Oh, LAMDA. I'll be sad to see you go. But part we must because I only have one of your theatres left and then it's goodbye forever... or at least, until next year.
Last up is the Linbury Studio. No, not that Linbury Studio. I was confused about that as well, but apparently, this city is big enough for two of them. Of course, there's the one you're thinking of. The one that lives underneath the Royal Opera House, terrorising the ballet girls with mask-wearing antics, and then there's the other one. At LAMDA. Where I am currently off to for a performance of Pomona.
Now, I've seen Pomona before, back when it was at The Shed (requiescat in pace). No, I didn't catch the original run at the Orange Tree. This was back in those happy days when I thought Richmond was way too far away to travel to just to see a play. I don't remember much about the play, other it being very dark, very complex, and being good enough to send me to Alistair McDowall's follow-up play at the Royal Court: X (the playtext of which still features as my absolute favourite of all time, but the ten or so pages in the middle that are filled with nothing but the letter X. Yes, it was performed. And yes, it was astonishing). And oh, it featured Cthulhu in some way that I really can't recall but there was some definite tentacle action going on.
Anyway, back off to Barons Court I go. I'm an old hand at this now. I'm not getting lost. I even know that the Linbury has a separate entrance to the other LAMDA theatres. Has its own little foyer and box office too. Well, I say box office. But it's really just a bar with a laptop. But, eh. It does the job.
I grab a free programme, and as soon as the house opens, head inside.
The Linbury is a bit of a strange shape for a theatre. Long and thin, with only two rows of chairs running up each side. The rows closest to us are already beginning to fill up, but there doesn't seem to be a way of getting to the other side without crossing the stage.
A small group of us dither, unsure of what to do. The beginning of a small pile up is beginning to form. The queue clogging up behind us. Where is the usher to shout at us for stepping on the stage? Apparently, that's not against the rules. Some brave soul decides to strike out, weaving their way through the huge concrete blocks that make up the ruinous set, leading us like Moses through the parted Red Sea, to the promised seats on the other side.
The front row has those shortened benches so beloved of drama schools. I ignore these. I don't want to be one of these people that say "people over thirty shouldn't..." but seriously, people over thirty shouldn't sit with their arses only two inches off the ground. It's murder on the knees. I leave that nonsense to the students. And there are plenty of those in tonight.
"Oh my god!" says a young girl pointing at the platform at the far end of the stage. "It's Chloe!" She waves. Chloe does not wave back. She sits, cross-legged, staring into the distance. Wearing a Cthulhu mask. The tentacles hanging down the front of her pretty white dress like one of the more outré Coachella outfits.
It's only then I notice that the stage is full of actors, slumped against the concrete blocks, lost in their own thoughts and agonies.
It certainly makes taking my photos a lot harder. What are the rules of taking pictures of students? I'm not a big fan of even capturing the professionals when they're on stage, and do my best to avoid them, angling the camera elsewhere as best I can, but sometimes there's no avoiding it, and well... I need photos, so there we are. But with students, it feels downright wrong.
Someone in my row gets out his phone, opens the camera app and aims it at Cthulu, zooming in so that she fills the entire screen.
Right then. That answers that question. Clearly the moral quandaries that I struggle with aren't universal.
Nor, apparently, is feeling the need to cross a stage. As our side of the theatre began to fill up, I notice that the newcomers hadn't come through the same door I had. They are coming through quite another door. A door that's on the same side of the stage as the one I'm sitting in.
Bloody students, with their knowledge about where the doors are, and their youth, and their talent. Err, I'd hate them if they weren't so damn great. Look at how supportive they are, coming out to see their friends' plays on a Thursday night. I don't know about you, but I never go anywhere for anyone on a Thursday night. Or any night for that matter. At the moment I'm blaming it on the marathon - sorry love, can't go to your party, I'm theatre-ing until 2020 - but let's be real: I'm just a terrible, terrible friend. The warmth in this room is melting my heart and I don't like it.
Thankfully the play starts before I get any gooier, and we're thrust into a world of stolen people, hard underworlds, and RPGs. And oh, Pomona was so clearly written half a decade ago - riding high on the tsunami of dystopian fiction that threatened to engulf us in a thousand Hunger Games rip-offs, but that doesn't stop it being bloody excellent. I'd remembered the big reveal from the first time around, but I'd forgotten about the time loops, and how all the sub-plots fitted so neatly together, and, well... just how damn good the writing was. Dystopian story-lines may have had their day, but good writing never dates.
As the lights blink out and the cast come out for their applause, the front row leap to their feet in a standing ovation for their friends.
And why shouldn't they? If you can't rely on the people you love to cheerlead for you... what's the damn point of them. Be like LAMDA students. Give your peeps the standing ovations they deserve. For putting up with your nonsense, if nothing else.Read More