“You can wait here if you like. The house should be opening any minute now.”
I’m the first one there. Which is a good thing, as the foyer space of the Jermyn Street Theatre is only big enough for one. Can it even be classed as a foyer? It’s certainly not intended for lingering. Perhaps the more appropriate word is a landing. And I do feel like I’ve landed there.
“Thanks, it’s awful outside. Hailing.”
The sudden downpour of stinging hail stones is the reason for my early arrival. When it came to deciding between digging an umbrella out of my bag, and just legging the remaining distance to the theatre, I plumped for legging it.
That may have been a mistake.
My legs are now legged out and feeling a touch wobbly. This body was not made to run.
Balancing here, on that landing, I manage to catch my breath and take in my surroundings. From the outside, the Jermyn Street theatre is a slip of a thing - a small slither slide in between a pizzeria and a clothes shop.
But step through the door and you are taken down below the streets of Piccadilly via a sparkling silver stairway.
The honking horns and hard hailstones that fill the thick air above are left behind, and I’m left recovering and slightly out of breath on the landing.
I’d been to the Jermyn Street Theatre (from here on in, the JST) before. But so long ago that I still manage to be shocked by just how titchy tiny wee it is. The box office is a proper little hole in the wall, but when the house is opened I find that the bar is to.
“Drink, ice cream, programme?” asks a lady from behind her small window. “There’s no interval, so now is your opportunity.”
I go for a programme, which turns out to be a proper playtext. I fucking love a playtext.
With the theatre to myself, I can get some proper pictures taken. But with only four rows of seats, this doesn’t take long. And with allocated seating, the rest of the audience is in no rush to turn up.
With a theatre this small, I’d usually expect there to be strings of fairy lights on the walls. Perhaps some cutsie signage pointing to the loos. But there’s none of that. Beyond the silver stairway, the decor is fairly spartan. The JST doesn’t go in for all the hipster aesthetic stuff.
So, I settle in and play my playtext game - finding a line near the end and seeing if I remember it by the time we get there in the show. Not much of a game, but it’s always nice to have something to look forward to during a rubbish performance.
Not that I was worried about that.
I was here on a recommendation. A Twitter recommendation. Which are often terrible, but this one was from someone who knew I’d loved Hundred Words for Snow and wanted to make sure that I knew the writer was currently directing this play. I didn’t. And I was more than grateful for the information.
Even better, the director was in that night.
How do you say hello to someone who broke your heart? On the list of awkward conversation starters it has to be right up there with your STD test results and telling them you ran over your dog.
After a short internal debate, I decided the best course was the simplest: Keep it real. “Hello. I’m Max. You smashed my heart into smithereens. Thank you.”
There. That wasn’t too bad. I didn’t even cry.
And people are starting to arrive now.
“I’m just going to pop to the toilet,” says a man as he walks in.
“Not that one though,” laughs a woman in reply, nodding towards the stage, where there’s a projected sign proclaiming TOILETS over one of the doors.
“Is it... No!”
Yes! That door marked Toilets leads to the actual toilets and you need to cross the actual stage to get to them.
“The performance will begin in three minutes,” comes a disembodied voice over the tannoy. “The toilets are now closed.”
Sure enough the projected sign dims. The bar’s cubby is shuttered.