Monday, 11 February 2013

Out of the Darkness

"We’ll Be Watching The Audience"

The answer to the question ‘what should you be doing whilst sitting in the auditorium?’ on the obligatory training questionnaire. And yes, ho ho, that will be true now on more than one level.

Yes, Dame H has entered the building and it’s all very exciting, actually. We were back for the first day of training today and the show opens to the public at the end of this week. I have had a couple of brief sightings of her, looking very dressed down and ‘normal’ as if she could blend in anywhere. This is lucky because she is absolutely everywhere in the media at present and thus probably the most famous woman in the country except perhaps the Queen herself. This will be the busiest show the theatre has seen in a number of years, and I suspect that some of our newer starters will be in for a shock at working on a sold out performance. And there will be a lot of those.

We're back after 6 weeks of ‘darkness’ which has actually gone by pretty quickly. In the end, I only had 1 week with no work at all. For the first fortnight, I covered shifts on stage door at the Gielgud, first working the busy ‘get out’ and then staring blankly as nothing happened for the remainder of the time. I got used to locking up solo and happily had a constant stream of visitors to help while away the hours!

My birthday was great and even more extended that last year’s festivities. We spent the night before in a cocktail bar and then a club, with a select number having dinner with me beforehand. The best thing about the night was that so many people came: not all could stay long but that worked nicely as different people came and went as the evening went on. Myles made me the most beautiful scrapbook, full of memories from the last year which I adore and I got a great pile of cards and gifts from a plethora of wonderful friends. On my birthday itself, I headed to Bristol and went out for a meal with Ollie, who surprised me with his gift: a trip to Florence in March to see Mumford and Sons in concert! I cannot wait for that! I spent a long weekend with him, having arranged other stage door cover for the days I was away. We had a little trip up to Cheltenham one day and just enjoyed actually getting to spend some time together.

I returned to London in time for the next leg of my celebration, which was a fabulous night at the theatre to see Viva Forever courtesy of Viv! We had a great laugh, sampled ‘Spice Girl Cocktails’ in the interval and attended a Q&A session with the cast after the performance. Three of us then decided to go for a drink afterwards and discovered a load of cast members already in the pub when we got there!

I returned to Bristol again a few days later, this time amidst the chaos that is Britain in snow. We spent a few days slipping about the place, went for a wintry walk along the canal in Bath and on the Sunday slid our way to a local pub for roast. Most cosy.  The snow stuck around, but I made it down to Kent in the next week with Myles in tow, and we had a lovely few days meeting family members, exploring the countryside and Canterbury, playing Cilla Black to a pair of ponies, getting hysterical after being stalked by an enthusiastic tour guide and learning about Princess Anne’s abilities at synchronised swimming. I think that’s right.

Work of sorts recommenced the following week as I was invited to help work on the press night of ‘Quartermaine’s Terms’ starring Rowan Atkinson. Funnily enough I’d seen the poster advertising the show in Bath, and said I must go to see it. It turned out entirely for the best as although I didn’t see much of the show, I had a great night in a theatre with a somewhat more relaxed atmosphere to the one I’m used to. Instead of a party, champagne was served to audience members in the auditorium after the show had finished, and Myles, who was there with a free ticket, certainly made the most of that! My fellow ushers did not wish to miss out on the action however, and before long I was being dragged down to the cellar, to help ‘put the stock away’. Pick up has never been so fun...

We must have behaved well enough though, as we were invited back and I have spent most of the last week working there. I got to see the whole show properly, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and it was nice to have a bit of steady work in the one week I had always expected to be jobless. On Thursday, the one day I did have off, our little gang headed south and had a great evening ten pin bowling. Although it’s been annoying spending more time than expected unemployed, I have enjoyed having the luxury of evenings and the freedom of weekends. One Friday night, in particular, I went with Sophie to see her friend play in a band in a pub in Camden. It was a simple thing of the sort many people here do all the time, but it was such a rare treat for me. I loved it, partly because it reminded me of what a vibrant place London is, of how creative and alive it is. It was magical to be reminded that stuff like that gig happen in pubs and clubs all over the city every night – talented musicians, comedians and actors perform and people go along to enjoy it. It sounds silly but I never get to see it, and we had such a good time.

An epiphany the other day made me realise I am running out of reasons to stay here, and I shall be upping my bid now in the attempt to move back west. We’ll see what happens, but were it not for my friends I’d probably have found the inspiration to leave long ago.

One thing I do definitely have to look forward to however, with some of said friends, is the Moon Walk in May! Four of us have signed up to don our glittery, hand-decorated bras, and speed-walk 13 miles through the streets of London at night, along with thousands of others in the name of breast cancer charities. It should be an absolute hoot, whilst raising money for great causes, so if you read this and I haven’t nagged you already.... :)

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