Tuesday, 14 May 2013
OK, listen up, before I take my leave. In my first few days at the Gielgud I spotted a few celebrities and soon realised this would be a regular occurrence. I knew, at that rate, I'd be likely to forget all the famous names that I saw, so began keeping a list. I updated it every time another celeb was spotted, and here it is - the final list, ready for publication. Some of these I saw more than once. Some I worked with. For the purposes of clarity, if a name has an *asterisk by it, I saw the person randomly - usually because they came to the theatre to see a show, sometimes just on a street somewhere. Names without asterisks are those I saw deliberately - either by having a ticket to see them in a play or at an event, or because they were a member of a cast I worked with. Some I saw in both circumstances, and so they are starred or not depending on my first encounter with them. Capiche?
Bill Nighy?* (not sure, think it was him but it was passing on a street and I didn't like to stare)
Richard E Grant*
McFly x2* (don't ask me which ones)
Someone from Made in Chelsea*(? - God knows, I was told this was the case)
Noel Edmonds* (Not in London, but thought I'd include him anyway)
Dame Helen Mirren
I thank ye.
“So, hopefully, this is the start of my big adventure. My new year's resolution this year was to be brave and start living my life. I think I might just have achieved that. I shall keep you posted!!”
These were the closing words of my first post in this blog. The ‘adventure’ which followed was certainly big – bigger than I could’ve imagined then and led on to the greatest time of my life. That adventure came to its close last week, but in style, making for an unforgettable climax.
Exactly one week before my leaving date, the occasion was marked by my two favourite celebrities finally walking into the theatre. After seeing so many famous faces come through the door of the theatre, my week was made by the two and only French and Saunders strolling in together! We prepped their interval drinks with a decorated order slip and (through just a tiny bit of misbehaving) I managed to chat to them both at the interval. They were every bit as lovely and funny as I hoped. Major high.
On the Saturday following that, we had a shift during which an incident happened that two days later would make the international press. It is an astonishing thing to witness a story first hand and then to see how it gets reported, exaggerated and responded to in the press. I needn’t tell you about it myself: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/4917429/helen-mirren-drummers-rant.html
On the night, it was very funny but we never thought it would get far beyond the little village of the West End. But when I turned up to work on Monday, I was greeted by a throng of press: TV cameras and journalists. Helen came in just afterwards wearing the T shirt in one of the pictures in the article. I listened to her being interviewed and cleverly spinning the story in her favour.
The following day, I was on stage door and hoped that it would all be over. On the contrary – ‘drumgate’ continued with Helen doing a photo shoot outside with some of the drummers involved. She brought them inside the theatre, ushering them along behind her at such a speed I couldn’t possibly sign them in, so wrote ‘Drummers x4’ on the visitor sheet. Since the whole affair, I have had emails and messages from around the globe and pretended to laugh at countless customers’ joke about drums.
Also that Tuesday I spoke more to the actor in the cast I’ve got on the best with to date and unearthed all sorts of ‘small world’ type coincidences – he knows the villages where I’m from and my sister goes to school with his neighbour’s son. I invited him along to my leaving do on Thursday.
Which brings us onto my last day. Thursday 9th May. I met with Myles, Greg and Maria for a spot of afternoon tea and then we headed into the theatre early to mess around and take photos on stage. I had been allowed to choose my position on the rota for the evening and had a nice shift despite a South American guy who was late twice because he couldn’t wait to have a cigarette.
At the debrief meeting I was presented with a beautiful card and present and we headed off to the Phoenix. So many people were there, which was wonderful. Almost the whole of the bar and front of house teams; box office; backstage; supervisors; people I have worked with in the past and Paul from the cast, who came later as promised. We stayed til close, I had a wonderful time and went back to Myles’ afterwards against my will because I was deemed too emotional to make it home alone!
My first evening off was spent with Sophie, having a nice Italian meal in Covent Garden. Then it was back to the Gielgud, as if I couldn’t stay away for more than 24 hours. It was strange watching everyone come out from a distance. I met Myles and we returned to his house to make the final preparations for the next day: The Moonwalk!
