Under My Roof

This is it. This is the big one. The theatre I've been most excited for, but also really dreading.

I'm only going to Sadler's fucking Wells tonight.

The theatre I'm most familiar with. The home team. My pad. The place I'm been spending the majority of my days for the past three years.

The place I haven't seen a show now for over five months. That's been a fucking nightmare, let me tell you.

I've spent the whole day feeling a little queasy. Five months in the making and I still don't know how I'm going to write about this one. Like, how am I supposed to talk about the place I work? Without getting fired I mean...

It's almost a relief to be spending my afternoon hiding in the photocopier room printing out castsheets for the weekend performances. Oh gosh, am I supposed to review these? I pick one up and give it a critical once-over. They look good to me. They should do, after the amount of back and forth needed to put them together. I only just got off the phone with the company - talking through the final changes before I fired up the printer.

Okay, perhaps they are a little too overstuffed on the content side of things. There are a lot of words packed into these two-sides of A4. But San Francisco Ballet is a big company, with lots of dancers, sponsors, and egos, that all need to be mentioned. There's even a line about one of the violins in there which is a first for me. But then, it's not every day that we have a Stradivari in the Sadler's orchestra pit. I'm really rather excited about that.

I start piling up the stacks of paper, one for each of the four performances that will be taking place over the weekend, ready to be picked up by front of house and distributed throughout the building and handed out to the audience. Of which I'm going to be one. Oh, god. I feel really fucking nervous now.

I keep an eye on the printer. We had to get an engineer out this morning. The pages were coming out yellow. And that would never do. No one wants yellow castsheets. Diseased, that's how they looked. But now they are pristine white. Perfect.

Right, those are printing. And I've ordered the reprint for the programmes.

Wait, have I? I double check my emails. Yes. Thank goodness. That was scary. We sold a fuck-tonne on the first night. I'm not surprised. They look luscious. Our designers did a really good job on this one. And they sure had there work cut out for them. I gave them the longest brief I've ever written. Over ten thousand words. Excluding the article. That came later. But it was worth it. They are seriously swanky. And heavy. Poor front of house. They're never going to forgive me for all this, are they?

Oh well. No time to think on that. I'm meeting Helen for a pre-show dinner. We're going to Kipferl. An Austrian cafe in Camden Passage. The type of place where they serve hot drinks with a small glass of water on the side. I'm not sure what the purpose the small glass of water is. But it looks very sophisticated with its small spoon balanced on top.

We order schnitzels. My favourite food in the whole world. With potato salad. My second favourite food. And some sort of shredded pancake thing for afters, which I have yet to rank in the food-stakes, but I'm suspecting will come out very high. It comes to the table in a large metal pan, served with a dish of the thickest and sweetest apple sauce I've ever seen. For dipping. Helen and I fish out the leftover crunchy bites from the pan with our fingertips.

"We've got time," I say as we pay the bill and get ready to leave. I check my phone. "We just have to walk fast. Very fast."

We walk fast. Or at least we try to. Walking quickly with a belly full of veal and multiple forms of carbs is tricky.

We stumble our way down Upper Street, catch our breath at the traffic lights, then plunge our way down St John Street, from where you can already spot the massive sign for Sadler's Wells peering out from behind the rooftops. Round the corner, onto Rosebery Avenue., past the stage door, and here we are.

"Where are the loos?" asks Helen.

A perfectly reasonable question to ask someone who has worked here almost three years, and yet I still have to double-check the signage before answering.

I try to cover this embarrassing gaff by grabbing a couple of castsheets from the nearest concession desk. Can't go wrong with a castsheet.

We're sitting in the first circle this evening. Prime celeb-spotting ground if your idea of a celebrity is Royal Ballet dancers and the odd choreographer. Which it totally is for me. And, thank goodness, for Helen too. We give each other significant glances as people we recognise take their seats.

Within minutes we're waving across the circle at our favourite dance critic who is sitting on the other side.

The lights dim.

