There aren’t many people out and about this early on a Saturday morning.
Most sensible people are still tucked up in bed, or perhaps if they are real go-getters, they’ve managed to stagger downstairs in search of tea, and perhaps toast.
They’re not sitting on a tube on their way to the opposite end of London.
They’re not like me.
But hey, sensible people don’t go in for theatre marathons. They’re missing out.
I mean, not on sleep. Or hot dinners. Or that James Graham Brexit show that I still haven’t seen. Or spending time with people that love them.
They’re not missing out on any of those things.
But they are missing out on that super-charged feeling that comes from seeing too much theatre crammed into a very short space of time, with all your emotions fizzing away just under your skin so strongly that you almost crackle as you walk.
Believe me, it’s worth it.
And I’m not just saying that to make you feel jealous. I’m saying it in order to convince myself.
It’s not working.
I miss sleep.
At least I had the carriage to myself. And a chance to read. Which is almost as good as sleep.
That was, until two young lads hopped on. I call them lads because that’s what they were. A bit lary. Still obviously drunk from the night before. And very loud.
“Oof, fuck man,” said one as he collapsed into a seat.
“Fuck man,” agreed the other.
“Fucking Stockwell,” continued the first.
“Where the fucking fuck is fucking Stockwell?”
I sympathised. I’ve had similar feelings about West Norwood recently.
“Excuse me, Miss,” said one, leaning so far forward that his shadow fell over my book. He was talking to me.
I looked up.
“Do you know where Stockwell is?”
Now I don’t react well to geography quizzes. We all know that the whole knowing-where-places-are isn’t exactly my forte. Especially early on a Saturday morning. I do however know that Stockwell is on the Northern Line, and we were rapidly approaching it.
“Sorry,” I said, not risking my small amount of Stockwell-knowledge lest it lead to more complex questioning.
“Fuck me,” was the lad’s sad reply. “We’re from Margate,” he added, as if that explained everything. “And we’re trying to get back.”
“I think you need a train station for that,” I offered, as helpfully as I could.
“Yeah, but which one?”
You see? Never offer knowledge. It always leads to more questions.
“Sorry,” I said again.
“We’ve been going around for four hours.”
“That’s not what you want on a Saturday morning,” I said in lieu of anything useful to add.
“Fuck. It’s Saturday? Did you hear that? Fuck.”
“At least it’s not Sunday morning,” said his friend.
“Right. At least it’s not Sunday,” he said, just as the lady on the tannoy announced that Stockwell would be the next station.
They stumbled out onto the platform and disappeared.
I hope they got home okay.
I however, had a long day ahead of me.
First stop: Wimbledon. At the Polka Theatre for the morning show. Hence the early start.
I’m going to take a moment here to thank everyone out there who has been helping me on my mission. From those who have been linking me to theatres that I’ve missed (I swear I’ll do a recount soon, I just… can’t face upping the number of theatres I need to get to quite yet), to warning me about closures.
Today’s shout out goes to the lovely @RhianBWatts, who gave me the heads up that the famous children’s theatre, the Polka, is shutting its doors for refurbishment soon.
With day-time shows, and only a few weekends left before they went dark, I had to get there fast.
Thankfully I have a friend who lives down there who offered to meet me for pre-theatre tea and cake to help prepare me for the horrors that were sure to follow.
Pre-theatre for me, that is. Not my friend.
While Ellen is supportive of my whole marathon thing, she’s not so supportive that she was prepared to go to a kids’ show on a Saturday morning. She is one of those sensible people.
And anyway, Ellen had been to the Polka before. As a child. So was able to give me all those charming details you get from people who have a proper connection to a place. Like the tale of how she got fired from a face-painting job there when she was 12 years old.
Oh, ummm… Okay.
That was slightly less charming that I had expected.
There was also one about the sea-monster coat hooks.
It didn’t put her off walking me to the theatre though (told you she was a good friend. I rather like being walked places. Although, perhaps given my recent propensity to get lost, she felt the need to do so as some sort of civic duty. Still, I liked it. Theatres should start offering it as a service.)
While I waited at box office to pick up my ticket, Ellen went off to investigate the state of the sea-monster.
“One ticket?” asked the woman at box office, holding the single ticket with a concerned look on her face.
“Yes, just the one,” I apologised. I know how it looks. Being there. By myself. At a kids' show. On a Saturday morning.
I had thought about borrowing a child to take with me, but 1) I don't know any that are of the right age, and 2) I believe it's frowned upon to borrow children you don’t know.
And anyway, there has to be hundreds of blogs out there from people taking children to the Polka Theatre. I doubt I can offer any interesting insight beyond what is already out there. But a fully grown-adult going to a see a show made for five year olds all by herself? Now that's a blog post worth writing.
So, I’m not even going to apologise for being the creepy lady at the show.
Okay… I’m sorry for being the creepy lady at the show.
“They’ve repainted the sea-monster,” Ellen announced when we re-found each other. “It’s not as scary anymore,” she added, sounding a little annoyed by this. I can understand that. I don’t see why kids today don’t have to suffer through the nightmare fodder that we did back in the day.
After an inspection of the courtyard to see if the giant climbable cat was still there (it wasn’t) Ellen and I parted ways. From here on in, I was on my own. To watch The Wind in the Willows. By myself. In a theatre full of happy toddlers and their associated adults.
So, what is it like watching a show at the Polka, by yourself, as a grown up?
Weird. Like… super weird.
But not unpleasant.