Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Act 2?

So I had the aforementioned interview yesterday... and apparently it went well! He offered me the job on the spot, and I start tonight!

It's strange to think of moving on from the Gielgud and doing something similar elsewhere, but I am quite excited that it'll be on such a great show; a show that won't be going anywhere anytime soon and I will be working with two people I already know. The staff I met yesterday seemed very friendly and I even got a glimpse of the famous chandelier on stage! I last saw Phantom of the Opera about six years ago and I absolutely adored it; it is one of my favourite musicals so I hope I don't get fed up of it too soon!

It is strange that the two of us who sang Phantom at the work kareoke Christmas party should end up working there. And that James F was in the movie version. Weird fate playing tricks on me again.

Nice long weekend making the most of unemployment by visiting Bristol and Kent. Got some quality time with my godson on Monday, who has become the most gorgeous, happy, bouncing 8 month old baby imaginable. And who looks entirely like his mother.

Am so pleased that I haven't had to remain unemployed for too long and that I'll still be in theatre. Intend however to make efforts to keep seeking out whatever it is I want to do and search for 'real' jobs. Phantom has been running for 25 years (making it the same age as me!), and I do not intend to still be selling ice creams there when I'm 50!

Thursday, 19 April 2012


Having had a few days to recover, it is high time I got round to doing a write up about the end of last week, particularly Saturday. I knew before it occurred that it would certainly be emotional: just didn’t know whether this would be in a good or bad way.

Firstly, I finally got around to organising it so a small group of friends could gain access to the set on Friday to take photos. We’d been wanting to do this for so long, and although I’d been on set before, hadn’t had the freedom to play on it as much as I’d have liked – plus most of the others hadn’t been on stage at all and I know they wanted to. So, with them, after the performance on Friday, I went onto the stage and we basically behaved like children in a playground: running around, playing with everything and posing for photographs. The set has always been undoubtedly one of the most exciting things about the show (it was nominated for an Olivier Award and from day one we were fascinated by it) so it was wonderful being there with my friends.

After this, we went to the pub for a drink and were discussing the strangeness of the day ahead. We were already feeling very sad, not believing that we only had two shows left until the end. I had heard that there was to be an after party after all, only we were still unsure as to whether or not we would get an invite. On Thursday, Phil had seemed fairly confident we would; on Friday not so much. We were also desperate to get photos taken with the actors and were annoyed with ourselves that we’d left it to the last minute. We were trying to work out when might be a good idea to try and arrange this, so I tweeted Ben and James to ask when they thought would work. Ben suggested after the party or the matinee. I told him we may not be going to the party, and then proceeded to have a surreal conversation with him about Griff Rhys-Jones and his nuts (he’d been in that night, I’d asked him to take his peanuts off the ledge in the dress circle – it all makes sense really!)

James sent me a message the following morning saying that there was to be some kind of cake and photo session on stage between shows which we may be able to gatecrash, but if not then they’d be around all day. He described the feeling as being akin to the last day of school, which was accurate. I travelled into Soho with a weird sense of finality.

Had another of those weird moments which made me reflect on the absurdity of my life when standing in a stationery shop in Soho at lunchtime choosing a thank you card to give to James. If you’d told me I’d be doing THAT a year ago...

Had some lunch then headed off for the last time to stage door. Stood outside in the cool sunshine for a while, feeling oddly elated with excitement, whilst also tinged with slight desperation and despair. When Will turned up I spontaneously hugged him and there was rather an exciting, magical feel in the air when others arrived too. I saw James briefly, to whom I gave the card and he said he’d see me around later. As we headed up the stairs, it felt like we were going to our final curtain call.

The matinee shift was fine – uneventful, very busy. I was amusingly distracted whilst sitting in in the Grand Circle by our manager giving us updates about the Grand National as there had been a sweepstake in the theatre. James messaged me again to explain the aforementioned cake session was for cast and producers only as it was Peter’s birthday. I said I’d catch him later then and he said at the end of the evening he’d be around, after shaving his moustache off! (I became worried that we wouldn’t see them– if their party post-matinee was too long, we’d miss them; if things were too busy or we took too long getting out at the end of the night, we’d miss them) Sure enough, when we were finishing clearing up after the afternoon audience left, there was quite a crowd on stage. A cake with candles was brought out, Happy Birthday was sung and a speech was made by Peter. We slunk away upstairs, got changed and with resignation realised we had to go out for food as the break was slipping away.

By the time we’d got back with pizzas the stage was empty and actors nowhere to be seen. At this point I was feeling quite crushed – not only were we now facing the reality of having only one more shift together, but it was seemingly increasingly unlikely that we would catch the cast and I so wanted to say goodbye if nothing else. It was also now clear that we were not invited to the party, and whilst we knew we would make our own fun it was a shame to think we couldn’t all celebrate the end of the show together.