Out comes the conductor. We all clap. I have to try hard not to bounce around in my seat with excitement.

Nope. Can't help it. "There's the Strad," I say.

"Where?"

"In the middle," I say, referring to the orchestra pit. "She's standing up."

"That's the Strad?"

"That's the Strad!"

I am definitely bouncing in my seat now. I've never heard a Stradivarius being played before. Not live anyway. I can't wait.

An orange sun hangs low over the stage. The dancers flit around in iridescent outfits, covered in glittering veins like an insect's wings. Across the Infinite Ocean. That's the name of the piece. A title that feels incredibly distant. The divide between the living and the dead. But it doesn't feel that way. The Strad sounds so sweet, so yearning, I can almost feel it reaching up from the pit towards me.

And I'm crying.

I don't know why I'm crying. If I did I might be able to stop. But there is no way these tears are ending before the ballet does. They're proper tears. Snotty and fat and utterly unstoppable.

Is it the music? Probably. The effortless grace of the dancers? Most definitely. The achingly lovely choreography? For sure. But also, perhaps, the tiny little scrap of knowledge that I was a part of this. The tiniest cog in the mighty machine that is Sadler's Wells.

"So beautiful," sighs a person sitting in the row behind us as the first pas de deux comes to a close.

Did they book after reading the copy I wrote about the show for the season brochure? They might have done. They may have even bought a programme. Lots of people have. I can see the orange covers sitting on people's laps all around us. I want to turn around and offer this person my castsheet, just in case they didn't pick one up. But I stop myself. That would be weird. A crying woman turning around in a dark theatre to offer you a piece of paper. They can pick one up in the interval, if they really want one.

"Do I have mascara on my face?" I ask Helen as the lights come back up.

She frowns at me. "Why?"

"I was crying, so hard."

She frowns even harder. "From that?"

"Yes, from that. Didn't you like it?"

She pulls a face. "No!"

That's alright. We never agree about anything. Well, except for ponies, Sexy John the Baptist, and Emily Carding. Gives us something to talk about, I suppose. Although it is rather tiresome having a friend who is wrong all the time.

In the interval, we gatecrash the press drinks. I probably shouldn't be telling you this. But I'm trusting you not to blab your mouth here. Anyway, it's nice being able to catch up with all the writers I spend my days emailing.

Plus, it gives Helen the chance to show off about a principal dancer saying thank you to her.

"He said 'thank you' to me," she tells everyone who will listen.

"Such a gentleman," I agree, as witness to the fact that he did indeed thank her.

Next up is a Cathy Marston narrative work. Always a cause for celebration around these parts. Except, I'm not at all familiar with the story, and within minutes I'm totally lost.

"I loved that," says Helen after the applause has died down.

"I... did not understand any of that."

"Oh?"

"Were they dead? I thought they were dead. But then they got up... Were they not dead?"

"Have you read Ethan Frome?"

"No."

"Ah."

"But I shouldn't have to!" This is the one thing we always agree on. No one should have to read the synopsis in order to understand a ballet. Ballet isn't school. You can't assign the audience homework. Everything should be there, on the stage. Not in the castsheet.

"No. Of course but..." Helen goes on to explain what happens in the story. It all makes a lot more sense now.

Back to the mezzanine bar and we're scoffing a dance critic's birthday chocolates. It looks like I'm in the minority on the Marston. Everyone is gabbling excitedly about it and I'm just nodding along as if I have any idea what they are talking about. I really should read that book...

The bells are ringing. We need to get back to our seats.

Helen and I rush towards the stairs. A front of houser gives me an exasperated look. I should really know better than to leave it so late.

We make our way back to our seats, apologising to the poor folks sitting at the end of our row who have to get up once again to let us past.

Next up is the Arthur Pita. I adore Arthur Pita. And this Arthur Pita is the reason I picked this show to attend for my marathon, out of an entire year's worth of programming at Sadler's.

