It’s the Park Theatre today!
I am very excited. Can you tell?
Not that I give a crap about the Park Theatre you understand. I mean, I’m sure it’s just swell. I’ve never been, so I can’t comment.
No, what I’m excited about is the theatre’s Getting Here page on their website.
A strangely specific thing to get worked up about, you may think. And I’ll grant you there is some truth in that. It is both strange, and specific. But I have my reasons. And those reasons are dog related.
After providing (very good and detailed) instructions on how to get to the theatre from the tube station, they go on to provide a video of the route. Featuring a dog. Called Hazel. It is super cute, and Hazel is adorable. And whoever came up with this idea is an excellent person and I approve of the entire endeavour.
My only criticism, and I’m not sure they are even taking notes at this stage, is that they say the walk takes four minutes, and yet the video is all of thirty seconds. If I had a touch more time on my hands, I’d be campaigning for real-time Hazel walkies. But as it is, I’m a bit busy. So off to the Park I go. Taking the suggested route, from the tube station. It takes about four minutes.
When I get there, the big glass windows at the front of the building are all open, and people are making full use of the the evening sun, sitting outside and doing the mostest to bring some European cafe culture to Finsbury Park.
There’s no sign of Hazel, but I’m sure she’s inside lolling around on a cool floor somewhere.
I go in, have a quick look around for any potential dog action, and with no wagging tails in sight, head over to the box office.
I give my surname, and the box officer pulls the ticket out of the box and hands it to me.
I look at it and start laughing.
“Mr Today Tix?” I ask. “I like that.”
You see, when you buy tickets through the TodayTix app, as I did for this trip, theatres usually process the company as the buyer, and then handwrite the audience member’s name on each one in time for collection. I think almost all theatres that use the app do this. With the Southbank Centre as the notable exception. They actually went and keyed in my information so that the ticket printed with my actual name on it. But the Southbank Centre are some swish bastards. They’ve got the resources for that kind of service.
Saying that, I don’t think I’ve come across a theatre to offer the app a title so far.
There’s a small display of programmes on the counter. Three quid. Not bad.
“Can I get a programme?”
I can, and we go about the business of my handing over cash and him sorting out my change.
There doesn’t seem to be much seating here. And it’s too early to go in.
I wander outside and find a bollard to lean against, and start sorting out all my stuff.
I make to slip the ticket in my pocket, but give it one final look.
Mr Today Tix.
Out of interest, I get out my phone, go to the Park’s website, and try to set up an account. They’re running the standard Spektrix system to handle their bookings, and the Title field is freetext. Not a dropdown. Meaning that whoever set up TodayTix as Mr Today Tix has some thoughts on the matter of titling inanimate software.
I’m not sure how appropriate it is to be gendering apps, but still… I got a giggle out of it.
Right, ticket analysed, it’s time to turn my attention to the…
I trot back to box office.
“Sorry! I didn’t actually take a programme,” I say, feeling like a right idiot. I’m really getting old. I can’t deal with late nights and alcohol. Despite all the shenanigans last night, I woke up feeling quite fresh this morning. Tired, yes. But not furry of tongue and sticky of eye. I was fine. It was only when the headache hit after lunch that I realised that the reason I didn’t wake up with a hangover, is because I woke up still drunk.
Honestly, once this marathon is over, I’m fully committing to a 10pm bedtime.
“Oh, did you not?” says the box officer, having the grace to sound surprised.
I take one and go back outside.
It’s a nice little programme. There are interviews and things. I’d pay three quid for it. I mean, I did actually pay three quid for it. But even outside the confines of the marathon, and research, and whatever else I’m using to justify my programme buying habit, I would pay three quid for it. It’s worth the coin.
From inside there’s an announcement. The house for Napoli, Brooklyn is now open.
I suddenly realise that I've come across has a comma in the title.
That's unusual. We had Life, Apparently at Hoxton Hall. And I'd made a big fuss about the comma then.
I hope this isn't becoming a trend. Punctuation confuses me.
People start to make their way back inside. But slowly. No one wants to give up the sun quite yet.
