I went to the Sadler's Wells archive in Finsbury library yesterday. It's not a theatre. Just records of a theatre. Stretching back hundreds and hundreds of years. They have massive playbills from the 1840s. And a letter from Margot Fonteyn’s mum to Ninette De Valois asking about ballet lessons for her daughter. It doesn’t count towards the marathon. But it was fun anyway, and if you're interested I have some photos over on my Instagram.
Don’t worry, I did get to a marathon-qualified venue eventually.
Even if the weather did its best to stop me.
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this theatre-goer from the slow completion of her marathon.
If you can call it snow.
It was sleet at best. Or perhaps we should just call it slush. Airborne slush. That didn’t even have the decency to land on the ground before becoming dirty and grey and gross.
But I made it through. Me and my umbrella. Battling through the cold and wet to make it to Regent’s Park. Hugging the buildings the entire way to avoid the huge splashes of frigid water that lept up to bite my ankles with every passing car. My boots sliding around on the icy pavements. Unable to see through the curtain of snow that was pounding down on us all.
Turning the corner and seeing the warm lights of the New Diorama Theatre blazing out against the dark square was like being called home to a roaring fire and a pot of freshly brewed tea. I could feel my entire body relaxing. I had made it.
A few quick shots for my Instagram stories and I would be inside. I even thought I might order myself that tea.
I positioned myself in at the other side of the square, balancing the handle of my umbrella on my shoulder and trying hard not to think about chilblains as I peeled the mitten-portion of my gloves off my fingers.
Lined up my shot. Sign visible. Outside not too dark. Foyer welcoming. Nice.
Then my phone shut itself off.
I tucked my umbrella handle under my chin so that I could use both hands to turn it back on again, key in the code and relaunch the camera app.
A few minutes later we were back. The battery half-drained but no matter. I could deal with that later.
Prepped the shot again. Sign. Outside. Foyer. Welcoming. Nice.
The screen went black.
It had turned itself off again.
By this point my fingers were so numb I couldn’t even feel the power-button. I smashed at it a few times and hoped for the best.
Shit. The battery was dead.
Shivering by this time, I fought my way out from under my massive shawl and wrestled the zip of my bag open. There was no need to panic. I had a charger. Finding a black charger, in a black bag, with numb fingers however… tricky.
#GothProblems. Am I right?
My fingers eventually managed to wrap themselves around the wire and I hoiked it out.
Plug in. Smash button. Phone on.
We were back in business.
I got my photos, and sent my Instagram Story. I just hope my Instagram followers know what I go through for them. Ungrateful sods.
As I shook out my umbrella and pushed my way inside the theatre, I realised I wasn’t the only one suffering in this weather. Because there, shuffling around on the floor, where two staff members. I paused, hanging back, wondering what a person was supposed to do when confronted with the sight of two women crouched down on their hands and knees.
“That’s better,” said one of them, sitting back on her feet.
The other kept on going, wiping the ground with a paper towel.
They were drying the floor.
I made sure my feet were safely on the mat and wondered whether I should give myself a shake like a dog coming out of the sea. Or perhaps ask to be hung up somewhere warm so that I could drip-dry in peace.
I waited for them to finish before venturing over to the box office. A real box office! There might even be real... oh.
"This ticket is recyclable. Please hand it in as you enter the auditorium," proclaimed the laminated pass I was handed.
Recyclable? Damn them. I can't even be annoyed now they've played to eco-friendly card.
"Are their programmes?" I asked, more in hope than expectation.
I was waved towards a pile of freesheets stacked in front of me on the counter.
That was something at least. I took two.
But next to the freesheets was something else. Something far more exciting.
A little tray. And in the tray...
I had already spotted them online while booking my ticket. But I hadn't expected them to be quite so big and shiny.
My magpie eyes stared at them longingly.
I had almost ordered one off their website. At two quid they are almost justifiable as a throw-in when buying a ticket. But my card hadn't gone through on the first attempt, and when I came round to try again the more sensible portions of my brain had caught wind of my intentions and put a stop to it.
But there they were. All enamely and gorgeous.
I wanted one.
"Thanks," I said, pocketing my admission pass and walking away as quickly as I could. Stronger, yes. But badgeless. There were no winners here.
I decamped to the other side of the foyer to fold my freesheets and put them away, all the while sneaking glances a the badge tray.
A man came in asking about tickets to that night's performance. He asked a lot of questions. How much are the tickets? When does it start? Where is the theatre? Can I sit here? (He asked that one twice).
I got the impression this was his first outing to a theatre.
The woman on box office answered all his questions patiently and clearly. (He could indeed sit there).
It was interesting to find out what a first timer felt he needed to know. But I didn't stick around to find out what else baffled him because the one and only sofa in the cafe had just been vacated and I was determined to sit on it.
Facing directly onto the floor length windows it was a prime snow watching seat, even if by then it was mainly rain.
Still, a great place to sit and read a freesheet.
I was enjoying it so much I didn't realise that the queue to go into the auditorium had been building up until it had filled the entire foyer and was spilling out into the cafe - right in front of my sofa.
I quickly gathered my things and positioned myself in the midst of all these people.
For unreserved seating, the house opened very early. Ten whole minutes (in should have been five, but the show started late) for us to sit around getting to know our fellow audience members. A time fully taken use of by my neighbour who insisted on introducing his elbow to my ribs on multiple occasions, despite them already being well acquainted.
The little shit.
He stopped once the play started, clearly too engrossed to waggle his arms about.
Or perhaps I was too engrossed to notice.
After all the buzz about this play which merges the 1938 Orson Wells radio play, and the spread of internet trolls, I thought that the hype around Rhum & Clay's War of the Worlds might have been fake news.
It certainly would have made a better blog post if it was.
But I can't fault them for being excellent... can I? No. I can't. Or maybe...? No. Sorry.
I even have to award bonus points for having the tech team positioned in a booth overlooking the stage so I could watch them in all their glory.
After being so close (and yet so far) back at the Charing Cross Theatre, it was nice to finally get my fix of techy goodness.
Now if they could just fix my phone...