I don't want to get your hopes up, but I think there's a strong possibility that Autumn is here. The terrible reign of that blazing ball in the sky is over. No longer will I have to suffer the indignity of the t-shirt. I can wear real clothes now. Nice clothes. I don't mind telling you that I just spent the best part of an hour trying things on. Because tonight, Matthew, I am going to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and I need to be the Gothiest Goth that ever Gothed, or die in the attempt.
And I think I've found the one.
It has a high lace collar. It has long sheer sleeves. It has cinched cuffs. It's perfect.
My eyeliner is sharp.
My boots stompy.
I am peak Goth.
I mean, personal peak. I'm not ready for an undercut or a lip piercing quite yet.
I put my 49er on top of the whole thing, and, not gonna lie, I look frickin' adorable.
As I walk to the tube station, a little girl hangs out of her window. "Hello. Hello. Hello," she shouts. "Hello, fashion lady!"
Which has to be, by far, the nicest thing shouted at me from a window.
No time to dawdle though. The Palace Theatre peeps are strict as hell.
I got, not one, but two emails, that stated, in no uncertain terms, that I should pick up my ticket, at the latest, one hour before the show starts. Now, I'm sure you'll agree with me, that this is completely ridiculous. There is no theatre in the city, not even the London Palladium, that is so chaotic that it requires a 6.30pm pick up for a 7.30pm curtain.
So, I decide to ignore the advice.
And turn up at 6pm.
The box office at the Palace is round the side of the building, on Shaftesbury Avenue. It has it's own separate entrance, which leads into a good-sized room, with a row of counters on the far side, tucked behind glass. It's almost like stepping into a bank.
There is exactly no queue.
The lady at the nearest counter looks up and gives me a great big smile, so I go over to her.
"Hi! The surname's Smiles?" I tell her.
"Lovely," she says, getting up from her seat. "I'll need a reference number and ID too."
"Okay," I say, grabbing my purse in readiness.
She's on her way back, tickets in hand. She looks at them. "Actually, it's just ID, because you won the lottery."
Yeah, I did! For the first time ever, I managed to win of those TodayTix ticket lotteries. No luck with The Lehman Trilogy. Didn't anywhere with Present Laughter. Had to get up at 3am to see Fleabag after failing again and again with that one. I was beginning to think that TodayTix didn't like me. Which, considering how much money I've been throwing at them this year, is a wee bit rude.
But they came through for this one. All hail Harry Potter and the Friday Forty.
"Oo, I like your purse," says the box office lady as I show her my ID. "Lovely," she says checking it. "Doors open at 6.30. Enjoy!"
And with that, I'm back out on Shaftesbury Avenue.
It's about ten past six.
I should probably go and do something.
I walk around, having a look at all the second-hand bookshops on Charing Cross Road. More than a few of them have a dedicated Harry Potter section crammed at the front of their window displays. This whole area seems to be running on a Harry Potter based economy. There's the newly opened House of Spells shop, with doormen in jacquard coats that scared me so much I didn't want to go in, and the House of MinaLima on Greek Street, which I'm sure was supposed to be a popup shop, but has grown some serious roots. In the Foyles playtext section, there are enough copies of Cursed Child on display to stage your own mini-production.
I circle back through Soho to the theatre.
There's a big sign out front. Someone is proposing to their girlfriend at the show. That's nice. I mean... it's utterly abhorrent. I don't understand public proposals, at all. But if they're into that, good for them. I wish them a long and happy life together.
But more importantly, there's now a queue, snaking it's way down Romilly Street and around Greek Street. I should probably join it.
The queue moves quickly.
Signs tell us to have our bags open and to definitely not, no don't even think about, bringing in food.
Next to it, a homeless man sits. He has his own sign. He's trying to sell an illustrated copy of the first Potter book. "Any real offer is cool."
The Harry Potter economy is hitting hard.
We round the corner. The front of the theatre is cordoned off with crowd control barriers. One by one we are waved in, directed to tables of bag checkers.
"Any food or drinks?" asks mine as I dump my bag on the table and open it for her.
That gives me pause. I mean... I think we all know that these checks aren't for security anymore. They're protecting their bar sales, not our bodies. But I never thought I'd get an actual admission on the line. This marathon is full of surprises.
"No," I say, knowing full well I have a slightly squished protein bar in the side pocket.
"Any sharps?" she asks, digging her hand right in.
"No." I'm not sure my cutting wit quite counts.
"And food or sharps?"
"Okay," she says, and waves me on.
Next up there's a line of black-suited security guards. They have body scanners.
Blimey. That's a first.
