Thursday, 22 September 2011

Crazy days

It's Thursday morning and for the first time since I last posted on Tuesday morning, I have time to breathe!

My routine could not be more different now to what it was a week ago. So here's a rundown of all the craziness of the last few days.

1) Eating habits. Have they ever been so bizarre? On Tuesday I went for a walk down Holloway Road. I ended up, somewhat dully, in Morrisons supermarket, and decided I needed to buy a lunch big enough that would sustain through the evening as well (as I was due to start work at 4 and not finish til 10.30). Didn't want dinnery type stuff though so decided to consume a vast amount of soup and bread. Had a panicky middle-class moment when I couuldn't find the fresh soup, but eventually did and duly took it home to eat. There was such a vat of it I needed a pyrex bowl rather than an ordianry one, but sure enough it did the trick and lasted me. I was a little peckish by the time I got in, but had to go straight to bed (as my friend had). I had an appointment to see a room on Tuesday morning (I didn't get the first one, boo) at 10am in West London. I woke up in time but by the time I faffed about I realised I only had an hour to get there, so didn't have time for breakfast and had to dash. I decided to take the room (more later) but then had to go on a mission to find a cash machine so I could give her the deposit. By the time I'd finished and hobbled to Westfield shopping centre to collapse in a Pain Quotidien it was about 11am and I realised I hadn't eaten anything in nearly 24 hours. This is not like me. So I indulged in a delicious plate of scrambled eggs on toast, washed down with lots of tea and followed up with a pain au chocolat. Later, between shifts I managed a foot long Sub and on the way home later a cookie. Calorie count very much back up.

2) Hobnobbing. Yes, this is something of a different kind of existence, to be sure! So far, I have worked 3 shows and we have had 3 celebrities in. First night, Lenny Henry (although I didn't see him myself, unfortunately); yesterday Lorraine Chase and Louie Spence. The latter was prancing around the foyer during the interval on the phone and as he left I said 'goodbye'. He grunted. Why do celebrities get so grouchy? For goodness' sake; you're rich, famous, people adore you, you get things free and you're allowed to use the disabled toilet in theatres so you don't have to pee with the riff-raff! Cheer up! Anyway, 3 in 3 ain't bad, so I'm hoping to catch a few more as time goes by! My claim to fame quota will go sky high!

3) Work. OK, so if you're not interested in the ins and outs of my routine, stop reading now. If you are, here we go...
First night was Tuesday. Baptism of fire. Inferno. Just about fully booked, with members of the press, VIPs, big 'prodooocers' and half of the rest of London. So far the boss has kept us on the same roles each show to give us chance to get used to them, so this is what I've been doing so far:

First off, we arrive and head up to the staff area. As of yesterday I learnt the exciting way to do this, which involves going through the stage door, past the dressing rooms, through a door into the wings, around the back of the stage behind the set, through a door, through a box, round the dress circle and up. Have to say being on the stage is flipping exciting. I had one of those moments 'I am on a West End Stage! ME! Aaaaaaaarghkanpacapcoasiasncopjsainasop!!!!' I have never really wanted to be a performer but I think there's a little bit in everyone that dreams of it. Mine was definitely let loose when I looked through the gauze stuff representing a window out onto the seats.

The staff area is at the top of the theatre behind the Grand Circle. It consists of a kitchen, bathroom, offices and dressing area. Here we get changed into the uniform: black trousers, white shirt with a gold emblem and a maroon apron tied around the waist. Then we meet in one of the bar areas for a briefing.

My first job so far has been to stand guard in the foyer before the bar opens. I'm not quite sure why, but four of us line up along the bottom of the steps even though it's obvious that anything beyond is still closed as ropes are up. I think we look initmidating, but we're supposed to be there to be friendly and answer anyone's questions. When we get the signal we remove the ropes and stand in our positions by the different doors from the foyer ready to take ticket stubs, inform people where they should go for their seats, and tell the 500 people who ask where the nearest toilets are.

