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When theatre visits bite back…

April 17, 2019

To open with a famous quote from “Clueless” – kindly reminded by good friend and Angeloloigst Dr Garside, “’My doctor said I should avoid sports where balls fly at my nose’ ‘Well that’ll cut into your social life then.”

Sports may be dangerous, but I’m now half-convinced theatre is out to kill me. Last year, I avoided death from, variously: actors tripping and falling on me (and not the ones I wouldn’t mind falling on me, either, worse luck), various flying hair-grips, light-bulbs and most notably some sort of medicine ball intended for joyous effect, but lethal. The last, in fact, still has my dentist concerned (impact injuries can take up to 18 months to show, he says).

We all know the risks of sitting in the front row. Aside from the less mathematically-gifted, or just plain lazy, fellow audience member using the space (whether there or not) to cross from one side of the theatre to the other, trampling on those seated; the major risk is a shower of spit and sweat from the stage. A few weirdoes welcome the DNA sample, cherishing it on a tissue. The rest of us carry antiseptic spray and hope the cast’s vaccinations are up-to-date.

Navigating the building is always fun. Not many people know that when many West End theatres were built, there were great tax-breaks relating to the number of stairs installed. The more, and the less noticeable, the more tax relief, allegedly. For today’s audiences, it’s a case of always being aware. It’s a step from street to foyer, then the odd one or two more just inside the door. Perhaps 15 (plus a little one you won’t see until the last second) to the stalls, and 500 up to the cheap seats. And watch for the uneven floors and carpets held down by duct tape, too.

Adding to the amusement, funding cuts mean you can’t use the convenient fire exit to leave at the end, so the whole crowd has to negotiate a single flight of stairs on the way out. Hope everybody sees every step or it’s a sponsored domino-topple for all.

Of course, if the stairs don’t get you, the swinging doors will. By law, theatre doors are made of rock rather than wood, and heavily lubricated. The solid brass fittings are spiked in tribute to the “Iron Maiden” and sharpened before every performance.

Each winter, and indeed summer, those with weak immune systems receive free tickets from all major shows. The auditorium climate control system’s filters are sent off for refurbishing, and thus there is nothing to prevent those lovely coughed-up germs from spreading like wildfire over a couple of hours – a nice loud honking alerting the healthy where to turn for the latest incoming attack. The best theatres send these people after the rest of the audience to sit beside us on the tube on the way home, too.

Finally, of course, the big one. You’ll probably have bought your tickets at home, and the shock of the price will have worn off. However, it is noticeable that many theatre foyers now have defibrillation devices installed in prominent positions. These include by the programme seller (I mean, £5 – I used to pay that for a ticket, a good stalls ticket), and most of all by the theatre bar. These days you can’t afford the stiff drink needed to read the price list – the price-per-glass is enough to get the first-aider charging the paddles, before you even get to the per-bottle section.

All in the name of entertainment, I guess, and if you don’t like the show, at least you can have fun wondering if you will survive to the end…


And on that note, I’m off for a couple of weeks. Back blogging on 8th May. Happy Easter / Passover to those celebrating them.

  1. Francesca Clementis permalink
    April 17, 2019 7:58 am

    Many years ago, we took my elderly dad to see The Blue Man Group. The tickets were exorbitant apart from the first few rows where not only were the tickets ridiculously cheap but you also got a free plastic poncho to protect you from the flying paint and other assorted fluids. So obviously that’s what we went for. It was, without a doubt, the loudest show I have ever sat through. Halfway through, we realised that my dad had fallen asleep and managed to sleep through the rest of the show, insane drumming and paint spatters not stirring him at all…

    • Steve Rich permalink*
      April 17, 2019 8:50 am

      Oh yes, at the New London Theatre. That’s hilarious – I think all dads are like that, though, in the end, LOL.

      Personally, I always have ear-plugs with me, just in case… and not just at musicals either ;).

      Really love that story, thanks so much, Francesca.

  2. Sandra Elsom permalink
    April 17, 2019 12:48 pm

    I remember going home on the tube after sitting front row at the Trafalgar studio for James McAvoy in Macbeth. I looked like I’d just walked through the Texas Chainsaw Massacre as I was liberally splattered with fake blood …. oddly enough, people got up and offered me a seat – something unheard of on the London Underground xx

    • Steve Rich permalink*
      April 17, 2019 1:26 pm

      LOL, that’s hilarious. Must remember to try that during rush hour some time… :). Best as always, Steve.

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