"Arms up," says one, putting out his arms in a cross to demonstrate.
I follow his lead, lifting up my arms, my bag still dangling heavily from one hand.
He runs the scanner over me. It must have beeped or flashed, because, without warning, his hand is in my jacket pocket.
"Oh," he says, after finding nothing in there except the reminiscence of an old tissue.
He let's me pass.
Feeling ever so slightly violated, I finish the security part of the entrance examination.
It's time to get me through the doors.
The first one has a Hufflepuff checking tickets. I can tell she's a Hufflepuff because she's got the house colours on her lanyard. All the front of house staff do at the Palace. Have house coloured lanyards I mean. On my first trip here, way back when the show was still in previews (and yes, I am showing off, thanks for asking) I got chatting to the ushers and was informed that they are very serious about the whole house business here. The staff all need to get sorted on the Pottermore website, and there's no switching just because yellow doesn't suit your complexion.
I head to the next door. There's not much of a queue here, but the ticket checker is a Gryffindor and I ain't dealing with that bullshit today.
At the third door there's no queue. But there is a Slytherin ticket checker.
Or perhaps that should be: at the third door, there's no queue, because there is a Slytherin ticket checker.
I immediately rush over and show her my ticket.
"On the far side, down the stairs," she instructs as she tears my ticket. "There are bars and toilets on every level."
"Thanks!" I say, way too excited. I hold back the urge to shout "Go Slytherin!" as I bounce through the door and into the foyer.
The merch desk is right oppsite the doors, selling all the house colour stuff. I already have a fair bit of Slytherin gear and those scarves are expensive, so I decide not to test my overdraft any further. Besides, they save all the best merch for Part 2.
Instead, I go straight to the programme desk.
There's a sign over the top stating that programmes are "Just £5." Which, you know, isn't bad. Cheaper than a Slytherin house scarf anywway.
One of the programme sellers spots me. "Are you waiting?" he asks.
He's wearing a Slytherin lanyard. I don't know why it is that the 'puffs have the reputation for being loyal. In my experience, it's the Slytherin's who are always looking out for one another.
"Can I get a programme?" I ask him.
"Of course!" See? He's got my back.
I hand him a ten.
"Perfect!" he says, and I keep a close eye on him as he gets my change. Let's be real... I would trust a Slytherin with my life, but not my fivers.
Still, I wonder if I can go the entire evening only interacting with Slytherins. That might be a fun challenge. I mean, yes, it does sound a bit, well, Voldemorty, but this is the third time I've seen this show. I need to inject a little bit of danger into this trip.
Down the stairs, there are more programme sellers down here. And a concessions desk. You'd think they'd be selling stuff straight off the Hogwart's Express trolley, but no, it's the same boring old trash you'd find at any theatre. I move on.
Down some more steps, and into the bar. An Aladin's cave of gold paint, pillars, and mirrors, all held together my a menagerie of naked-lady mouldings.
It's still really early, so I find an empty corner and start people watching.
There aren't too many people dressed up down here. The queue was full of young‘uns wearing house t-shirts, but they don't seem to have made it down to the stalls.
I spot two ladies wearing all access passes round their necks. Not sure what those are or what they have access to, but I sure as hell wouldn't be wasting them on the stalls bar if I had them. I'd be off backstage somewhere, stealing me a sorting hat.
The bar begins to fill, and my quiet corner is under threat of attack from all sides.
I look at my ticket. I'm to use door 2 to get into the auditorium, and look, just on the other side of my little enclave is a sign pointing the way to door 2.
I follow it.
After the gilded glory of the bar, I'm whisked into a very plain corridor. The only decoration a pair of shelves, with numbered plaques, which I can only assume will be holding interval drinks in few hours' time.
I keep on going. Up some stairs, and down to the end of the hallway.
There's a curtain, and through it, the theatre.
It's nice. It's well named. Very... palacial.
I make my way down the side of the stalls towards the front row. Oh yeah, ya gurl has got herself a seat in row AA tonight.
I'm very excited about it.
I mean, the stage is high so I'm going to miss a hell of a lot of stuff happening at the back, but it's okay. I've seen this twice before. Once from mid-stalls, and the second time from somewhere in the balcony. I know what's going on. I'm just going to appreciate being able to see all the stage-trickery up close, and yup, from my spot at the end of the row, it looks like I'll be able to get a little glimpse into the wings.
This is going to be mega.
I take off my jacket and settle in.
Train station sound effects are being piped in, and it's amazing how soothing they can be without the added ambience of thousands of commuters all collectively hating each other.
Trunks and suitcases litter the stage, so you just know there's magic happening, becuase they wouldn't last five minutes unattended in the muggle world without someone calling the bomb squad.
