. But seriously, Peckham needs to get itself a tube station. I can't deal with this.
And like, I arrive in Peckham. And I didn't die. So whatever. Here I go.
Although, I've not sure where exactly.
The little circle in Google Maps that is supposed to be me is greyed out and ineffectual, and while that is an accurate reflection of my current state, is not exactly helpful.
I have no idea where I'm going.
I open the pre-show email again, do a bit of scrolling, and yup. There are instructions on how to find this place. So, thank you Bold Tendencies. I needed you, and you were right there. Down Rye Lane, over the pedestrian crossing, towards the Multiplex and up the staircase on my left. Exactly as promised.
I trudge my way up the stairs. Spiralling round and round and getting a good glimpse of the type of rubbish businesses leave on their rooftops.
And then I stop. Because this endless round of spiralling bleakness has stopped. And there's a doorway. And light is streaming out. And suddenly, everything is pink!
The man on the door grins and steps aside to let me through into a pink hallway.
The pinkest hallway I've ever been in.
The pinkest anything I've ever been in.
Well, at least, the pinkest anything I've been in since my best friend's fifth birthday party.
The walls are pink. The floor is pink. The ceiling is pink. The lifts have been painted pink. As have the doors. And the steps.
And not mauve or salmon or coral.
But pink pink.
Flamingo pink. Or possibly bubblegum.
Oh my god. I just realised. This is it. This is the famous millennial pink. I found it. In Peckham.
And it's everywhere.
I keep on climbing, and turning, and climbing. And it's pink. All pink.
Do I like it? I don't know. My little goth heart is screaming in agony, but that former five-year-old at her best friend's party is squeeing in delight. And just before the two sides get into a fight, it stops. I'm outside. On a rooftop. And all of London is spread out before me, twinkling in the darkness.
There's a large hut over to my right which I'm fairly confident is the place I'm supposed to get beeped in, but it's no good. I have to check out that view first. I can see everything from up here. There's the London Eye. And the Shard. And the... Walkie Talkie? Is that what it's called? I can't remember. Whatever, it's very impressive.
I take a few photos and then just stand there, breathing in the night air down to the bottom of my lungs. But it's no good. It's been raining all afternoon, and the puddles are beginning to leak into my shoes.
I'm going to go and get beeped.
I go over to the information shed, but there's a slight problem. The reception up here is crap.
Or rather, the reception in Peckham is crap.
I walk around in circles as the ticket downloads, trying not to look like I've having an anxiety attack on a rooftop, but being very aware that I'm doing a bad job of it.
Finally, it downloads. I have my ticket.
Screen brightness up. Screen zoomed in so that the barcode takes up the full width. I join the queue.
One of the box officers catches my eye. "Are you with them?" she asks, indicating a group waiting at the counter.
I tell her I'm not. I don't have friends willing to come see a show in a Peckham car park at 9pm on a Sunday night. But I'm flattered that she thinks that I do.
"I can scan you," she says.
I hold out my phone and she beeps it.
"So," she says. "That's one standing."
She rummages around in a box of wristbands. "I don't seem to have any..."
"Oh no..." I say.
And then it happens.
I don't know why. Something came over me. I couldn't stop myself. I made the joke. You know the one. The joke that anyone who has ever done even a day's worth of customer service has heard a thousand times. "You can upgrade me if you like. I don't mind." I cringe as the words come out of my mouth, but it's too late now. I've said it.
She smiles politely and refrains for leaning over the counter to batter me over the head with her scanner. For which I can only silently thank her and offer her my eternal respect.
"I have some," says her fellow box officer, bringing over another tub and rescuing the both of us.
A red wristband is duly fished out and my very sweet box office gets it ready.
I offer up my wrist and as she sticks it in place, she gives me the rundown of the event.
"The show starts at nine. The doors will be opening soon, and it's one hour. It's in two parts. There will be a short break in the middle, about four minutes. Do you know where you're going?"
"Down one level?" I say, feeling proud and a little bit smug that I remembered that detail from the pre-show email.
