or: How the stars screwed up!
Going to the theatre should be an energising, joyous experience. After eighteen months of pandemy, we were looking forward to seeing two of our favourite actors, in a West End Theatre, at a time that was convenient.
My husband had heard rave reviews on the radio and was willing to pay the outrageous (£80 a ticket) price to sit in the front row of the circle and have an unobscured view of said actors – Zoe Wanamaker and Peter Capaldi. I was more circumspect about this as I go to the theatre more often generally, but it was going to be a treat for both of us – and so I paid up.
We took the train to Paddington and thence to Charing Cross. And then we had the most pleasant surprise as we were heading for the Vaudeville. Our daughter and her fiancé and their friends popped up from nowhere. Very surprised to see us. We were delighted to see them. We greeted each other, then said goodbye and entered the theatre.
Things turned sour from then on. Our tickets were checked, we went upstairs and headed for the bar. So far so good. Warnings galore to keep our masks on. Ok. Sign of the times. I went to the loo. Washed my hands. Came back into the bar to find that we had to leave it straightaway and go to our seats, glasses in hand and masks on face. We were told to keep our masks on even while drinking. Off sip. On. Off sip. On. Fine. I like to do the right thing, but this was going a little bit too far. But we complied.
We sat down. In front of us a wide ledge. We put our drinks on it. Suddenly the flurry of hostile wings and a young man came bearing down upon us. “Don’t take your mask off, sir. Don’t put your drinks on the ledge. There is a lot of expensive equipment just below.” Quite an aggressive tone. We just looked at him and took our drinks off the ledge and put our masks back on. Then off. Took a sip.
Then “Put your mask back on, sir. And keep it on.” And then, to cap it all, “I shall be watching you!”
Well, I wanted to go home, because my husband was quietly (luckily) fuming, and I was just very uncomfortable. But ten minutes to go to Curtain Up and we had, after all paid a small fortune to be here. So, we settled into our sip on and mask off routine, and looked at the rather lovely set and began to relax in anticipation. Other people sat down in a socially distanced way into the front row of the circle either side of us.
They put their drinks on the ledge. They kept their masks off. But where was our avenging angel? Where was he, ready to save us all from instant death from Covid and from ruining the expensive lighting system? Oh yes. I looked round. One young man walking with his eyes turned as far away as possible from the auditorium just in case he noticed some other people not obeying the stringent rules to the letter.
At least he did not approach us again. It would have been difficult for him as we were right in the middle. He would have had to confront all the other miscreants, and to give him his due, they looked quite frightening.
So – we settled down again. The curtain went up. Two beautiful young actors but not Zoe Wanamaker or Peter Capaldi. We thought at first perhaps this was just the first scene and they would come on. But after a few minutes we realised that, no, these two were here to stay. All right then. Perhaps Zoe and Peter were indisposed!
We watched the play – well acted, but not for me. Potentially interesting, the juxtaposition of a quantum physicist and a beekeeper, talking about relationships. Every scene played out three or four times with very subtle changes being made each time. Intriguing up to a point, but in the end, I thought it was more like a drama lesson – yet all quite static, until they did away with words altogether and mimed. That was good.
Eighty minutes later it was over. We clapped, though not ecstatically, mainly because it wasn’t who we had come to see. (Have I mentioned this before?)
And went to the box office to see what had happened.
The man in the little box was bored. Very bored. “You bought the tickets, you should have known it was an alternate cast.” Yes, I did know. I chose the tickets very carefully within the dates advertised. He shrugged and said there was nothing he could do about it. Then I noticed that there was a sign saying who the performers would be that performance. Do they do that if it is what people are expecting?
Thoroughly fed up by this time, we went home. I checked the adverts and the fliers. Nowhere could I find any information that on this particular date and time the cast would not be Zoe Wanamaker and Peter Capaldi.
It was not a good first outing, post pandemic.