Once the foyer is cleared, we line up at the front doors ready to deal with latecomers. They can't enter once the performance has started but can watch what's happening on a TV screen in the bar, and then we take them up in time for the first scene change, at which point they can get to their seats.

Then I have the ultra glamorous job of toilet checking. Probably best to get this sooner rather than later.

I take the ticket stubs I ripped earlier to the front desk where they need to be sorted into order. On Friday when we had about 850 people in, this took a long time. Yesterday matinee, we had 250 people in. It took about 3 minutes.

A quick break if I'm lucky, then ready for interval duty. I'm on front doors, making sure people have their tickets to go in and out with and give them plastic cups as they're not allowed glass outside. I think one of the craziest things I've ever done may have been on the first night, when there were loads of people outside smoking. We got the 5 minute call for the 2nd half so I had to go outside and YELL the warning at people. Me, in the middle of London, shouting down Shaftsbury Avenue at the top of my voice! Not something I ever pictured myself doing!

In the second half it's counting more ticket stubs and then I get a radio for foyer duty. Again on the first night this was really busy and before I knew it, it was the end of the show. It was a pretty boring duty yesterday though, as no one was about, ticket counting was done really quickly and so it just involved waiting around til the end of the show. This is when the feet really start to kill from standing up for so long! Towards the end of the play, tthe stage manager makes an annoucement into the foyer that the curtain will fall in 5 minutes, which I have to radio to everyone else positioned around the theatre so they know to come down for outgoing duties. Mine involve standing on the front door waving programmes at people which they don't want and wishing them good night.

After all that, it's a debrief, then back upstairs to get changed and home!

I haven't managed to see any of the play so far, but can direct people to Leicester Square and the Ladies' toilets. When we swap round duties I'll get to sit in on some of it. I am exhausted, my feet feel like they want to drop off, run away and hibernate but I am having so much fun!! The people I work with are just lovely and we all get on really well. I can honestly say again that I'm looking forward to going to work again! Just not putting on my work shoes : \

4) The house hunt. OK, so as mentioned I found somewhere to live! Hurrah! My friend has the patience of a saint for letting me stay. The last 2 nights I've got in after she's gone to bed so I've had to climb over her when I've got in. It's strange but even though I've been living with her all week I actually haven't seen her since Monday night. She leaves early when I'm still half-asleep and I get in late when she's half-asleep. We've managed to grunt at each other but that's about the extent of our conversation! I miss her! Hopefully we'll get to catch up properly at the weekend. So, feeling bad about waking her up every night and her having to tiptoe round me every morning, I decided I needed to find somewhere fast. When I picked up my phone after my shift on Tuesday night I had a message from the guy in the first house I'd seen saying it was taken. Disappointing as it was lovely, but in the meatime I'd arranged to see this other place yesterday morning. It's in Shepherd's Bush, behind the BBC and QPR football stadium. Oddly enough, it's also very near where I went to see Ella and The Bad Shepherds play last year with Ellen, Jella and Jo. It's on a quiet little terraced street and the room is small but functional. The house is owned by a lovely lady who showed me round- one of her daughters has the downstairs, which is accessed through a separate door, and she lets the upstairs which has a separate kitchen and bathroom. Apparently there are 2 other tenants but I didn't meet them. It's not exactly a top-notch place - the kitchen leaves a LOT to be desired - but it's available now, it's very reasonably priced and it's in a good location which I know and won't take too long to reach central London. It's walking distance to Westfield (probably a dangerous thing) with local shops, and I also need to walk past the BBC every day, so plenty of opportunities for spying/mentally shouting abuse. Anyway, I can move in today so intend to start shifting stuff over there later on! So I won't need to climb over anybody tonight to get in!

It feels like I've been here for ages now, even though it's been less than a week. I have been catapulted into a completely different way of life; completely swept up in it. Every time I pause to think, I realise just how crazy it is, but how I'm absolutely loving it!

More soon pets xxx