We readied ourselves for the final show and assembled as usual in the stalls bar for the meeting. Everything was feeling so odd now: every little thing we did, we knew we were doing for the last time. We even said our fire evacuation positions with particular relish! Our manager announced she was buying us a drink for the end of the night, so took orders and promised they’d be set up in the bar after the show. We had a photo taken, all of us together, and then went to set up for the final show.

Earlier in the week I negotiated working in my favourite position for the last shift, so headed up to the Dress Circle. Everyone felt slightly manic: we were taking photos of everything and swooping between hysterical joy at the feeling of being there and being together, and almost crying from the knowledge it would only be for a matter of hours longer.

In the dress circle that evening was the assistant director, a producer and Clive Rowe, whom I chatted to and was, for the most part, seeing the show for the first time! I sat in for most of the first act and it was really a great show – the actors seemed to be feeling similar to us and were doing a great job. After the interval I did my usual half hour stint on stage door, where I was amazed to find myself in charge of a beautiful hard-backed book, full of production photos, many of which haven’t been publically published. Apparently each of the cast had been given one. Had a good look through; it really was gorgeous and would have loved to steal one!

I was back front of house with about 15 minutes left of the show. I sneaked into the back of the dress circle and watched the final few scenes clinging onto Myles’ hand as we felt so emotional. At Mrs Wilberforce’s final line: ‘Everything’s going to be alright!’ I dug my nails in, hoping she was right. The lights went down and everyone roared. As many of us ushers as could get away with it stood inside the auditorium and we clapped and cheered louder than we ever had before. Many audience members were on their feet and I felt tears in my eyes. Even the old lady extras and understudies came out for the curtain call and as the curtain descended, the main cast waved from the stage, happy and relieved smiles on their faces.

It was hard recovering from that in order to wave my programmes with a professional smile on my face, but I managed nonetheless and we set about our end of night routine. I was anxious to get done as quickly as possible, but also relished those final moments working with my friends, and laughed when Myles emerged from the stalls with General Gordon’s feathers sticking out of every pocket. For once, the debrief contained no discussion of problems, complaints and mouse-spots, only thanks for our work, a reminder that our drinks were downstairs and a hope to see us all in the future.

Still hopeful of catching the cast, I, along with some others, took my drink upstairs after toasting the Gielgud. I got ready quickly, handed in my uniform and checked my locker was empty. Putting the key on the supervisor desk was sadly reminiscent of that closing scene in Friends.

Downstairs, I discovered the bar staff, one or two ex-colleagues from other theatres and a busy stage door with a number of people waiting outside for autographs. After all that fuss, I also learnt that James had gone, as had Stephen and Harry. I was disappointed, but pleased at least I’d made it out in time to still catch Peter, Ben and Marcia. I talked for a while at stage door to Phil, a couple of other front of housers and Marcus, the company manager, from whose horse’s mouth I learnt the party was by guest list only. I had passed caring about that by then though, focused instead on saying goodbye to the remaining actors there, and having a good night out with my friends.

The waiting crowd were excitable and a little pushy. Whilst I was there, one of the old ladies came out and I heard several of them wondering whether or not it was Marcia. One asked me who she was and I explained. He insisted I found her in the programme, so I pointed out to him where her name was credited. When she stepped outside he asked her for an autograph, partly to humour her and partly because he was, I think, a little ‘merry’. This particular lady is known for her rather grand ways, and when I winked at her and smiled about the fact she was being asked for a signature, she rather stiffly responded ‘I was in an episode of Doctor Who, you know!’ Whoops.

A while later, Marcia emerged, and the crowd surrounded her. I watched from a distance, and, telling how uncomfortable it made her, kept that distance and let her go without further harassment. There was a brief hiatus, when suddenly the crowd surged again. From stage door emerged a pair of women, one young and carrying a box of cupcakes. This was Peter’s daughter (the nicknamed ‘Flossie’!), who was in good spirits and handing out the uneaten cakes to people standing there. She gave me one, which I nibbled at a little before passing it to someone else. Behind her, carrying bags full of possessions, came Peter. He made his way around the excitable audience, autographing and posing for pictures patiently. He asked his wife to wait a little way off until he’d finished. As he was about to take his leave, I asked him for a photograph myself and he kindly obliged. I asked him how he was and he said ‘tired’ then asked if we were coming to the party. Slightly awkward moment when I had to explain we weren’t invited! He kissed me on the cheeks and said goodbye, leaving with his family to the members’ club.

