And so, here we are. Another show gone; the theatre dark again. Whilst Ladykillers went out with a huge emotional bang, for me Chariots of Fire ended with more of a limp over the finishing line. The feeling of disappointment was somewhat palpable: we could not escape the audience asking us why it was finishing early and there was a taste of bitterness in the air.
Personally, I felt surprisingly little on Saturday, which could not contrast more with our last closing night. There is virtually nothing I will miss about the show, and it is actually a relief to know I won’t be watching it again. Already the lines and finer plot points are melting from my mind, as if I’m waking up from a long dream.
The house was almost full for both shows on Saturday. I was working on bar, but sneaked into the back of the stalls at the end to watch the curtain call. I clapped for the members of the company who had been friendly in our seven months together, especially for wonderful Nickolas, who stripped off his academic robes and joined in with the final laps around the track! The whole audience were on their feet, even, touchingly, a severely disabled girl who was determined to show her support for the show. It really did inspire many people, which is great to know, although it was never my cup of tea.
At the end, our team would disband once again, but still I felt very little. For me, the worst had already happened. Some of my dearest friends had already left. My emotions had been drained just a few nights previously when the incomparable Klara had her last night. I cried on the street at the bus stop with her (she has gone to Chile for at least five months) and so nothing on Saturday could rival that strength of feeling.
|For comparions sake: our team on the last day (we got the same shot last time)|
Myles, Maria and I went down to visit Nickolas in his dressing room afterwards to say our own goodbyes. He is a very unique person; quite the most immediately open and friendly actor I’ve worked with. He is honest, generous and funny and he is without doubt the thing I shall miss most about the show. He tells us he will include Myles in his autobiography, which, if true, would be staggeringly brilliant.
Feeling deflated, and a little angry with the world, I wasn’t in the mood for the partying we had planned for afterwards. I couldn’t stop thinking about the ending of our last show, and the stupid contrast in the way everything felt. Then, I was carried on a tidal wave of emotions; I wanted to be involved in every moment of the day, soaking it all in. I wanted to run down to see the cast afterwards and find out if we could attend their party. This time, I didn’t even want to.
However, this was our closing night and so a collective decision was made to block out all the bad things and to focus on having a good time. So, as large glasses of wine and double measures of spirits were ordered in a packed bar full of people we knew, with music blasting out, I loosened up. I requested Lulu (naturally), ignored some people and focused on others and actually began to have fun. The bar we were in learnt it was our closing night and duly played the Vangelis music, dear oh dear.
And then, a slightly strange turn of events occurred when my friend nudged me and gestured over to the bar. There, with a few friends was Stephen, who had been one of the principal actors in The Ladykillers! I hadn’t seen him since that last day and had even missed him at the end of that. It was so absurd that he should turn up all these months later when we were celebrating the closure of the subsequent show, and so incredibly amazing to see him! Being at this stage softened and merried by rose, I approached him without qualms. Being in a similar state, he was equally glad to see me, it seemed, and we hugged like old friends, chatting for ages and catching up. He introduced me to his friends and called me ‘Rach’ like he always used to. It was all utterly surreal and wonderful.
Later, Maria and I saw him again and she asked him to recite one of our favourite lines from the play he used to say. Poor guy had some issues remembering what on earth we were talking about but we cajoled him into performing in the end. We discussed going onto the same club afterwards but in the end went separate ways. I was amazed at the random coincidence of him turning up on the last night of Chariots, thrilled to have seen him and happy in the knowledge that I have spoken to nearly all of that cast since the show closed. I still do miss them/it very much. It was even stranger a coincidence seeing as an envelope for Peter had arrived at stage door that same day (first time in months – someone really missed the boat!) and we had post there for Marcus, another company member too. It was like being in a time warp!
After that, the night mirrored our last closing night perfectly, in that we moved from the same bar we’d been in before to the same nightclub, danced there til it closed and queued in a nearby McDonalds for breakfast food (only tastes good in that specific set of circumstances). I got home in the early hours of the morning and slept immediately. When I woke, I felt a pure and satisfying sense of closure (and a very sore head).
Anyway, it was impossible to feel too sad about leaving the Gielgud itself because I knew I’d be back there on Monday. I have worked two afternoons on stage door so far, which have been unlike anything I’ve done before because the ‘get out’ has been happening. This, for those who don’t know, means exactly what it sounds like it means: lots of blokes come in to rip out the set, and put it in a truck, and dressing rooms, wardrobe etc are all cleared out. It’s been busy, but has gone well so everyone’s been in a good mood and the box has felt like an island of calm in amongst all the passing craziness as people run in and out of the building lugging various bits of equipment. One of the stage managers gave me a serving of Quality Streets on a plate and Nicko popped by to collect the rest of his things, to wish me ‘happy Easter’ and to give me a crème egg(!) Marcus also came in to collect his post so chatted to him for a while: another old LK face from ‘back in the day’.
It has been strange finishing work by 6.30pm and locking up by myself. Today, it was literally by myself: I was the last one left and felt a mixture of mild terror and excitement at the responsibility bestowed upon me! It was very weird being the only person in the whole building and responsible for locking it up safely for the night. With our first evening off on Monday, we went to the theatre (I know) to see ‘Privates on Parade’. It was unlike anything I’ve seen and very well done. Myles knew the understudy who was playing that night so we went for a drink with her afterwards. Tonight, I have simply enjoyed a whole evening to myself in the flat, cooking dinner at a sensible hour and watching DVDs and the first episode of Ben’s Death in Paradise. Strange having a vested interest in the programme and knowing so much about it. Funny to think I was sent messages from that set and have been shown photos of the crew there on their breaks.
Thursday is my birthday and I’m going out tomorrow to celebrate. It’ll be quite nice having the whole evening for a change: we can start as soon as I put the padlock on the stage door! I then have a long weekend in Bristol to look forward to. I’m told I should be ‘very excited’ about my birthday present! Man of mystery. I shall turn 26 which is officially closer to 30 than 20, but will do my best to remain unconcerned, do what I enjoy and hope that the year ahead will be a happy one.