“Are you here for Hopeful Monster?” she asked.
“25% of the ticket price goes to child.org,” she says, peeling off a large round sticker off an A4 sheet.
“Oh nice,” I say taking it from her.
It’s pink. “I [heart] my mum,” it reads.
I look around, not knowing where to stick it. Not sure I want to wear it on my coat. I leave it flapping around on my fingertips.
I tuck myself away next to the staircase and make friends with a horse’s head wearing a St Paddy’s Day Guinness hat. He doesn’t look overly happy about it, although whether it’s the hat or my need for company that’s distressing him I can’t quite work out.
Soon more people arrive to collect their stickers, each looking more perplexed than the last as they try to work out what to do with it. A man dances around as he bounced his stickered-up hand between coat and scarf as the final home of his sticker. He settles on the front of his hoodie and pats it down on his chest. The look on his face suggests that he has immediate regret.
One woman has it on the back of her hand.
The stickiness on my fingertips is starting to bother me. Without thinking about it, I grab my phone and smooth the sticker down on the back. Just like I would if I were at the Donmar and this was one of the stickers handed out to the fillers’ queue on press night.
I couldn’t see my face, but I imagine it looked just like the man in the hoodie.
Regret. Deep and sorrowful.
My phone is new. So new that I still haven’t managed to buy a case for it.
And now I had a cheap paper sticker stuck to it proclaiming how much I [heart] my mum.
People rush up and down the stairs and I press myself against the wall, out of the way while they lift chairs from unoccupied tables and carry them back up.
A seat cushion slips off one.
“That's not supposed to happen,” laughs the woman as she tries to fix the chair.
“Don't worry, I won’t tell anyone,” I whisper back.
Eventually, the procession of chairs came to an end and we were allowed upstairs.
“It's unreserved seating, but if you can leave the first two rows free for children that would be ideal,” said the person greeting us at the top.
The stage was small. A table, flooded with light from a totem pole of lamps set up on either side. Close proximity would be essential.
I dither next to the third row, trying to decide whether the aisle seat on the short right-hand row would be superior to the aisle seat on the slightly closer left hand row.
“It’s a full house,” calls the usher. “So if you can all move down.”
I panicked, and picked the long row on the left, going right to the end, next to the fireplace.
“A minute later they first two rows are completely filled with grownups.”
I looked around. There was not a single child to be seen. Reminds me of the Puppet Barge in Little Venice. These shows may be made with children in mind, but it takes a childless adult to want to traipse out to these things on a Sunday afternoon.
Now, you know that I don’t write a lot about the actual performance in this blog. That’s not what we’re about at the marathon. But in this case, I wouldn’t have been able to even if I wanted to. Because I didn’t see it.
No, I didn’t have to leave due to a near fainting incident. I assure you, I was in the room and in my seat the entire time.
I just couldn’t see it.
Literally, none of it.
Oh, I occasionally caught a glimpse of a hand when it was lifted far enough off the table to be visible over the heads of the people sitting in front of me. But not enough to establish any kind of storyline. For me, Hopeful Monster was nothing more than 40 minutes of listening to gentle music.
There was a giraffe at one point, I think. And some grass. And a creature which was possibly a pterodactyl. But beyond that, I couldn’t tell you what the show was about or what happened in it.
Recently I’ve been playing with the idea of awarding badges to certain theatres. Best Madeleines. Longest queue for the loos. You get the idea. There’s one badge in particular that scratches away at my conscious. Forget the “I [heart] my mum” stickers. If I were going to hand out anything after this trip it would be the “If this were my first trip to the theatre, I would never return.”