had a discussion with a darling group of friends about doing things alone -
cinema, eating out, gym, dance class. Of
all the things which were contentiously argued, going to the theatre alone
seemed, to my friends at least, to be the gravest of all the solo sins. But why?
generally go shopping on my own, I enjoy long weekend walks on my own and I
very often attend the theatre on my own.
I guess ultimately I am just very comfortable and happy in my own
company - I am my own best friend (Fosse hands). I ventured to suggest to my friends that if
they felt uncomfortable going on solo missions to the theatre then it is quite
possibly because they do not feel happy in their own company. It all got very Freudian in the end.
But then I started to reflect slightly. My bravado about going to the theatre on my own and being perfectly comfortable and happy in doing so started to actually come undone the more I analyzed my experiences. The more I thought about my behaviour once I arrive in the theatre, the more I realised that actually... I wasn't that comfortable. But was it because of how other people treated me? Or what my own expectations about the theatre experience were?
Here is a summary of my recent trip to see Sweet Bird of Youth playing at the Old Vic Theatre.
I promptly leave work and on the way out pop to the gents to sort my hair out - part of the attending theatre solo routine is to spruce myself up a bit. A bit like Dutch courage. Without alcohol. With narcissisim instead.. let's call it Californian courage.
I arrive at Waterloo and swing by Sainsbury's to get myself a little pack of sushi so that I am not that really funny one whose stomach rumbles really loudly during one of the intensely quiet and dramatic scenes. I also take this opportunity to chug down a humungous can of energy drink as I do have a tendency to occasionally nod off after a hard day at the office! I wanted no fatigue to stop me appreciating Seth Numrich's form. Theatrical and physical!
Once I've committed sushi carbicide and infused my body with energy-altering chemicals, I amble towards to the Old Vic to see crowds of happy families, couples and friends and start to feel slightly like I need to put an act on. I have no idea where that instinct comes from but sure enough I grab my phone and start seriously engaging with it as if I'm impatiently waiting for a friend to join me. Furiously texting, shaking my head, rolling my eyes. I'm clocked by the usher on the door to whom I hand my (single) ticket saying confidently, 'My friend is joining me shortly but I thought it best if I go in and get the drinks in. Is that okay?' The usher, clearly knowing what is going on, smiles wearily and says, 'Of course.' HE KNOWS.
I head to the bar and order myself a large glass of white wine for some courage to navigate the busy foyers and to have further confidence to commit to my method acting. Insuppressibly I order two wines. One for me and one for my friend. Slash one for me and one for me. The bartender smiles wryly. HE KNOWS.
I am now carrying two large white wines through the foyer and begin an inexplicable act of 'scouting' for my friend. I am sure we have all done this before. The meerkat-esque searching through the crowd for that non-existent friend. There are occasions when this trick is gold, don't get me wrong. In fact, whenever I am at a large concert venue (such as Beyonce recently.. which again, I went to alone!), I buy two drinks and return to the standing area with them searching for my friends. I squeeze past people saying 'Sorry. I'm so sorry. Sorry, can I squeeze through? Cheers. Sorry! Oh god, I'm so sorry. Cheers. Thanks. Thanks a lot. Sorry.' Before you can say Beyonce's your best friend, I am front row within touching distance and nobody is any the wiser.
Fleeing the crowds, I sit back down in the auditorium and entertain my mature neighbour with stories of interval joy with my Lilian Baylis friends. Oh how we had a laugh up there in their bar. Hole. Deeper. Then that blessed blackout relief.
Of course the tricky thing about being on your own and meeting a star at stage door is that when it comes to getting a picture with them... who do you ask to take it? No-one! This is the age of the glorious selfie, dear hearts. I extended my arm, wrapped the other around Kim and wham! Done!
I bid adieu to my new found queue friends and skipped on my merry way home forgetting the whole exhausting experience from earlier.
So let's bring this back to basics. The horror of my friends at my going to the theatre alone - justified or not? Whilst the above may perhaps be slightly dramatic (come, readers, you know this about me by now!), it is a real experience. But it's actually probably one of the only experiences that has been so extreme - I do regularly go to the theatre on my own for work purposes, be they press nights or preview nights so I can get a feel for the shows I'll be working on. In those instances in which I'm working, there is none of the above whatsoever. I actually have a haughty air about me when I'm on official business waving the ATG flag. That's a whole DIFFERENT post. But it is interesting how different it feels when I'm going for personal pleasure.
So for the sake of enjoying that true, immersive theatrical experience, I will continue to happily sacrifice company to do so.
Everything has just become quite serious, hasn't it? Let me sum it up more succinctly: