Sweet Madeleine, duh duh duh

Departing from the bright lights and over-amped atmosphere of the West End, I travelled over the river to check off my next theatre, by way of seeing the shiny new Martin McDonagh. Or rather, the slightly faded Martin McDonagh, as it closes at the end of the week.

I know, I know. You're not the first one to say that. I've heard it before. Loudly. It tones of consternation. Let me take the time to assure you that I went in fully aware that this was not McDonagh's finest work. And I was okay with that. Because I love McDonagh.

Yes, liking McDonagh is a very very dark matter indeed. And yes, he gives off the air of being... shall we say... a bit of a shit. I get that. He’s a superhuman wordsmith, who uses his powers purely for evil. I've never come across a writer who appears to hate his audience quite so blatantly, and seeks to cause them quite so much pain. With a cruel glint in the eye, he gives the audience a cute puppy to look after, before handing us a knife and telling us to murder it. And we do it. And giggle along the way. Horrified by our own laughter but unable to stop.

I hate him. And I adore him. But most of all I respect him.

If I had his skill, I would probably do the same thing. Or rather, I would watch his plays longingly, wishing I had the guts to do the same thing... so no difference to what's happening now really.

Now, I’ve been to the Bridge before. But ended up leaving during the interval because they had run out of madeleines.

No, I'm not kidding. Yes, I mean the little French cakey things that caused so much consternation in the last series of the Great British Bake Off. No, it wasn’t an overreaction. And frankly, how dare you even suggest that it was.

They'd built those damn cakes up so much, featured them so heavily in their marketing, made it as if pure joy could only be found within their soft golden ingots, that when we saw the last plate being whisked away from us at the bar during the interval, the disappointment was so crushing it was a physical impossibility for us to make it back to our seats to watch the second act. Instead we went to eat dessert at a nearby bar. It's the first and only time I've walked out of a play, and I still don't regret it.

Cake is very important to me.

So you can see, the stakes were high. I had to get those madeleines.

And I have to say, it's surprising how fast you can walk with the drumbeat of "madeleines, madeleines, madeleines," beating in your heart.

I powered down Blackfriars Bridge and across Bankside, driven by the kind of fervour that Trumpites must get when someone wishes them Happy Holidays.

The loud tapping of my foot and the pain on my face as I waited to collect my ticket was so acute, the bloke on box office actually ended up apologising to me. (No, I'm sorry, lovely box office person. All my fault. I was having cake-based-anxiety. I'm quite sure you understand).

Then on to the bar.

It was 6:50. For a 7.45 start. I was early. Really early. And yet there was already a queue.

I could see the chefs further along removing a tray of delicious domed dainties from the oven. The warm scent drifted over to me, taunting me. What if that was the last batch? Was I too late? This play had no interval. There would be no second chances.

The man in front of me was being served. What was he getting? Wine. Fuck's sake. Couldn't that wait? Some of us had important things to order.

The oven opened again and another waft of Yankee-candle-scented air blasted out.

The man's wine was delivered. He turned around.


The barman raises his eyebrows, indicating he's ready for me.

I try and step forward, but the wine man is still there, at the bar. Dithering.

He steps to the left, directly into my path, blocking me even further.

It took ever inch of self control I had not to scream at him.

Eventually, he and his wretched wine moved on.

"CanIavesommadeleinesples?" I said, clutching onto the edge of the bar for support, my purse already half open in my hand.

"Of course!" said the barman, as if salvation had not just been delivered to me in cake form.

For the princely sum of a fiver, I was handed one of those little buzzy things and advised it would take about 10 minutes.

I spent those 10 minutes taking photos of the foyer, and checking my little buzzy thing every 30 seconds, just in case my rapidly falling sugar-levels meant that I could no longer sense the buzziness, but I needn't have feared. Exactly 10 minutes later, it vibrated, and lit up with glaring red lights.

My madeleines were ready!

There they were. As beautiful as a newborn baby. As beautiful as six newborn babies. Sextuplets, no less. All arranged around a plate like the petals of the tastiest flower ever cultivated.


I nearly cried.

Grabbing my prize, I found a seat, paused just long enough to take some photos (you're welcome) and dove in.

Oh rapture. Oh heavenly transcendence.

Still warm from the oven, each bite melted into memory without the indignity of needing to be chewed, leaving nothing but the taste of angel's tears and sweet butter behind on the tongue.

I had planned to take a few home with me to have as a midnight snack. I had even washed out my Tupperware extra carefully post-lunchtime sandwich (toasted bagel with chicken liver pate, sweet gem lettuce and lashings of sriracha) in order to house them safely for the journey.

That idea didn't last long. The only way they were going home with me was in my belly.

As the final bite dissolved into the distant past, there was nothing for it but to head into the auditorium.

How did I manage to sneak a photo of a empty theatre? Had I jimmied the lock and broken in overnight? Was I given a special tour by the press team ahead of my state visit?

I was surprised too. 7.34 and the auditorium was empty save for a few ushers and two other audience members who had not had not tasted the madelelines (I could tell. Their faces lacked the simple contentment of the saved).

A minute late a dark little ditty, poised somewhere between a child's nursery rhyme and a nightmare, started over the speakers, and people began to pour in, still clutching their wine glasses, seemingly determined to get as much alcohol down their throats as possible before the play begun.

The Bridge audiences sure know how to party. Or perhaps they'd just read the reviews. I almost started to feel kindly towards them. It was as if we'd all, collectively, decided we were going to get through this. Together. I don't think it's an overstatement to say there was a touch of the blitz spirit in the air.

The box hanging above the stage started swinging.

Wine was sipped.

Madeleines digested quietly.

Everyone in the audience set their shoulders to the task of getting through the evening.

The lights dimmed.

It began.

Anyway, I liked the play. I don't know what you all were going on about.