We’d been in training – in a fairly loose sense – for the half marathon walk for several months and were so excited about it! We’d dressed our bras in sweet wrappers (the theme was ‘space’ so we found a good excuse to eat lots of Mars, Galaxy and Milky Way bars); donned ourselves in flashing pink tutus and headgear and headed to Battersea and the pink tent. The atmosphere was amazing; we had a fab time around the course and there was a great sense of camaraderie throughout. I am so proud of my team who together have raised over £1000 and counting for breast cancer charities.
I got home at 8am on Sunday morning, went straight to sleep and awoke early evening to immediately pack and head down to Kent. And so, farewell London. And also, farewell to this blog. I will end it with the end of my time in the city, to close the chapter properly. It’s been amazing and great to report my adventures here.
Thank you for reading.
Tuesday, 7 May 2013
Although I haven’t updated this blog in a while, I think all who read it know the latest news anyway, and that is that this week is my last in London and thus in employment at the Gielgud Theatre. And what a week it has been. From the best #celebrityspots of my whole career here, to the theatre being at the centre of a Bank Holiday ‘and finally’ style news story that’s gone global, it has certainly ensured I’m going out with a bang.
In leaving, I am ending what has truly been the most brilliant, crazy, funny, insane, unique and unforgettable chapters in my life. When I began writing here, I was excited about the prospect of living and working in London, but had no idea just what an incredible adventure would unfold. And now, in leaving, I must write here again in an attempt to pay tribute to the best nineteen months imaginable.
Aptly, I am writing from the stage door ‘box’, probably my last time here. My career as stage door keeper has been hugely fun, sometimes stressful, but has led to some of my favourite Gielgud memories, and has created friendships I’d never otherwise have made. In my first shift, I discussed jacket potatoes with Ben Miller, and in a more recent one bundled Helen Mirren into the back of a Mercedes. It’s an unusual way of making a living, and has no doubt afforded me tales I can tell in years to come!
My cover shifts on bar and kiosk have been equally varied if not quite as glamorous. The most stressful times on bar have involved tearing around for well over an hour, racing against time to prepare the interval orders before the last words of act one are spoken on stage. Most recently this has involved us yelling ‘No, don’t draw the line!’ at Dame Helen, and back in the day ‘Oh God, teatime is five, arghh!’ at the sound of Peter Capaldi’s final line before the break of ‘The Ladykillers’. At the other end of the scale, we would be lazing about for an hour during Chariots’ long first act with nothing to do, and it was a relief to finally hear James McCardle declare that he ‘can’t wait.’ Kiosk is generally slightly more steady, although the programmes fly off the shelves for this show at such a rate I can barely press the till buttons quickly enough. I look back fondly at the week I did it last summer, when without fail at 6.30 Nick Grace would saunter through the foyer, bid me and the box office a cheery hello and disappear through to back stage.
Although there have been periods when it’s seemed I hardly get to do my standard, front of house, ushering job, it is the one constant throughout. The shows, audiences and level of busyness may change, but the job is the same and the same questions are asked over and over:
- Where are the toilets? Is there a toilet? Can I use the toilet? Why do I need a ticket to use the toilet? You said there was a toilet and there isn’t!
- Where is Leicester Square/Piccadilly Circus/Covent Garden/Jersey Boys/somewhere to eat/the Piccadilly Theatre/the nearest Pret a Manger?
- What time does it end? Is there an interval? What time’s the interval? Where’s the stage door?
- I have vertigo/bad back/bad legs/height issues – can I move to a box/the stalls please?
- Do you have ginger/raspberry ripple/cookies and cream/mango/Baileys/toffee/coffee/lemon sorbet ice cream?
Recent favourites include the lady who couldn’t comprehend why the script wasn’t updated to include every change in line, whilst simultaneously conceding that this would indeed be an impractical and ridiculous suggestion; and the man who ordered a bottle of water for the interval with 5 glasses and who wanted me to open the crisps he’d ordered too and ‘present them nicely’.
Yes, we’ve had the customers, yes we’ve had the stars. But the people without doubt who have truly made my time here are my colleagues and friends. We have created a web between us of memories, inside jokes, history and shared experience which will bond us forever. With them I have gone through every possible emotion. I have cried and laughed til I cried. I have changed because of them and seen them change. We have teased each other, supported each other (often literally after a night at the Phoenix!) and gone through the craziness that is theatre life together. I will miss seeing them daily so much I can barely contemplate it, but know that leaving work will certainly not include leaving them and that we will truly be ‘friends for life’.