"Have you been here before?"
I admit that I haven't, but again, I'm secretly rather pleased that she thinks that I hang out in car parks in Peckham.
"It's down the ramp," she says, pointing behind me to the other side of the roof. "You're standing so there will be someone down there who will show you where to go."
She hands me a freesheet, and with that, I'm released.
The doors aren't open yet. But that doesn't matter. I wanted to be here early. Because this place isn't just a car park. Oh no. It's not even a car park with a theatre. It's a car park with a frickin' outdoor gallery.
The rooftop is covered with all sorts of interesting things. And I am off to explore them.
First, there's a twisting set of tunnels. I stomp my way through them, boggling at the sight of leather jackets hung on the wall and dining tables stuck to the ceiling.
Fellow tunnels gasp and jump when they bump into me. One man even claims I almost gave him a hard attack.
It's all very pleasing.
Next up I go over to a huge painting of a mouth that looks like it was lifted staight off the truck of a travelling circus.
But as I walk over to it I stop.
There's a car up here. An actual car. I stare at it, wondering if this place still has a dayjob as an actual car park, but then a low thrumming, somewhere between a car revving and a swarm of bees, emerges from the vehicle, and I realise that it's another piece of art. I find the panel and read. Something to do with the Polish mob. Very disconcerting.
I walk around a bit more, looking at all the installations. But then I spot people beginning to make their way down the ramp, so I figure it's time to go in.
At the bottom of the ramp, a man with a suit and dark glasses nods as I approach. At first I wonder if he's anything to do with the mob-mobiles, but he smiles and the effect is gone.
"Am I going in the right direction?" I ask, suddenly doubtful. Behind him there's a huge pillar of TV scenes, and I think I might have stumbled upon another piece of art.
"You are in the right place," he says, kidly. "Just speak to my colleague over there and she'll show you to your seat..." He spots my red wristband. "Or standing or whatever."
I head in the direction he indicates, and show my wristband to the woman standing there. "Standing? Yup, if you just go to the back."
I seem to be walking behind the stage. There's loads of speakers and a tech desk here. And then in front of them, a dance floor, surrounded by little lights, and seating on three sides.
At the other end, there's a woman wearing a pink hoody. "Standing?" she asks, clocking the wristband. "Yup, you're just around here at the back," she says, pointing to a raised platform behind the seats.
There aren't many people here yet. So I pick a space near the middle. There's a railing to lean against, and the platform means I should be able to see over the heads of the people sitting in front. These spots were sold for as restricted view, but I think even my short-arse is going to be fine. Pretty darn good for a fiver, I must say.
There's someone on stage, having a photoshoot. At first I think she's a model, because she's giving serious pose. And then I figure she's one of the dancers. But when I put my glasses on, I realise I know who that is. I recognise her. It's Sharon Eyal. The choreographer.
When they're done taking pictures, Eyal slips on those huge bulky trainers. You know the ones. They're all over Instagram. I want to say they're called Buffalos, but I might be making that up. Either way, she's rocking it and I'm super jealous, because I want some. But I know I would look ridiculous in them. And not the good kind of ridiculous. The kind with geometric hair paired with architectural glasses. Just the what-the-fuck-is-she-doing kind. Which is not a look I fancy rockin' at my age.
But somehow, I don't mind being less cool than Sharon Eyal.
That was never I battle I was going to win.
As for the rest of the audience, I'm not so sure. There's a lot of oversized shirts going on. And baggy trousers. And massive jackets. In fact, everything they're wearing is huge. Like I've stumbled into the student halls on the last day of term, and there are just piles of laundry everywhere.
Even the woman in the pink hoodie looks cool. Now I see her from the back I can see that it says "Ask me about the art," in block capitals, which is a phrase I'm spotted elsewhere around here so it must be a Bold Tendencies thing, but I don't care, because I really, really, want one now. Even in fucking pink. I don't care. Ask me about the art, dammit.
As more people arrive, the standers all shuffle around to make room for them. But after a while, no amount of shuffling will fit everyone in, and a second row starts to form.
