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Am I just making it all up?

As I hurriedly took a photo of the Old Vic stage from my seat, and feverishly posted it on FaceBook with an over-excited message that ‘Yay, I’m back in the building!’ I wondered briefly what in fact was I doing?

Three years ago, I would have said that I liked going to the theatre. I had already embarked on my ‘see every show at the Bridge Theatre’ habit because it was so convenient for work and it was a way to see a mix of productions rather than always plumping for comedy, or Shakespeare or whatever. But to describe myself as passionate about theatre, a theatre nut or connoisseur would have seemed daft – and frankly, a bit over the top for an otherwise rather unassuming person.

So, have I just invented this supposed passion? Am I really thrilled to be back in the theatre post-Covid, or am I just jumping on the social media bandwagon and hyping it all up for the likes?

Always a great one for self-doubt, I feared the worst. For sure, I enjoy seeing a few of those little thumbs-up, hearts or other Fb emojis on my posts – although not so much that I keep my phone on during the performance, heaven forbid – and a sure-fire way of getting my Tweets viewed and liked is to tag a theatre because they love to re-Tweet anything complimentary, especially if it has a nice picture with it. So, is this just an attention-seeking fictional fad?

Well, no, it’s not. I get genuinely excited at the prospect of a play, and a thrill on arrival. I love it when the lights go down. In this latest case – Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter with Daniel Mays and David Thewlis – there being no curtain, we had a short silence and deep darkness while the actors took their marks. I strained to get the first glimpse and then settled back into my seat as they appeared. I remember being on stage myself as a teenager at the start of a play, checking that we were all present and correct before curtain-up. There’s so much adrenalin and some of that has perhaps imprinted itself somewhere. It is quite definitely not the same as watching a film, or a pre-recorded production. Anything could happen, in the same room as me, just there. And I just love that. 

I don’t always enjoy what we see, of course, and I am as prone as anyone to ramming my finger nails into my palms to stop myself from nodding off if I am truly uninspired – although I don’t recall this happening in the past few years; I have been lucky. Even when it’s not so enjoyable, there’s still something to take from it, although certainly I’d prefer these occasions not to have been the most expensive seats of the year.

The Dumb Waiter is a very short play. Due to Covid restrictions, every second row was empty and there were unoccupied seats between each party. So there weren’t many of us there, and in fact a large part of the stalls was taken up with camera equipment and mixing desks for the simultaneous Zoom broadcast to the world. All of which meant that it took almost no time at all to exit the building afterwards, individually thanking all the staff profusely as we passed them, congratulating them on the theatre reopening and generally behaving in a completely luvvied up fashion. “It’s just so wonderful to be back! Thank you SO much. Marvellous.”  We had even whooped at the curtain call, despite it really not being that kind of play. We were being theatrical ourselves and carried away in the moment. (And nothing at all to do with possibly being on the Zoom broadcast.)

So, we were quickly back out on the pavement. And here’s a thing. It was about 8.30pm. The evening sun was making even the Waterloo area attractive. The Old Vic looked resplendent with its fresh paintwork and neon Back Together sign. It felt special knowing that this was only the second day since March 2020 that there had been a crowd (albeit smaller than in the past) milling around this end of The Cut. I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to stay there, or perhaps go up to look at the river and mingle with other people enjoying the sunshine, or find a little place to eat. To be a part of a re-emerging London. Part of the drama itself. 

Pretentious old bollocks, huh?

Yep, gone too far there. 

I was on the next train, checking the likes on my Facebook.



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