Meanwhile, Kieron had hatched a plan to pretend that when Myles emerged, he would act as if he was famous. When this came together it was hilarious: he shoved through the crowds to take photos and insisted on having a picture taken with him at stage door. I watched, laughing so hard as the waiting crowds frantically checked their programmes to check who he was! One woman even asked him for an autograph!

Eventually, all my friends were outside and deciding where to go. I said I still wanted to wait to see Ben, and several of them agreed, so we stood around, waiting, chatting and laughing. Suddenly, I was aware of great excitement to my right, and heard several of the waiting crowds calling ‘Ben, Ben!’ It was strange: the most people outside had ever acted like proper ‘fans’, thrilled to see the celebrity they were waiting for. Sure enough, Ben appeared and spent some time working his way around everyone there. As each person finally got his autograph to complete their collection, they left, which gradually left just him and us there. I stood by and when the final person had his signature and departed, caught his eye. “Rachel!” he called. “Ben!” I returned. He gave me a lovely huge hug in greeting. Again, a similar awkward conversation occurred, in which he asked me if we were coming to the party and I had to explain the circumstances. He asked what we were doing instead and expressed interest in the bar I mentioned. I jokingly said he should join us later and he said he might if the cast party fell apart! We had photos with him (not just me that time!) and parted ways.

I felt sad at saying goodbye to him and the others, as I really have got to know them and knew I would miss not seeing them around every day. However, overriding that was happiness that I’d seen and got the pictures with those two at least, and now I was about to go and party with a huge group of wonderful, wonderful people. Yes, the knowledge we’d never all be together again, and that The Ladykillers had closed was heart-wrenching, but at that moment I felt such joy at being with them, grateful for the amazing run we’d had and happy that the day had turned out to be such a brilliant way to end things.

We headed off, as we have so many times before, to the Phoenix, where we discovered a buzzing atmosphere. The music was great, people were dancing and the DJ was taking requests: so I got straight in there with a bit of Lulu! He dedicated it to the Gielgud on their closing night, and we’d barely sat down before we were up again on our feet, dancing and singing.

At 1am I checked my phone and saw I had a message from Ben. It said simply ‘You were sorely missed x’! I replied, expressing  my sadness and suggesting he could still come and join us! He responded to say he was already home but hoped we would have a great night. Feeling emotional but jubilant (and tipsy), I returned to my friends and we proceeded to have the best night out ever. After the bar closed we went onto a nightclub, which we eventually left at gone 5, went to McDonalds, came out in daylight and I got home at nearly 7. A man in a business suit got on the bus at the same time I was getting off!

After sleeping for a few hours, I woke to find a message from James saying he’d waited for me but must have missed me and suggesting we didn’t miss out on much at the party! Got the same impression from Phil, so am glad things turned out the way they did. Spent the rest of the day feeling quite deflated and low, on the descent back to Earth. Had a bit of a Bridget Jones moment sitting in bed eating instant noodles and watching Marcia and Ben on the red carpet at the Oliver Awards. The Ladykillers had been nominated for five awards, and although it didn’t win any in the end, clearly got the loudest cheer when its name was read out as a nominee!

I have spent the first part of this week floundering slightly. It felt like on Saturday night someone had pushed me off of a cliff and I was hanging suspended in midair, unsure where I was going to land. Finally today I had the presence of mind to get out there and distribute my CV around theatres, and as a result I have an interview next week at Her Majesty’s. Fingers crossed the next chapter is coming very soon...

Thursday, 12 April 2012


How to summarise the events of the last week?! I hardly know. Let it just be said for now that on Tuesday evening, I found myself having a cup ot tea with James in his dressing room while we talked about work. He was giving me advice, listening to my thoughts and encouraging me to follow my dreams. I don't want to write all the details here, but how incredible to have had such an experience in my last week at the Gielgud. And how wonderful to have spent some time with and got to know such a lovely man. How strange that it was him, the one cast member I had previously spoken to the least, but the one I always knew the most from growing up watching The Vicar of Dibley.

This, along with Peter's cheese, a guide dog, a visit from mum and (brother) James, some free live jazz, an Indian meal (and me finally getting to eat some meat(!) after Lent -- yes I kept to it) are all combining together to make what's so far been a pretty great final week.

3 more days.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Keepsake :)

My new favourite thing:

Love the little personalised messages! Will keep it forever :)

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Butterfly Effect

One does not need to go back in time to change the course of history. Instead, one can make a decision now, and change the course of the future.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Remains of the Day

For the last week I have been experiencing everything with a bittersweet taste. Now that we have edged into April, this will only grow worse. The emotions I have been feeling are ones I haven't experienced since my last year in school. I loved school and enjoyed every day; I so desperately did not want to leave. Thus, each day then, although happy, was lived with a sense of desperation: knowing that it would all soon end and there was nothing I could do about it.

