Finding shows to see on Mondays is becoming increasingly difficult.
So many theatres take the day off.
I get it. Mondays are hard enough already what with the waking up and going to work. There’s no need to extend it any longer than it needs to be. I mean, really, what kind of obsessive theatre-goer wants to see a show on a Monday?
Yeah, okay - put your hand down. Didn’t anyone tell you that it was rude to point? It was a rhetorical question. I didn’t really want an answer.
Yes, this obsessive theatre-goer wants to see shows on Mondays. If I’m taking a day off the marathon, it ain’t going to be a work day. What would be the point of that?
Now, if I were a sensible person, I would have made sure to see productions that do actually have Monday shows on Mondays, and Mondays only. But that would have required a level of research that did not quite fit into the slapdash week of planning I managed to accomplish before starting this marathon.
Thank the theatre gods for the Gate Theatre, coming to my rescue when I had a Monday-slot that needed filling up.
They don’t need to give their actors the day off at the moment, because they only work the one show. Their current production, Dear Elizabeth, gets a new pair in for every performance - unrehearsed and unprepared. So Mondays are a-go.
I’d never been to the Gate before, so I made sure I read their website’s Visit section before setting out.
They encourages walking, which I am all about, but as they are a chunk over four miles from my office I don't think I could have made it on time. I felt a bit bad about that, not very in keeping with their Green Gate policy, but what can you do? Anyway, the walking guide they link to no longer exists. No one's checked that link for a while, so they can't be all that committed to the whole thing.
Also, small thing - but they don’t put the address on the same page as the travel instructions? I mean… you do you Gate Theatre, but that doesn’t feel logical to me.
Anyway, I compromised by walking into the West End and then taking the tube from there, and found the venue just fine. The huge yellow Tetris-block of a sign next to the door helped. As did the pink-painted stairs leading up above the Prince Albert pub.
The dour black website utterly failed to prepare me for the carnival of colour that is the Gate Theatre in person.
Nor the friendliness of the staff.
“Ooo!” cooed the woman on box office when I gave her my name. “That's a nice name.”
I did my usual spiel. It's Scottish. It means small.
She seemed disappointed. I get it. The backstory doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the name.
She rallied. “But in England, it means smiles,” she said, handing me the laminated admission pace.
That's true. It does indeed mean smiles in England. I should really stop explaining my name. It’s such a downer for people in the wake of so much joy.
I changed the subject.
“Can I take one of these?” I asked, pointing to the freesheets fanned out on the counter.
“Oh yes! Help yourself!”
Situated as it is above a pub, there isn't much in the way of space at the Gate. And what there was was filling up fast.
Turns out there are a lot of people willing to watch a play on a Monday night given half a chance.
I found a spot by the wall and read my freesheet. No bios. With a new cast every night that might be a bit too much to ask. But that back was interesting.
"Without public support tickets would cost £51.11."
They must be quite pleased with this statistic, because it's also printed in the admission pass.
I felt slightly less outraged that my ticket had cost me £24 (twenty-four pounds! Okay, I'm still outraged by this. Twenty frickin' four pounds for a theatre ticket. I'm not saying that theatres don't deserve the coin, but spending that much on an evening makes me want to boak, it really does).
Thankfully I didn't have much longer to dwell on such matters as the house was opening.
“Your actors tonight will be Temi Wilkey and Seiriol Davies,” came the announcement.
"As this is the first time they have performed it, we don't know how long it'll be. The performance will be around one hour forty-five minutes, but as they've never done it before it might be a bit longer." He paused for a moment, then said with masterful comic timing: "Not too much longer, we hope." There was a titter from the foyer and we headed towards the doors, ready to score those good seats.
Benches lined both sides of the stage. With a short second and third row on one end.
After near fainting, immersive theatre in a shed and seeing thirty shows, in thirty venues, in less than a month, I felt unstoppable.
I sat in the front row.
The bench seats were covered in golden velvet.
Let me tell you something, wearing a velvet skirt and sitting on a velvet bench is an experience. And not one that I think was ever meant to be felt by mortal beings.
It was like stroking a cat's belly. Dangerous but irresistible.
Okay, you can wipe that look off your face right now. I know what you’re thinking - how much velvet does this woman own? Every time she comments on her outfit it's velvet this, and velvet that. Well, my love, I'll tell you. The answer is: a lot. An absolute fuck-tonne, in fact. And thank you for asking. Dresses of course, and last night's skirt, natch. But also jackets and scrunchies and shoes. A shawl. Underwear even. From September until March I am enveloped in velvet. What can I say? It’s warm and fuzzy and I love it.
And there, sitting on velvet benches, and with the golden velvet curtains surrounding us on all sides, I felt quite at home.
I could have sat their all night, quietly luxuriating, but I was awfully distracted by the floor.
The floor? Yes. The floor. Let me tell you about the floor. The floor was sensational. An oil slick of pastels. As if a unicorn had barfed on it. Wait, that's a lazy metaphor. Unicorns are forever barfing and pooping whenever there's a rainbow nearby. Unicorn Land must be a complete bio-hazard by now.
How about: the sheen on a bubble, or mermaid's looking glass, or perhaps a pearl dissolved in vinegar.
You get the idea. It was pink and blue and shiny.
I want that floor in my house. I want it rolled out before me wherever I go.
I was not the only one to appreciate it.
We'd been instructed to tuck our bags and coats safely under our benches. But one man went a step further and stowed his boots under the bench as well. He leaned back, stretched out his legs and planted his besocked feet on the mermaid's mirror.
The Gate really does foster a community atmosphere…
In fact, everyone there seemed to be part of the local society.
“You’ll never guess who I just saw,” a young man said to his companion, pouring out the names in a flood of excitement. “I promised we’d save spaces for them.”
Across the way, a woman squealed and ran across the room to greet someone she recognised.
Mwah. Mwah. Kissssessss…
I was beginning to regret my seat choice.
Actors I can deal with. The audience is another matter altogether.
Thankfully by this point the show was beginning and everyone was forced to return to their chosen seats.
Seiriol and Temi, our actors, stepped out.
They hugged and swapped handwritten letters. They apologised for everything they were about to get wrong. They tore into their fellow actor’s letter and read it aloud, full of proclamations on how excited they were to be doing this thing.
They opened the first script packets.
And we were off.
Balloons, toucans, toys, confetti, wine, words, and cornflakes were spilled around in a tribute to messy theatre.
It was brilliant fun.
They had made it. And so had we.
We packed ourselves up crunched out over the cornflakes
“You taking photos of the mess?” asked a man as we were leaving. I couldn't deny it. I was doing just that. “They're going to have to clean that up. And separate it,” he added.
Yes, I suppose they are going to have to.
The actors may only have to do the one shift, but the backstage crew has to sort this out every single night.
Even on Mondays.