As we go back to our seats, I look around to check he isn't sitting near us. That might sound like an odd thing to be doing to you, but believe me, I have my reasons. I love Arthur Pita's work so much, that it is hard for me not to talk about Arthur Pita's work when I am attending an Arthur Pita work. Once I get started, I can go on hugely long screeds about the man, his quirky wit, his surreal manner of storytelling, his use of music, his... well, you get the idea. So passionate do I get, that I wouldn't even notice if Arthur Pita himself had been sitting behind me the whole time that I've been gabbing. And I'd be left to sink into my seat in shame, praying that he had gone temporarily deaf for the duration. And if this all sounds like something that has happened, then I am delighted to tell you that it has. Three times. Three times I've gone off on one of my Arthur Pita lectures, only to discover that the Arthur Pita has been sitting just behind me.

Three. Bloody. Times.

And if you're thinking, Max - so what? At least you were saying nice things. It's not like you were slagging him off. I mean, wouldn't you enjoy overhearing someone else saying how marvellous you are?

Well, yes. That would be fine. Embarrassing. But fine.

But you may have noticed over the past five months, that when I love someone, I really fucking love them. Like: intensely. I say things that no artist should ever have to hear. You may roll your eyes, but like... When I tell people the things I've said, the general consensus is that I really need to start checking to see who is sitting behind me before I start talking.

So, that's what I'm doing.

He's not there.

Thank god.

"I'm really looking forward to this one," says Helen.

"Me too."

"I love Bjork."

"Oh." Okay. "Yeah, me too." That's true. I do. But Bjork's music isn't the reason I'm here.

The curtain turns blue.

"What colour is the curtain here?" asks Helen.

"Grey?" I chance. "I think it's the lights that make it look red. Or... blue." The curtain isn't usually down during the day. I haven't had the chance to inspect it without the lights on.

The blue, or possibly grey, curtain lifts. The orchestra starts playing.

I sink back into my seat and enjoy the pretty.

Everything is so shiny. The stage is mirrorlike. Tiny metallic palm trees gleam from the ceiling. The dancers look like they have rummaged in the Christmas decoration box to put their costumes together.

There's an electronic crash. Helen jumps. Her body expanding at the noise. Her elbow connecting with my ribs.

A shock of laughter pours over the audience at the startling sound and then retreats, pulling back like a wave leaving silence in its wake.

Bjork's voice fills the void.

A ballerina is carried in on a palanquin. It tips up, and she slides off into a dancer's arms before being whirled away.

A masked dancer carrying a rod sits on the end of the stage, he casts his line into the dark orchestra pit and fishes out another mask for him to wear.

The corps flutter around like exotic birds. Shimmer like fish. Scamper like insets. Anything, everything, other than human.

Helen is hugging her knees, curled up in her seat and she holds herself tight with the huge effort of not exploding.

I feel the same. Everything is glitter and magic and fantasy. I don't know where to look. I want to see everything at once. A thousand times over.

"I could watch that all over again," Helen says, still clapping. The curtain has long fallen. The dancers have left the stage. But we're all still applauding. No one is ready to stop quite yet.

But eventually, we have to stop. It was getting a bit weird.

"I thought it was going to be orchestral all the way through. I jumped!" exclaims Helen.

"I noticed!" I exclaim back.

"I'm a jumpy person."

"I'm glad I didn't take you to The Woman in Black..." I stop. "Hang on, that's pretty." I go over to the windows to take a photo of the faerie-lights strung around the trees on Rosebery Avenue. I realise I haven't been taking any photos. It's hard to see what's interesting about a building you see every day.

I consider taking Helen up to the second circle, where there is currently a mural of a cat painted on the wall. And the portrait of Edmund Keen dressed as Richard III, up in the Demons' Corridor. But the stairs are packed. There's no easy way up there. Likewise, the well on the ground floor is out. Besides, she's probably already seen it.

We chatter all the way to the tube station. It isn't often we both love a show. But when we do, there's no shutting us up.

"Have you decided how you're going to write this up?" she asks.