Every day now feels exactly the same as that. The weeks have shot past so quickly it's frightening. And now here we are with just two more weeks left of The Ladykillers, my job and life as I know it.

It is all but now cemented fact that after this the theatre will go dark, possibly for as long as two months. And so my group of friends front of house will be dispersed and never come together in the same way again. A couple are already planning an early exit in order to get a new job before we close. I am unlikely to ever see again the cast members I've got to know. I will miss the show so much. In fact, although it should probably be, being out of employment is one of the least of my troubles. April 14th is starting to loom like a beast in the darkness.

It is simply that I feel so happy and comfortable at the Gielgud. Everyone front of house gets on so well; we are like a big family. I have more self-confidence than I ever have before. I have met people whom I consider now to be amongst my closest friends in the world  - the type of friends I can confide anything in. I love feeling so confident and competent at my job. I like having people backstage - cast and crew - waving at me from through stage door when they see me. It all makes me feel so at home.

As part of my desperation, I am savouring every moment. I am trying not to moan at work. I am laughing every night. I am seizing opportunities.

In an unusal last-minute twist, I have got to know the two actors I hadn't spoken to as much as the others previously. This has led to a couple of wonderful conversations this week which I hope to always remember...

On Wednesday night I came down to stage door at the end of the shift to wait for my friends. James and Marcia were there waiting for their taxi. Surpisingly, James greeted me by asking me how I was. We made small talk for a while when they asked what was next for the theatre. When I told them that when this closes there was nothing more planned and so us lot would be out of jobs, they were so genuinely shocked and concerned! Marcia offered lots of sympathy and arm patting. James was asking questions and looking concerned. Their car then arrived, and he said 'Oh, I shall worry about you now!' I thanked them profusely and tried to shrug it off in a 'que sera sera' kind of way, but their kindness made me feel so emotional.

The following night, a similar thing happened. I was there, again waiting for my friends (their slowness can be forgiven when it leads to these kinds of situations!)  when James came out. He signed some autographs for people, then came over to me. "I've been worrying about you," he said. I told him that was very sweet and he went on: "I think you should work for a casting agents, you know." I told him I wasn't an actor. "That doesn't matter," he continued. "You're very clever." He said it was a pleasure to meet me properly (he'd only just connected my username online with my actual self) and left. Again, I was left bowled over by his kindness and amazed I'd just been given career advice by a well-known actor!

I can in fact summarise the advice I've been given by various members of our cast on what to do post-Ladykillers:

Marcia: general sympathy and good luck wishes.
James: become a casting agent.
Ben: 'flit to the next blossom'.
Stephen: 'drink at home, it's cheaper'!

I shall take and leave them as I see fit! SUCH a lovely bunch though. I have left a programme at stage door so they can sign it for me - will be a nice momento to keep after they have left.

In a more-uplifting bit of cast gossip, I had another hilarious conversation with Mr Miller. This time it was about Rich Hall, whom I had been telling him was in the audience that night. I asked if he knew him and he told me a tale of a time he'd got the train down from Edinburgh with him once. Apparently Rich said he was just going to get a sandwich, but instead of going to the buffet car, Ben saw him on the train platform! Of course, the train pulled out without him, leaving Ben with all of his bags (Ben imitated Rich's accent when reporting his speech). He concluded by saying that he next saw him a year later and the first and only thing Rich said was 'I got my sandwich'! By this time, my friends had appeared and Ben was distracted by his taxi arriving. As I greeted my friends, he walked off, but not before calling back 'Bye Rachel!'. I called back 'See you Ben!', to which my friends' jaws dropped a little :P

On Thursday I worked an extra matinee shift on 'Noises Off' at the Novello, starring Celia Imrie. That was really enjoyable: the play was fantastic and the theatre beautiful with friendly staff. Hoping it might be an option for a transfer.

Also this week, I met up with James (my not so little brother) and we had a lovely long lunch and walk in the sun (weather has continued to be glorious). We wound up at the theatre in time for my shift, and Phil permitted me to show him round backstage. It was great to poke around the set again and I think such a tour makes me officially a cool older sister?! Looking forward to James and Mum finally getting to see it on the 11th :)

Over six months ago I began this blog, not knowing if my new job would even extend beyond the end of November. I may be speaking a load of overly-sentimental hogwash today, but it's been an emotional week. Know that I could not be more grateful for what has happened since September. Reminding myself that everything that has happened to me so far has absolutely been for the best, and hoping the next adventure (whether it be working for a casting agency or sipping Tesco's own vodka alone in my room) is just around the corner.