Seventh day in a row I’ve been to the theatre and I feel like I’ve had a house dropped on me.
Does taking B12 help? I’m sure I’ve heard that taking B12 helps. I’m not convinced. I was so tired last night that I was sure if I didn’t do something I wasn’t going to make it through Monday, let alone the rest of the week. I needed to take more drastic action. So… I went off to see the Wizard… and by that I mean: I was about to get my Wicked on! It’s been running in the West End for over 12 years. I thought it was about time I saw it.
The only problem was getting there.
Somehow I managed to convince myself that walking the 3-or-so miles from the office would be a good idea. Let the cold smack my face until I woke up.
I hadn’t been to the Apollo Victoria before, but I figured I kinda knew where it was. Head straight into the West End, turn west at Trafalgar Square, then march down to The Mall and you’re there. Right? Right. Except as soon as I reached all those fancy red-bricks that crowd SW1 I got completely disorientated. Over 10 years I’ve been living in London, and I’m getting lost on my way to the theatre. I have literally never been so ashamed. What am I even doing with my life?
Don’t answer that.
And you can keep that opinion of yours to yourself too. I already know what you’re thinking. It’s 2019. Why didn’t I just get directions from my phone once I started getting turned around? To which I can only say: I did. But the more I walked, the more I seemed to get confused. Every corner I turned only took me further away. It was like being in a Bowie movie. Except with less puppets and flatter hair.
By 7 o’clock I was still wandering around in circles, lost in a towering maze of town houses, and I was starting to panic. Google Maps was being worryingly slow, the circle that was supposed to represent me was darting from one side of the junction to the other as if it too couldn’t quite work out if Greencoat Place and Greencoat Row were secretly the same road.
In the end, I picked one at random and hoped for the best.
The great theatre gods must have taken pity on me, because a few minutes later I spotted something in the distance. Something green. Very green.
I’d made it.
With just enough time spare to snap a photo.
You may have noticed by now that technology is not my friend. And my phone, traumatised by recent events, decided it could no longer cope with the trials of this marathon, and decided to switch itself off.
As I swore, and growled, and bullied my phone back into the world of the living, I noticed something was going on in the queue.
People were being turned away.
“I’m here, but I need to pick up the tickets,” one woman shouted into her phone. “No, I’m at the theatre. But on the wrong side.”
The wrong side?
Where were we then? Had I accidentally stumbled upon the stage door? Were these people not punters, but autograph hunters?
That was a lot of branding and a hefty queue for the wrong side.
There was a massive poster. And the name of the theatre. And doors. Lots of them.
It looked like it should be the right entrance.
And then I saw it, a small sign posted at the bottom of the stairs.
“For Box Office pleased use the Wilton Road Entrance”
For fuck’s sake.
Wilton Road is around the back. I was on the wrong fucking side.
I sprinted round, joining the closest queue.
“I need to see your bag and your ticket,” said the man at the front.
“I still need to pick up my ticket,” I said, looking around wildly for the box office.
“My colleague can help you with that.,” was his reply, as he peered into my rucksack.
His colleague stepped forward. “Does your email confirmation have the seat number on it?” he asked.
“Ummm???” My phone had managed to switch back on by this point, but it was still dragging its feet. Eventually I managed to find the email. “Yes!”
“Great. Head straight through and show the email on the door. No need to pick up your ticket.”
I made a strange sound. I don’t need a ticket? Then what was I even doing on the Wilton Road side of the theatre then?
“Unless you want the hard copy,” he added, clearly knowing my type too well.
“Right…” I said, still baffled, and made my way inside, leaving the queue for the box office snaking down the road well alone. I could live without a hard copy.
Now, sitting on my bed and writing this in the cold half-light of morning, I am filled with regret. I did really want a hard copy.
If anyone in the Wicked press team is reading this - hook a girl up! I just want a ticket. Not to see the show again (although…), just a actual, physical, hard copy. They looked so pretty with the logo and everything.
Next stop, the merch desk. Or, one of the merch desks. As there seemed to be multiple ones. A myriad even. Everywhere I looked there were stalls. Some selling sweets and popcorn. Others focusing on t-shirts and tat. All of it blazing green. I had walked into the marketplace of the Emerald City. And they were not going to let me out of there alive.
“That’s £8,” I was told as an oversized (‘souvenir’) programme was handed to me.
I tried my best not to look horrified as I stuck my card in the machine.
“I should tell you the role of Glinda will be performed by Maria Coyne tonight,” continued the programme seller as I officially entered bankruptcy.
“Oh?” I said, pretending this meant something to me.
Hard copies of tickets and cast change announcements at the programme desk? I was beginning to get the impression that Wicked-fans are just a teensy bit intense.
He opened a draw under the desk. “I usually have these cards to hand out when there’s a cast change,” he said, showing me a rather fancy looking A4 sheet printed with a colour photo, biog and headshot. He’d got my attention. They were nice! Really nice. Good heavy card stock. 250gsm at least, perhaps even 300gsm, and silk-coated. I pratically salivated. “But I don’t have the right ones. You can ask at one of the other desks and they’ll give you one.”
You bet I would. There was no way I was missing out on one of those beauties.
But that would need to wait until the interval.
Checking that I still had the confirmation email up on my phone to show to any ushers that would ask for it (spoiler alert: they didn’t), I made my way downstairs.
Or tried to.
Half way down the stairs I stopped. And blinked.
Everything was… green.
Green walls. Green lights. Even the carpet was green.
I staggered about, feeling a little seasick.
As I turned into the auditorium, I had to blink again.
The seats were green.
Row upon row. Of green seats. With green binoculars secured to the backs.
So. Much. Green.
I know I’ve ranted about shows sticking around too long in individual theatres, but I am in total favour of Wicked living out the rest of its existence in the Apollo Victoria. The show has really made the theatre its home. This is not ‘hoarding the pretty',’ this is making the theatre an extension of the show.
I’ve never been so happy in my all life.
And then the show started.
And I got even happier.
As soon as the last closing notes of Defying Gravity hit the roof I floated back up to the marketplace and headed to the nearest desk.
“Can I have one of those cast change things?” I asked.
“The understudy sheets?” she said. “They come with the programmes. £8.”
I explained I already had one.
“Do you have the receipt?” sounding a trifle suspicious, if you ask me.
“I do!” I replied, remembering how the original programme seller had slipped one inside the pages. I got out my programme and flipped through. It wasn’t there. “Hang on,” I said, reaching into my bag. It must have fallen out.
“Can’t find out?” she asked. The you lying bitch remained unspoken.
She was not letting this go. Good for her.
I had so much damn respect for that.
Or I would have done, if I hadn’t been panicking. I needed one of those luscious cast sheets.
I tipped up the programme and flapped it upside down. No receipt.
Someone else came to the desk. I indicated she should go first. But she was just there to look.
I was getting flustered.
But it WASN’T THERE.
Oh god, what was I going to do? I needed one of those cards. I already didn’t have a ticket. I wasn’t missing out on this.
Could I justify spending another £8 to get a second programme? No. I could not. Except…
I went through each page in turn, and somewhere towards the end, I found it. The receipt.
“Ah ha!” I cried out, as if I had just solved some complicated mathematical equation. “I have it!” I waved it about, just to prove it.
She took it from me, and checked it. Yup. The programme was bought that very evening.
She handed it back to me. With a cast change sheet.
Success! But at what cost? I think I knocked a full five years off my life last night.
It’s not easy being green.