I wait a few minutes. I’ve still got time.
But then I remember I hate being in the sun, so I follow everyone back in.
Back across the foyer, past the box office and bar, down a short flight of steps and then…
Getting out my ticket again because there are two different doors and I need to check my seat number to find out which one I need.
Funny. There’s no one out here. Both doors are free of ticket checkers.
I’m on my own.
Which is fine.
I know what I’m doing. I know my seat number and can work out which door I need like the big girl I am, but still. There’s usually someone directing traffic at these junctions.
For a brief moment I wonder if time has slipped away from me, that I stepped into a faerie ring on my way in, and without knowing, took hours to get to the other side. Perhaps the show has already started, and that’s why there’s no one out here.
I go through the nearest door, into a small antechamber, and emerge on the other side at the back of the stalls.
And there’s a ticket checker waiting.
That’s okay then.
“C43?” I ask as she comes over to me. The door I took had said seat numbers up to 43, so that must mean… “Am I on the end here?” I say, pointing towards the furthest seat on the back row, right down by the back corner of the thrust stage.
“Err. Yes,” she agrees and off I go.
The view… isn’t great.
Okay, it’s not bad. I’m sure I won’t miss anything of importance. But there seems to be a kitchen in my sightline.
Well, I suppose that’s what you get if you shudder at the thought of paying more than fifteen pounds for anything.
Looks like quite a few people were shuddering. The theatre has been filling up, but the side rows are still on the sparse side and it looks like the balcony has been closed off.
As for my ticket, what fifteen pounds gets you is a spot on a bench right next to the wall. Wait, is it a wall. It seems to be moving… Just as I begin to wonder whether I’m hallucinating, or possibly still drunk from last night, the wall that isn’t a wall moves again. Like a curtain with the window open behind it. And then I hear voices. People are talking on the other side.
A second later, the house lights are down and an actor is emerging from behind the wall and placing a halved onion under each of her eyes in turn, trying to make herself cry.
My row is still half empty. While Madeleine Worrall’s matriarch Luda tries to get her cry on, I slide down the bench to get a better view.
The onions can’t get the job done. She must be all cried out. I would be too, if I had a daughter sent to a convent, with a broken nose after facing the wrath of my husband. Or a second daughter who refuses to eat. Or a third who had to be pulled out of school in order to help bring money in, and has cuts all over her hands as the result of hard labour.
That’s a well that even an onion can’t fill.
But oh, they try.
While one onion can barely make a space, a wagon-full may bring up the water level.
By the end of the first act, the stage is covered in the things. Hundreds of them. A few have bounced off the edge, despite the presence of the guard rail, presumably put there to keep the pesky things in.
Audience members in the front row pick them up as they retrieve their bags from under their seats. A few of them send their bulbs ricocheting across the stage like air hockey pucks, and they bounce into the set with a small thud.
But it was all in vain, as stage managers come out to reset for the second act, and they bring the big brooms with them, sliding the onions off into the various corners. Out of the way, but still very much present.
One of them starts to read off a check list of items why another confirms their presence.
“Six forks on the left.”
“Six knives in the middle.”
“Six plates with napkins on top.”
“Err. Three, fourfive. Yup.”
And on they go, detailing out this well stocked dinner service.
As the family settle down to eat, I wonder why I’m not feeling hungry, as I usually do when actors are munching away on stage. They keep on talking about what a great cook Luda is (and she herself agrees with that assessment), but all we’ve seen her do is pick at a few green beans. There’s no onstage cookery going on here. No working hob. No warm and hearty smells swirling around the auditorium.
I could do with something warm and hearty right now.
It’s not warm at all in here.
I put on my jacket and cross my arms, shivering in my seat.
Across the way I see a woman bring out her scarf and wrap it around her shoulders.
It’s freezing in here.
I can’t stop shaking.
Even when I emerge into what’s left of the sunshine, I have to keep on rubbing at my arms until the warmth manages to eke its way under my skin.
As I retrace my steps back to the station, I make a mental note to save my trip to their studio space for when it’s really hot. That air con is top notch after all.
When August hits, I might ask to move in.