Tag Archives: day seat queue

Weekend theatre extravaganza

24 Jan

Remember how I said I wanted 2017 to be the year I see more than 9 West End shows? I’m off to a good start.

Last Monday I saw BU21, a play about how six people cope with a [fictional] London terrorist attack. While it was heavy and all too realistic, it was also quite funny. Life (and theatre) isn’t often only comedy or tragedy — as my favorite band Over the Rhine often says, it’s a head-on collision between both.

So I started my week with some “tragedy porn” (as one of the actors described it while breaking the fourth wall), and needed to end it with something a little more fun. One of my friends from university has been working in London for a few months, so I asked her if she wanted to go see School of Rock the musical on Friday. When I explained the concept of day seats to her, she was all in, especially since I volunteered to do the queuing for tickets.

homer-do-what-i-do-best

My first day seat queue of 2017! And it consisted solely of …me. The entire time. When I’m the first to arrive in a day seat queue, two thoughts go through my head: 1. Am I in the right place? Is there some secret side door to the box office where everyone else is queuing? And 2. Ah man, I could have slept another 10 to 40 minutes! It was particularly cold on Friday, too, and my touchscreen gloves were not cooperating with my phone, so I had to alternate between being bored & warm and entertained by my phone & cold. I brought my overnight oats and ate that while watching the workmen load an abundance of god-knows-what into a van right in front of the theatre, while I’m sure they watched me wondering what on earth I was waiting for and what on earth I was eating that was pink. (For the record, raspberry overnight oats.)

A taxi driver pulled up and asked if I was waiting for a taxi. I told him no, I was waiting for tickets. He then informed me that the theatre was closed, as if I hadn’t noticed. I told him I was aware that it was currently closed and that I was waiting for it to open at 10am. I’m sure I would have looked a lot less silly if there were other people queuing with me. But considering how London black cab drivers claim to be experts about the city — way more than Uber drivers, of course! — you’d think they’d know about the concept of day seats. If I were a taxi driver my number one tip for tourists would be theatre day seats (though maybe not, I wouldn’t want the queuing competition!). Finally the box office doors opened and I was able to buy my front row tickets. As annoying as waiting in the cold is, when I’m sitting in the front row knowing I only paid £20 or less, it’s always worth it. My friend and I loved the show. I loved the movie as a kid and it transferred well to a live musical. All the kids actually played the instruments, which was amazing!

At the interval my friend told me she was free the next day, Saturday, so we looked up shows we could see. We settled on The Kite Runner, since they offered day seats. I read the book and saw the movie, so I was curious how they’d adapt the story to the stage.

So the next day I got up and did it again — arrived at the day seat queue too early. At least this time there were three people in front of me, but when we went to pay they all went for the matinee. So at least it meant we got the best front row center seats. Even though I knew the plot and what was coming, the show was heavy. Good, but emotionally draining. So naturally we went for gelato afterward to recoup. And while we hacked on the giant shave-your-own block of dark chocolate, we got a crazy idea.

“Should we see another show tomorrow?” my friend asked.

“I’m always down for another show!” I replied.

cant wait for sunday.gif

Our options were limited for a Sunday performance, but we settled on Peter Pan Goes Wrong. If it was good enough for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, it was good enough for us. Plus, tickets were cheap on TodayTix (hooray for not having to get up early to queue!) and we needed to end our crazy weekend of theatre with a comedy. It was a comedy alright, full of slapstick and humor that bordered on cringey, but it was a good time. I’m glad I went with a friend though, as it seemed like a show best enjoyed with company.

So I saw 4 shows over the course of a week. Not a bad way to start the 2017 theatre season. My friend goes back to the US in a couple weeks, but we’re hoping to fit in a couple more shows before she goes. If only we could have some luck with the Aladdin and Dream Girls ticket lotteries!

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Sweating, running and queueing

6 May

It’s starting, friends. That season when everyone can’t stop talking about how nice the weather is and I can’t stop complaining about being a sweaty mess. Every year it seems my intolerance to heat gets worse and worse. It’s 72 today (22C) and all I did was vacuum my flat and I feel like I’m gonna die. On Wednesday it was 63 (17C) and sunny, which should have been perfect, but I went for a run and could barely survive 4 miles, that horrid combination of sweat and sunscreen dripping into my eyes. Though I’m not sure I can blame the weather entirely for my exhaustion that day. Since Tuesday, the day before, was seemingly the last of the “nice” (by my definition — 50s and slightly overcast) days, I decided to go for a long run. And go for it I did — 8.68 miles, a new personal best distance. I went past Big Ben and then along the Thames. It was glorious and I was feeling surprisingly good. I wasn’t even sore the next day… or so I thought. Note to self: take a rest day after a long run.

In other news…
how is it may already
Even crazier, I can’t believe it’s May and I just waited in my first day seat queue of 2016 yesterday. It’s not because I haven’t been seeing shows this year — today was my 6th — I’ve just been using the TodayTix app or the Internet. But tickets to People, Places and Things were quite pricey on TodayTix and it’s gotten to a point where I can’t properly enjoy a play unless I’m in the front row (and have paid 70% less than the people sitting one row behind me). Plus, I was long overdue for a good day seat queue, so I set my alarm for earlier than I like and packed my laptop and oatmeal in my backpack. It was a pretty uneventful queue — everyone was glued to their phones or books — but I got my front row center seat.

people places and things london

Though I hate the early start, I forgot how enjoyable a day seat day is. I got an unbelievable amount of work done in the cafe then ate some sushi in the park before the show. And the show… if you happen to find yourself in London, go see People, Places and Things. It was the best show I’ve seen in 2016 and definitely ranks amongst the best shows I’ve seen ever. It was such a powerful glimpse into the life of an addict, with just the right amount of humor. Denise Gough wholly deserved her Best Actress Olivier and the use of light and sound was spectacular. I couldn’t stop thinking about the play as I walked home. It’s going to be hard for any show to top that one this year.