A small group gather behind me. They manage to push the girl in next to me, but the blokes are left behind.
"I want to sit on the floor," one of them announces,
"There's loads of space!"
But they decide to stay put.
The lights dim. People start to come out from a door behind us.
There's Sharon Eyal again, with a cute little boy next to her. They go and take up position in the middle of the central block of seating, standing close to each other.
The music bangs out loud, and the dancers appear, dressed in skin-tight black bodysuits.
It's a strange set up this. Not the stage or seating or anything. That's pretty standard for a pop up. I mean the car parkiness of it all. I'd never really noticed just how low the ceilings in car parks are before. It's not the most logical location for a dance performance. Jumping is out, for sure. They’d hit their head mid jete.
Good thing Eyal isn't really into the jumpy thing. More shuffling steps and twisting trance-like limbs.
People start getting their phones out, taking pictures. That's a thing I've noticed about these unusal spaces. Whatever barriers are broken to get performance of theatres seems to have smashed the normal conventions of watching it.
A bloke sitting in front of me films a short clip, starts editing it on his phone, then posts it to Instagram.
As soon as it's uploaded, he does it again.
Then he navigates to his profile to make sure it's gone up.
It has. So now his 18 followers can enjoy a ten-second amateur film, taken above the heads of the people sitting in front, of a group of dancers dressed in black, performing in low lighting. I'm sure they'll really enjoy it.
He shows it to the woman he's with.
She's impressed at least. She impressed that she takes her own film. Which she then sends in a Whatsapp message. "Lev dance company [heart emoji]" she types.
I can't help but think the heart emoji is a touch insincere, considering she's been playing on her phone for the entire performance.
As the bloke lifts his phone up right in front of me, yet again, to take some more footage, I let me eyes wander over to Eyal and the boy.
They are having great fun. He's drumming along to the music with his arms, she's got her own groove down.
He tugs at her sleeve, and she leans down so that he can whisper something in her ear.
It's super cute.
As the piece finishes, the lights go down and the audience roars their appreciation, masking the music that is still playing.
"What's happening?" asks the bloke standing behind me.
"It's the interval," his friend says. "Shall we go to the bar?"
"Yeah. We've got like, twenty minutes. It's still open. We should get a drink, otherwise we'll just be standing here for twenty minutes."
I want to tell them it's four minutes, not twenty, but it's too late. They're already off, circling around the stage towards the bar.
Four minutes later, they haven't returned. I hope it's because they just have found some empty seats to sneak into.
I use the time to look at the freesheet. Turns out the tower of screens are actually videos taken in the rehearsal room. So, you know, that's cool.
The lights go down, and the car park is filled with an inky blackness, made all the ribbon of London lights around us.
Trains rumble past, competing with the loud, ravey music, and I can't help but think about what the neighbours must feel about all this. Loud music pounding out at 10 o'clock on a school night, without even the benefit of walls to keep it contained.
At the end, the audience jumps to their feet - including the pair who spent the entire performance working on their social media. Through the forest of bodies, I can just about make out Eyal and the boy joining to dancers for the bows. The boy demonstrates his flossing technique and a dancer joins in, making us all laugh.
The dancers are handed huge pink blooms, which they immediately run out to the audience with, handing them over to people in the front row.
As soon as the house lights are back on, I'm off, leaping down from the platform and racing through the press of people unsure if they need to get in one more drink before they go home. There's a train back to Victoria in, gawd, six minutes, and I am going to make it, dammit.
Down the pink stairs.
Counted out by security on a little clicker.
Back outside and onto the spiral staircase, weaving through the slow-moving crowds.
I pelt it past the Multiplex, past the back, over the crossing, round the corner, into the station, tap in, up one flight of stairs, then another. I can hear the train pulling in. Oh gawd. But it's okay, I'm here, I'm here. A few more steps. I fling myself through the open doors and collapse into an empty seat just as my lungs are about to explode.
But damn, I swear Peckham is trying to kill me.