Nope. I've no idea.

We part at King's Cross, and I sink back against the tube seats.

Seven months. There are seven months left of the year. Seven months before I can justifiably see another show at Sadler's.

That's... not good.

I've been thinking a lot about what's missing in my marathon. I've gone in search of things to make me cry, things to make me feel. But I wonder if what's missing, isn't the emotion, so much as the connection.

I work in the arts because I want to be part of it. To be part of the machine.

And, while I don't create the art, I do go some way to creating the experience. Perhaps that's why my blog is the way it is. There are a thousand people out there writing about the art. I might as well be the one to critic the castsheets.

Read More

Murder Most Fowl

Finally.

After leaving the office last night I walked the route I’d done a hundred times before, crossing roads and taking shortcuts without any form of conscious thought, as if I was being called home by the mothership.

The time had come.

One month and five days into my marathon, I was heading to the Royal Opera House. For an Ashton. With Pigeons. And Vadim. It doesn’t get much better.

But while the ROH may have served as my spinster-pad for a good may years, it’s now a slightly different Opera House to the one I was used to.

I’ve seen the refurbishment before - I went to a shit tonne of Bayadère’s last year - but not enough to fully get used to it, or the weird door numbers. Golden arrows, pointed in every direction, with a crossword of letter-number combinations listed beneath: 4B 4E 5B 5C 5D 5E 5F 6F - you sunk my battleship!

A post-refurbishment walk-through of the Royal Opera House left me blinking and dazed.

I still can't get over how, well... literal they were with the whole Open Up thing.

Gone are the low ceilings, dim corridors and trunk-like pillars.

Everything was so shiny and bright, all draped in beige upholstery and lined with acres of stripy wood. I almost had to shield my eyes against the glare radiating off of the glass costume display cases.

I looked around for hidden ring lights and realised the entire ceiling is a honeycomb of illumination.

This is not just an opera house. This is a champagne tinted, Instagram filtered, pan-seared opera house.

I felt like I walking through heaven. In that I had a nagging sense that wasn't supposed to be there.

I had arrived far too early. The house was still closed. I looked around for somewhere to sit.

The bars were packed with long family-style tables. Up on the terrace, the old groupings of comfortable seating had been replaced by long rows of bar stools.

It seems Open Up wasn’t just for the building. It applied to the audience members too.

Sharing tables. Talking. Communicating.

No thanks.

I fled. It was too much. Too open. Too exposed. Too vulnerable-making.

I needed somewhere quiet, away from the crash of cutlery and cacophony of chatter echoing off the cold floor.

I needed old-fashioned opera house vibes. Preferably with the insulating properties of squashy velvet and wood-paneling.

In other words, I needed the type of place where you can plot a murder in peace.

Not a particular murder, you understand. Just murder in general.

I find it a very soothing occupation.

A tiny bit of control in a chaotic world.

I consider it part of my self-care practices.

Don’t look at me like that. Don’t for a second pretend that you’ve never weighed up the various benefits of cyanide over arsenic (cyanide would go great in a Bakewell tart, I’ve always thought), or dreamt up an elaborate scheme involving a transatlantic crossing, a box of chocolates, and a purple helium balloon.

 Yeah, alright. You keep telling yourself that.

Thankfully, not all of the opera house got the community-friendly treatment. There are still some areas of the building that have retained their romance. Dark places. Secret places. Places where one can properly plan the ultimate, undetectable murder.

So here it is. My list.

The top five places in the Royal Opera House to plan a murder

The Secret Sofa

upload.jpg

Tucked away down the wrong corridor on the upper slips level (go in the opposite direction to those suggested by any gold arrows you encounter) is this glorious little sofa, surrounded by vintage ballet dancers hung at just the right level to whisper sweet-tortures in your ear.

A little brightly lit for my taste (it’s round the corner from a fire refuge point) but you might need that if you go in for the more complex style of plotting that requires blueprints and chemical formulae.

