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 Up on the terrace, the old groupings of comfortable seating had been replaced by long rows of bar stools.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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.