No one told me there would be running on this marathon

I swear I’m going to have a heart attack by the end of this year.

Last night was the turn of the Brockley Jack Theatre (or possibly the Jack Studio Theatre, I’m not quite sure. Their website isn’t very clear on the matter of what they are called), which meant I was back off to south London and had to endure all the transport issues that go along with venturing south of the river.

I thought I’d give the ThamesLink a go. Be adventurous. Avoid the trains.

That was a mistake.

I arrived at Blackfriars just in time for the 6.26 to Orpington. Excellent work. Except the train wasn’t.

Ten minutes later I was still waiting. Then twelve. Then fifteen.

I was beginning to panic.

No, scrap that. I had left panic behind back in the office. This was way beyond that.

Now, being a feminist and all, I have a problem using the word hysterical. But… stripping away the history of the term, as words go, it wasn’t far off what I was feeling. Inside. I think I managed to keep it contained for the most part. I mean, yes, a few people on the platform gave me looks as I bounced around on my heels, staring at the departures board with an unblinking stare and muttering under my breath. But they probably just thought I’d been mixing meds.

Finally, just as I was giving up all hope, and with absolutely no consideration of my nerves, the train arrived.

After that, it was easy. Well, almost. I’m fairly certain the American lady from Monday’s theatre excursion might have fainted if she had a sniff around Crofton Park station. Best just to hold one’s nose and make a run for it, I find.

I’m quickly becoming a connoisseur of the ‘how to find us’ pages on theatre websites.

And the Brockley Jack is a very fine vintage… can you tell I don’t know wine?

Regardless, so good where the instructions that the delivered me straight to the door of the theatre. Which turned out to be exactly what I didn't need. The pavement there was far to narrow to get a photo of the building. Where were the warnings about that, Jack Studio… or whatever your name is?

My first attempt to zip over to road was quickly aborted when I realised that I would definitely die. Instead I sprinted, yes - actually ran - down to the nearest crossing, jumped around waiting for the light to change, dashed to the other side, took my photos (all full of cars damn it) then scampered back for the return journey before making it in the door... fifteen minutes early. I'll say this for anxiety... I'm rarely late.

"Surname is Smiles" I said to the person manning the box office desk. I was a little out of breath. "S-M-I-L-E-S," I spelt out. I always need to spell out my name. Otherwise people tend to think they’ve misheard.

"I was just looking at your booking."

"Oh dear". Now, it's not uncommon for me to get that kind of comment when I'm picking up tickets. What with the aforementioned surname. I end up having some form of name-based conversation at least twice a week. Four times a week now that I'm hitting up so many box offices while in marathon-mode. But this man was not interested in my surname.

"It says here that you paid zero pounds for your ticket"

"Oh... ummm" I was fairly certain I had paid slightly more than zero pounds for my ticket. But perhaps I had somehow managed to circumnavigate the whole paying step without noticing. I thought back, trying to remember the transaction. I couldn't. There's been rather a lot of them recently. They all seem to merge together.

I looked where he was pointing. There, listed next to my name on the box office print out, was the figure £0.00.

“But I double checked the machine and you paid ten pounds.”

“That’s good…”

“Sometimes it just happens.”

“I can check on my end if that helps…” I said, reaching for my phone, not knowing quite sure how I would do that but wanting to show willing.

“No, it’s fine. You have definitely paid.”

“Oh… good.”

“Can I interest you in a programme?”

He definitely could. Only a pound. Bloody bargain.

Programme and ticket-token acquired, I was directed to the adjoining pub.

You could tell who all the theatre-goers were there. We all sat on one end, huddled together like awkward penguins, silent, surrounded by a mess of coats and programmes.

At 7.25, the theatre bell rang, and we stirred. Slowly at first. The bell’s clang taking its time to work its way into our trance states. One person managed to stumble to their feet, lumbering their way towards the theatre. Another followed. Until we all managed to stagger our way down the hall, like a plague of zombies, except slightly more worn-looking.

The theatre itself is teeny tiny. Although seating is technically on three sides, two of the sides only manage about fifteen seats between them. End-on, there is a single row at stage level, and then a further three tucked away on a platform behind them. Plonking myself in the second row, I managed to enjoy the twin pleasures of having a view unobstructed by any heads in front of me, and none of the vulnerability associated with sitting out front. It doesn’t get much better than that.

I was there to see Gentlemen Jack, which I chose for two reasons. Firstly, I liked the idea of double-Jack action, what with the play name and the theatre. What can I say? I’m a simple person. The other was that being about Anne Lister, the 19th century diarist, mine-owner, and very-out lesbian, the play had a higher chance than usual of containing bonnets.

After the disappointing lack of frothy-headgear in my last theatrical trip to the 1800s, I was doing my best not to get too excited about the prospect. I do get why directors might not want to insert bonnets into their plays. They obstruct the face and all that. But god-dammit, I love them. And they are period appropriate. And and and… I just want bonnets. Is that too much to ask?

No, as it happens. Because this play delivered.

Yes, my friends. There were bonnets. Multiple ones. 

I was so bloody happy.

What a fucking excellent play. I really enjoyed it.

Not just because of the bonnets you understand.

I mean, it was mainly the bonnets. But there were other things too.

The entirety of Lister’s wardrobe, for one. All black. All fabulous.

That floor-length black velvet coat? Yeah, I wanted to take that home with me.

It made me feel quite gauche sitting there in my dress covered in a loud and obnoxious print of red roses. Yes, it was from Killstar. And yes, the roses had some spiky grey thorns. But my Goth-points were running at an all time low in the face of such Regency-gothic goodness.

And then the lacey dressing gown worn by one of her lovers… damn. I should wear more lace. My life is definitely lacking in the lace department.

I wonder if I can get one on eBay…