The Slightly Less Secret Sofa

upload.jpg

Found on-route to the lower slips (or the lower amphitheatre if you are that sort of person), this is another red velvet wonder. What it lacks in privacy, it gains from the shadowy lighting and dark walled surroundings.

This is where I do my best country-house conspiracies. Proper Poirot-esque plots, with cups of tea tainted by strychnine-laced sugar cubes, forged wills, family secrets, and an herbaceous border sprouting poisonous plants.

The Extra Secret Sofa

upload.jpg

This one is a bit tricky. You might have to get ‘lost’ while taking a backstage door in order to get here. But the rewards are great. This sofa lives in the King’s smoking room. Located behind the orchestra pit,  you’ll get this place all to yourself if you get the timing right. But the extra effort is worth it as the rarefied surroundings will give your plots the regal edge that will take them to the next level. Did you know that decaying strawberry leaves release hydrogen cyanide? Think about that when you’re counting the leaves on your next victim’s coronet.

Behind the boxes

upload.jpg

Now ideally you’d want to be inside a box for peak murder-plotting, but if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, the narrow corridors that lead to them can serve you just as well. Lit by small lamps, the confided space and narrow doors will enhance your lateral thinking. Just make sure that the boxes are unoccupied if you are the type to go in for muttering the details of your plan out loud.

Above the dome

upload.jpg

Again, tricky. To get here you might need a little assistance from someone working at the ROH, as it’s not exactly accessible to the public. But I think it would be worth it. Not only would the location, soaring above the auditorium, help engender a sense of god-like power while gazing down at the audience below, but I hear that it’s also the place to go if you are after an accomplice with a very specialised skill set.

I have it on good authority that the space above the dome is where you will find the Nudger. So called because he spends his time during performances nudging the elbows of the spotlight crew as they try and keep their lights steadily focused on a performer.

If you’re planning is moving in the accidental-death-by-falling direction, then I think the Nudger could be of great assistance.

The fact that the Nudger also happens to be a ghost can only be a bonus.

Happy plotting!

upload.gif

Oh My Gardée

"Wanna risk it?"

Not my usual sales-pitch when inviting a friend to come and see a show with me, but I was putting a lot of faith in the theatre gods to deliver on this one. At first glance, it was an enticing prospect: a crowd-pleasing ballet (Fille mal gardée), an easy to get to theatre (New Wimbledon), and the prospect of cake with a local (Ellen), but once the local quickly made it known that she would in no way consider attending, it soon became clear that we were into Tom Cruise levels of risky business here. 

The ballet may have been Fille, but it was the Gorsky not the Ashton version, and it was being performed by one of those Russian-touring companies that have such a grandiose name you figure they must be fairly fancy, until you realise that fancy-companies don't tend to spend quite so much time on the regional-theatre circuit. And then there was the matter of the theatre. Or rather, its seat map. 

Less than a week before the performance and the New Wimbledon's seating plan had more brightly-coloured dots than a Cath Kidson outlet sale. With each dot corresponding to an unsold seat, there was a good chance that this was a house that was going to need some serious box office-manoeuvres to make it look presentable come curtain-up. And I was willing to place a bet on it.

I told Helen my plan. We'd buy the cheapest possible seats, up in the upper circle. With so few seats sold up there, chances are they wouldn't want to have to staff it on the night, the upper circle would be closed, and we'd be upgraded.

"Yeah let's gamble!" came the immediate reply.

Right then.

The game was on.

I scoured the seating plan and picked our seats - right on the end of the row, restricted view. Terrible, awful seats. 

This better not go wrong, was all I could think as I keyed in my card details. Or Helen was going to kill me. 

Over matcha crepes at Cafe Mori, Ellen wished us luck for our "Grim Fille."

upload.jpg

"Message me in the interval," she ordered, with an evil glint in her eye, a little too pleased to not be going with us.

She must have already seen the posters.

"What even is that?" I asked Helen as we neared the theatre.

