7pm starts… man, they are a challenge. I don’t think I’ve ever walked so fast in my life, racing across London to get to the Soho Theatre in time for my show.
Apologies to everyone who encountered me. And most particularly to the poor guy at the box office who had to deal with my puffed-out mess when I finally got there.
"What are you here for?" he asked, when I finally managed to suck back enough air into my lungs to talk and give him my name.
Now there's a question. Who can even remember anymore? It’s a miracle that I manage to turn up to the right theatre on the correct night. Now they wanted me to remember what I was actually there for?
"Err, the scratch night?" I said, feeling like I was about to lose this quiz.
"The scratch night," he concurred with an approving nod. I'd got that one right!
My prize was one of the trademark Soho tickets. They have to be the most distinctive tickets in London. I certainly haven’t seen anything to match them yet. Bright pink. The colour of Barbie's Dream Car. They’ll sear your retinas right off if you look at them too hard.
I tucked it safely in my bag before too much damage could be done and headed to the bar.
One benefit off 7pm start is that I actually do get to see the bar.
The Soho Theatre’s bar is one of those places that I will always agree is great if anyone brings it up, but the truth is, I've never managed to have a drink in it. It's always been heaving to the point of unbearability every time I've been to see a show.
But yesterday, let the record show, at 6.45, I got a table.
I sprawled out on the banquette and luxuriated in the space.
I can see why people think this place is nice.
In a kind of show-posters-wallpapering-the-walls-and-neon-lights kinda way.
All the bright young things of Soho draped themselves over the tables as they talked about all the shows they were working on, generally adding to the aesthetic.
“We should go see this,” said one guy, picking up a flyer to show to girl he was with.
“Oh, yeah. I know him,” she said, jabbing the person pictured on the front of the flyer.
Of course she did.
Five minutes later, a bloke came up and asked to share my table.
Thirty seconds after that, there were three of us perched around the small square.
The dream was shattered. My time was up.
But it was glorious while it lasted.
It was nearly show time anyway.
I made my way back to the foyer.
A small gathering had formed at the bottom of the stairs. Our way bared by one of those thick red ropes, we we corralled on the ground floor.
"Have we got an estimated time of opening?" the usher said into her radio.
The crackly voice on the other end indicated it would be a few more minutes. We waited, stomping about and sighing heavily. The herd was getting restless.
The usher backed her way against the lift, keeping a close eye on us as she clutched at her radio lest we suddenly charge.
Someone tutted. It was 7pm. The show was already running late.
The radio crackled back into life.
"The show on the third floor is now open. Chinese Arts Now Scratch Night on the top floor is open," she announced with obvious relief as we bolted for the stairs.
With unrestricted seating, it doesn’t pay to be slow.
"Anywhere in the first four rows," called the usher after us as we rushed into the auditorium.
As I dashed past her, I spotted a pile of paper on the bench outside the door. I lunged and grabbed one, not missing a step as I barrelled into the auditorium and dumped myself into a seat, spreading my coat and bag around me - marking my territory.
I plumped for the third row - the first one with a rake. Very important that. As a shorty, I need me a rake. Not that it was a particularly good one. The slight lift the third row offered only meant that I was given a hint of what was happening beyond the head of the person sitting in front of me. It was a concession to the idea of a rake, an acknowledgement that such things exist, rather than a full and proper attempt to give people sitting there any kind of view.
"Even the first paragraph is a lot. It sounds heavy, doesn't it?" said a woman in the row in front, peering through the gloom at her freesheet.
All those black walls, black ceiling, and low lighting, doesn’t make reading easy.
But I gave it a go, inspecting my own freesheet.
It didn’t take me long to spot the name of the venue I work for.
If I would ever dare give a piece of advice to artists it is this, double check your credits before handing over your biography for public consumption. It’s embarrassing for everyone involved when you don’t know how to spell the venues that you’ve performed at. Especially when you return and I have to correct it for you (because I do actually proofread and edit the biogs that come through me… just saying, Soho Theatre…).
And look, I'm not insinuating that poorly proofread paperwork is my hell, but it was rather warm up there… It was almost like I was getting punished for all my complaining about the cold yesterday. “Oh, you want it warm, do you?” laugh the theatre gods. “Don’t worry, we’ll make things real cosy for you.”
I rolled up the sleeves of my jumper, trying to remember what I was wearing underneath. Or if I was in fact wearing anything underneath.
I was. Heattech. Worse luck. As the festival organiser was already giving us the hosuekeeping speech and there was no time to wrestle myself out of my sweater.
“There’ll be a short interval between the two pieces for the changeover. No time to go to the bar but time to pop to the loo.”
I sat still, thinking cold thoughts, and tried to concentrate on the performers instead,
I must say, I wouldn’t usually think somewhere like the Soho, especially their tiny upstairs studio, is the best place for dance, but it was wonderful to be so close to the dancers. Especially in a piece so focused on facial expression and small movement.
Even working in dance I don't think I've ever got so close outside the confines of the rehearsal room.
What a treat.
As was the horsey helium balloon in the second piece.
There was a post-show talk, but I wasn’t sticking around for that.
I snuck out, and offered a smile of apology to the dancers who were waiting in the bench outside.
I’m sure everyone involved was perfectly fascinating, but I wasn’t losing my chance to be in bed by 10pm (literally all my hopes and dreams revolve around this one goal right now).
So off I went. Buzzed out of the door by the bloke on box office. Race back to the tube. Home via a short trip to Tesco. Fixed a hole in my favourite vintage dress. And in bed my 10pm.