Right, let’s keep this one short, shall we? I’m wearing a rapidly hardening face-mask right now which promises to return my pre-theatre marathon glow. Not in so many words you understand. The marketing blurb wasn’t that specific. But I was reading between the lines. I’ve been looking decidedly rough lately. Late nights do not agree with me. I’m old. I should be tucked up in bed by 10pm at the very latest. So something that promises to brighten and exfoliate and plump and tighten is very much in need right now. Still, I don’t want to leave it on too long. My face will probably fall off.
Anyway, enough of all that. That’s not what you’re here for. You don’t care about my skin-care routine. You want drama. Or at least theatre. And I am here for you, ready to serve up fresh theatrical anecdotes. You’re welcome.
So on Friday night I headed to The Yard.
Another first-time trip for me, and we all know what that means. I should change the subtitle of this blog to: Max gets lost in London.
This is worrying. I feel like the message that I’m putting out onto the ethernet is that I’m an idiot who can’t locate a theatre in a world where websites and Google Maps exist. The fact that I am an idiot who can’t locate a theatre in a world where websites and Google Maps exist doesn’t help matters.
So, there I was, standing outside Hackney Wick station, reading and re-reading the “Your Visit” page of The Yard’s website, and flicking back and forth to Google Maps, and not knowing which way to go.
Perhaps it’s the strain of going to the theatre for 11 days in a row. Or the fact that I had spent the whole day snacking junk food and couldn’t remember the last time I had consumed a vegetable. But no matter how many times I read it, “we’re right around the corner from Hackney Wick Overground station” failed to make any form of sense to me at all. Which corner? I could see at least three. Is it just me? Is that a truly helpful direction to everyone else in the world? Please tell me I’m not alone here.
In the end I turned left, as that looked the darkest and most scary of the options available. If I have discovered anything on my adventures, it’s that dark and scary places are where fringe theatres are most likely to live.
I’d also spotted some fairy-lights strung up in the distance that looked promising. Fringe theatres also tend to love fairy-lights. Fact.
But the closer I got to the string of lights, the more it looked like a pub, and not a theatre. Now, these two things are not mutually exclusive. There are plenty of pub-theatres (and even a few theatre-pubs), but The Yard is not one of them.
Going any further was prevented by the little matter of a canal, so I turned right, struggled blindly up a metal staircase (did I mention it was scary and dark down there?) and back onto a road. Huh. Okay. That wasn’t right. I may not have known where exactly The Yard was, but I was fairly certain it was in, you know, a yard.
Right again then. Past a few very industrial looking buildings, until there was another opening on the right. I’d just done one big circle.
Except this time, I could see it. A great shining light calling me home. I’d found The damn Yard. I’d walked right past it the first time. Go me.
Once I’d rounded that corner, everything suddenly became easy. With blazing signage everywhere. There was a massive ENTER HERE painted on the entrance, so even a complete moron like me managed to find the correct door. The box office and theatre were also both lit up with signs posting the way. While the loos were pointed out with big, easy to read lettering on the walls. “Toilets” over one door, “Toilets & Urinals” over the other. No Ladies and Gents nonsense here. The Yard is gender neutral when it comes to your waste-expelling needs. I like it.
I also like that there are freesheets with the casting details, which were left next to the box office. Although I didn’t spot them at first, and it was only when I saw other people walking around with them that I realised they existed. Apologies to everyone in the queue that I barged in front of in order for me to get that sweet, sweet paper. There was no way I was leaving without it. The Yard doesn’t do tickets. Not the sort you can take away with you. So I had to get my hands on whatever they were offering.
Talking of paper. I was there to see a staged reading. One of those things where the actors stand around holding their scripts while they do their thing on stage. I am a big fan of these. I love seeing the pages turn and knowing exactly how far we are through the play. I’m not saying that I am willing them to end, just… that I like knowing when that end will be.
In fact, I would like it on record that one of my favourite theatre-based memories is watching Noma Dumezweni perform, script in hand, at the first preview of Linda at the Royal Court, having taken over from Kim Catrall at short notice. Like, the way she wielded that stack of pages - as if it were notes on her desk, or her kids’ homework - just heaven.
I’m not sure I entirely understood the concept behind the reading. It’s part of a festival that’s something to do with Brexit. There’s various plays written by playwrights from around Europe. At the end of the play you’re meant to guess whether it was written by a European or an artist based in Britain (that’s how it was worded in the little explanation at the end of the play - ‘based in Britain,’ not British, which even further confused the meaning of all this to me). There were even little Union Jacks left on our seats to enable your voting via the medium of flag-waving, which was I thought was cute - even if the whys of the whole thing were lost on me.
I got it wrong. Because of course I did.
At least I know how to read signs though.
Remember that door I mentioned? The one with ENTER HERE painted on it?
Turns out the other door opens straight into the theatre.
Know how I know this?
Because mid-way through the reading, it opened.
The actors stopped. They looked to the door.
We all looked to the door.
As one, we wondered, “is this meant to be happening?” No. It wasn't.
"Hello?" one of the actors posited.
The door quickly closed.
Then a giggle. Then proper laughter.
The actors returned to their scripts.
The play continued.
It was very satisfying.
I may not be able to find a theatre. But at least I know which door to go through.
And on that note, my face-mask is now so hard I can no longer feel my forehead.
I’m going to wash this thing off.
Until tomorrow! Hopefully next time you see me, I’ll be looking proper beautiful for you.