A voice comes over the sound system.
The performance is about to begin.
There's a whoop.
Turns out, I'm not the only one super-pumped to be here tonight.
"You're all seated in the quiet zone," continues the voice. "So turn off your phones now. I mean now."
The order not to each any crunchy crinkly snacks also gets a cheer. This audience is hardcore about their theatre-going. They don't want to miss a moment. Maybe that's why there aren't any Pumpkin Pasties on offer (although, there should totally be Pumpin Pasties on offer. Come on now, it's September. I need my recommended daily dose of pastry).
Anyway, the play starts and it's just great. I fucking love Harry Potter. Like, I taught myself HTML when I was 12 years old so that I could code my own Harry Potter fansite. That's how long I've been in the fandom. Literally most of my life.
And I don't care what the haters say about Cursed Child. So what if it is retconning the books? I don't give a shit.
I adore Scorpius and I would die for him.
He is literally the cutest thing I've ever seen in my life.
Although I'm not quite sure whether I want to kiss him, mother him, or quite possibly, be him.
Hopefully not the first one. He is a child, after all. The character I mean. Not the actor. I checked.
Still, it's all rather confusing.
Whatever it is, Jonathan Case is doing a splendid job up there. And I'm so happy I could burst...
There's a crash. For a second I think it must be my heart exploding. But no, it's way too big a sound for that.
People are turning around in their seats. Whatever it was came from behind us.
"Lights! We need lights!" comes a call from one of the circles.
A few seconds later, the house lights are going up.
The cast press on. We try to concentrate but the drama happening in the higher levels cannot compete with what's happening on stage. I mean, Jack Thorne's great and all. But this is real life.
Eventually, the house lights dim once more, and we fall back into the goings-on at Hogwarts. And soon I get lost in the waft of cloaks as the performers swish about right in front of me.
I have to say, the movement is marvellous. If this lot ever give cloak-swishing classes I'm going to be first in line because they are giving the Bolshoi-boys a run for their money.
Applause fills the auditorium.
Within seconds a queue forms down the central aisle for ice cream.
An usher comes out to make an announcement. "It's cash only," she says. "Ice creams are three pounds fifty each. If you need to pay by card you need to go down to the bar."
No one is paying attention. Everyone is busy talking about the show.
"I like when the witches come on and do the thing. With the cloaks," says the girl sitting behind me,
"Me too," says her friend.
"I loved the trolley witch," says the friend. "Did you see the two people in the dark? They just went like this then whoomph."
I nod along to their conversation. I also enjoyed the whoomph.
"They got rid of my story," says the girl, presumably while scrolling through the Cursed Child Instagram. "There was a proposal. Did you see it? And my story got bumped."
She doesn't sound super impressed.
"Did they say yes?"
"I don't know..."
I have a look at the programme.
You have to admire their commitment to the whole "keep the secrets" schtick they got going on. Not only is there a spoiler warning on the cast list, but they also put one on the preceding page, just in case your eyes land on a character name by accident. And it's not like we don't know they couldn't have sold two programmes if they didn't have a mind to. So, double kudos to them. I kind of wish they had taken the Hampstead Theatre approach to suppliers though. Back when Brandon Jacob Jenkins’ Gloria was playing, you had to go find an usher in the interval to cut open the seal on the spoiler-giving programme pages, which was super cool. Not that I did it. My Gloria programme remains in mint condition. Because I am exactly that type of programme nerd.
Another announcement is piped in. This one from Professor McGonagall herself. Well, Blythe Duff but, you know.
"For the sake of the wizarding world, please turn off any muggle devices," she begs us.
We get through the rest of Part 1 unscathed.
Well, almost. The final scene sends cries of horror throughout the auditorium (and some wet feet in the front row).
As the "to be continued..." banner lights up the empty stage, the level of excited chatter is so loud I fear this lot won't make it through to tomorrow night's performance.
"Please use all the doors," calls an impatient usher as we try to shuffle our way out. "We're closing the doors in two minutes! We'll see you tomorrow."
Yes, you will. I'm not leaving my boy Scorpius stranded in that situation.
Too hyped to even contemplate being cooped up on the tube quite yet, I skip through Piccadilly Circus and make my way to Green Park.
There's a lot of great shit going on in theatre right now, but for me, Cursed Child is where it's at. The stagecraft! The story! The... Scorpius! Okay, it's all Scorpius. I really love that blond boy.
Which reminds me: that proposal... It was a publicity stunt to advertise a dating app. Little fuckers.
Love is cancelled.
And I think I might need to bleach my hair.