It was a ballerina. En pointe. Wearing a familiar looking white tutu.

upload.jpg

"Swan Lake," we both said at the same time.

"Are they even performing Swan Lake?"

I scanned the poster. No. They weren't.

What they were doing apparently, was sticking a pink background on a random ballet image and hoping that no one would notice. 

This was not a good sign. It wasn't even a good poster.

Oh well, there was no backing out now.

We forged on to the box office.

upload.jpg

"The upper circle is closed," said the woman behind the counter as she inspected them. "Let me get your new seat numbers."

I gave Helen my best smug face.

"Right," said the box office lady as she scrawled our new seats on the tickets. "You're in the dress circle."

We were in the fucking dress circle!

Pink Swan Lake posters or no, things were looking up.

Now, let's just freeze-frame for a moment on that smug face of mine. There's something I need to explain so that you'll understand the significance of everything that follows, something very important. And that is: I love Fille. 

I really love Fille.

I cannot emphasis that enough.

If you take anything away from this post it should be this: I love Fille.

I love the music. The costumes. The dancing. The characters. The pony.

And I love the love.

Not just the young love of Colas and Lise, but the love between Lise and her mum, the Widow Simone. And the love between Farmer Thomas and his son Alain (oh, when Thomas strokes Alain's hair, soothing the poor lad after he fails to get the girl... my heart), the burgeoning, and slightly knowing relationship between Simone and Thomas. And of course, the love of Alain for his umbrella.

No one leaves the stage without a happy ending. That is Ashton's gift to the audience. He ties a shiny pink bow on everyone's story and sends them out holding hands and singing into the night.

upload.jpg

When the opening notes of Gorsky's Fille sounded up from the pit, both Helen and I jolted in our seats. We turned to each other with panicked looks. These were not the gentle tones of the Ashton, conjuring up a slow sunrise over rolling hills, yawning milkmaids picking hay out of their hair while the stableboy tries to find his britches. 

"That sounds sinister," I hissed at Helen under my breath.

She nodded back.

The world this music was conjuring was one where the forces of Big Dairy meant that the milkmaids were all out of a job, while the stableboys had been requisitioned to help the army tend the fires after the latest Foot and Mouth outbreak.

If the music of the overture was wrong, the oeufs were even wronger. Lise fetching eggs from the hen house? No! She should be working the butterchurn. How else was the choreographer going to fit in a knob joke into the first act?

It was then that I finally began to understand why Ashton's Fille is considered so quintessentially English. The Russians weren't going to have any knob jokes in their version. Not a single one.

Worse still, the role of Widow Simone is danced by an actual woman and not a man in a padded dress.

I spent the entire ballet giggling and gasping in fascinated horror. Like an incomplete jigsaw puzzle of a famous painting, I could spot the recognisable bits, but it was jumbled up - all in the wrong order, to the wrong music, and being done by the wrong characters.

upload.jpg

"Alain catching the butterfly," we gasped as we jogged through the snow on our way to the station. "That was Lise pretending to catch the fly!"

"And Lise stubbing her toe when she kicks the door-"

"That's her mum hurting her foot on the butter churn!"

"And the hobby horse being thrown around was the flute!"

"Which makes so much more sense!"

"Yeah, where did the hobby horse even come from?"

"At least a flute at a harvest festival has a reason to be there."

"Yes!"

"And the circles in the rain, became the maypole!"

"Oh my god, yes!"

"Ashton was like - if they want circles, I'll show them circles!"

"And he gave us a real pony!"

"For which we are eternally grateful."

"Ashton was a genius.

"Ashton was a genius."

"What vision - to turn that mess into..."

"Our Fille."

"Exactly."

"He was a genius."

"He was a genius."

"He was a dramaturge."

"Yes!"

"He made an actual story. With characters. I've never realised how deep they all were until..."

"That."

"Yes."

"That whole thing with Colas getting the Village Notary drunk and stealing his clothes..."

"So wrong."

"Because it means that we know he's seeing Lise's fantasy about having kids with him."

