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’.