"Yes! Ashton hides him from her and from us."

"So when he reveals himself-"

"-we feel her embarrassment too!"

"It's a double-hitter - the joke, then the blushes. Here it's all joke."

"And oh my god, the When We Are Married mime!"

"The mime!"

"It was all there-"

"-but all wrong!"

"The timing..."

"The storytelling..."

"All wrong."

"All wrong."

"Ashton was such a genius."

"Such a fucking genius."

At some point during all this we had managed to board a train.

"I wish I could have met him," I said, as I plonked myself down in a seat. 

Helen looked shocked. I never want to meet anyone.

"I just want to hear him talk about... his process. How he took that and turned it into..." I touched my lashes. "I feel a bit emotional about him."

"Oh my god, you really do," said Helen, laughing at my tearing eyes.

I really was. I sniffed and tried to hold it together.

"This changes everything. I will never be able to watch Ashton in the same way again."

"People bang on about MacMillan being the great storyteller, but Ashton..."

"Fuck. Yes. Fucking. Ashton!"

"When MacMillan did Romeo and Juliet... the story was there!"

"Yeah, Ashton had to strip it all back and start again!"

"He took tiny moments and created a complete world!"

"He totally changed the relationship between Lise and her mother. Like... making them spin wool together, it's funny, but also, that's how you know they love each other. Her mum tapping the beat on the tambourine-"

"-the one from the first act."

"Yes, exactly. Thank you. He took the pointless act one tambourine-"

"-that added nothing to the storyline."

"Less than nothing. He took it, and transformed it, and built it up. This is something they've done a thousand times before. Mum making music for her daughter to dance around to."

"So she's not just marrying off her daughter for money. She wants her to be happy. She wants a secure marriage. Not to the lad who has probably been chasing her chickens round the yard since he was a toddler."

"Exactly. So when she finally comes round and approves the match-"

"It actually means something."

"Ashton was such a fucking genius."

"He was fucking ballsy. He was like - those Italian fouettes? My Lise doesn't need them."

"Their dancing is all about the characters."

"It's not about the virtuosity."

"It's about the story."

"Yes."

"Wait, is this you?" I said, looking up to see what station we were in.

"Shit yes."

Helen jumped off the train. A second later, she stuck her head back through the door. "Aren't you supposed to be changing here too?"

The doors closed. The train moved on.

I was supposed to have been changing there.

Shit.

Still... fucking Ashton. 

I can't get over it.

Science fiction, double feature

Is there anything more hedonistic than taking a half-day off work to watch ballet?

No, my friend. There isn’t.

And I can’t even blame the marathon for such an extravagant use of my time.

I’d had this outing planned for months. There was no way I was going to miss ballet-god Rupert Pennefather’s glorious return to the London stage.

Sadly, we all know what they say about god and plans.

But I wasn’t going to let the little matter of an injury and the resulting cast changes get in the way of my self-indulgent afternoon. So, after a quick lunch at my desk, I sauntered down to the London Coliseum. Or rather, the Coli. Everyone calls it the Coli. Or at least, I think everyone does. I certainly do. Perhaps just the pretentious twats who frequent it on the regular use that name. Of which, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, I am very much one.

Which leads me to this question… how do I write about a venue that I am this bloody familiar with? One that I even have a charming nickname for? I can’t describe walking around in wide-eyed wonder as I’m sure I would have done if I’d been a newbie. The Coli really is the most extraordinary venue. Over-the-top in almost every aspect. It’s not just the gilt, and the velvet, and the massive stage. These are merely the base layer onto which Frank Matcham built his monument to excess. There are domes. Multiple ones. With stained glass. And stone gargoyles guarding the staircase. Marble balustrades. Mosaic covered ceilings (with umbrella’s to match). Carved wooden doors. Roman iconography. Golden horses. And then topping it all, a spinning globe lit up with the name of the theatre.

It has so much bling, even Elizabeth Taylor would think it a bit gaudy.

Read More