Saving the world one Tide stick at a time

26 Aug

the mentalistsThe days I get day seats to a matinee are some of my favorite days. I get my ticket, work for a couple hours, get sushi takeaway and eat in the park, then enjoy the show. Today started out well. I’ve been dying to see Stephen Merchant in The Mentalists. It was supposed to run until the end of September, but it’s closing at the end of August instead, so today was the last Wednesday matinee. It did not get great reviews and there were reports that people were still able to get day seats at noon, so I didn’t go super early to queue. I got there 10 minutes before the box office opened, just enough time to eat the overnight oats I packed for breakfast. Things were going well. I got my front row seat, then headed to the museum cafe to get some work done. I ordered some tea, cranked out some work, and the productive, positive day went on.

And then I went outside. It was London on-and-off-again drizzling all morning, and I was prepared for that. I wore my rain boots and brought an umbrella. Not even thinking and because it’s what I always do, I ordered my sushi lunch to go. I walked to the park I usually eat in and it was empty. This was because the skies had finally opened up and it started to pour. Every single bench was exposed and soaked. So I ended up eating my lunch while standing under the shelter of Ripley’s Believe It or Not. It was not my usual magical day seat lunch. Things were starting to go down hill.

My second mistake was basing my schedule on the usual 2pm or 2:30pm matinee start time when today’s show was at 3pm. I finished my lunch around 1:20pm, so I had time to kill. I decided to go to the National Gallery to look around and use their free WiFi. The rain was really coming down and I had to maneuver through hoards of tourists who acted like they’d never used an umbrella or seen rain before, which instantly put me in a bad mood. I came upon the National Gallery from the back and hurried up the ramp, only noticing once I got inside that I was at the National Portrait Gallery, which is next door. But at that point I was too wet to care — they had toilets and free WiFi too. As I stepped inside I was stopped for a bag inspection. They do this at many museums, and usually they just take a cursory why-even-bother glance. I’m assuming it’s just to make sure you don’t have any weapons. It’s a museum after all, not an airport or government building. I opened my backpack, showing the woman my laptop, water bottle, wallet… and Tide stick.

tide pen“What’s this?” she asked. I told her it was like detergent that removed stains. I thought maybe she’d say “Cool, I wish they sold this in the UK!” and let me on my merry way.

“You can’t have this,” she said. And suddenly I was having Heathrow “You brought too many liquids” flashbacks. Just as I was about to ask for a clear zip-top bag and insist that it was under 100 ml, she explained that she would hold it for me to pick up when I left.

“It can destroy the paintings,” she clarified.

You heard that right: my Tide pen could wreak havoc on priceless art, most of which is either behind glass, behind a rope, or under the watchful eye of plenty of employees.

I could hear Adam Carolla’s voice in my head shouting at the woman: “You’re a hero!” the way he does to power-high TSA workers enforcing trivial rules. I know her job is unbelievably boring (she doesn’t even get to “sit and look at the paintings” like Mr. Bean’s character did) and she was just doing her job, but the whole thing was just so, so stupid. For one, you know what else I had in my bag? An entire jar of peanut butter I had just bought at Whole Foods. I bet that could destroy the paintings more than my Tide stick. She didn’t even look at the bottom of my bag, where I easily could have had Sharpies or a lighter, both of which would do way more damage than laundry detergent. Did she think the stick was pure bleach? Even if it was, did she really think my intention was to rub it on the paintings a la Mr. Bean?

mr bean painting
Maybe she was just taking extra precautions because of what that 12-year-old Taiwanese kid accidentally did to that painting recently.

Still, the rain had already put me in a bad mood and I was feeling really beat down. I almost said “Forget it, I’m just here to use your toilet anyway, I’ll go put the Tide stick on the bottom of my bag and use a different entrance, or go to the National Gallery like I initially intended,” but of course I didn’t. I let her confiscate my Tide pen and then had to meander around the museum for a half hour so it didn’t seem like I was just in it for the free toilet.

Thank goodness The Mentalists was hilarious and the sun was shining when it was over, but I guess if the worst thing that happens in your day is it rains, you have to eat sushi standing up and a power-tripping guard temporarily takes your stain stick away, your life is still pretty good.

“You’re lucky you got air conditioning in here like mother nature intended!”

1 Jul

We need an “Eat your food, there are starving children in Africa” equivalent for people who complain about air conditioning being too cold. It is 95 degrees (35C) in London today and most places do not have AC — there is no such thing as air conditioning that it is too cold in this heat!

I guess it’s a sign that things are going pretty well in my life when my biggest worry is the weather. Though “worry” is probably an understatement, because I have obsessed about today for a week. I opened the weather app on my phone multiple times a day, praying that somehow that gleaming “Wednesday: 95” would change. And actually one time it did, but I quickly realized I had swiped to Florence, KY’s weather by accident (which for once is actually better than London’s in the summer). How I was going to handle 95 degrees without air conditioning was all I could think about.

I decided to get a matinee day seat for Death of a Salesman (after I confirmed the theatre had air conditioning, of course). It was already hot at 9 a.m. when I arrived, the first one in the queue. Several others quickly followed, and it seemed like it was going to be a typical, antisocial wait. And then this older guy from California arrived. He immediately started joking around and blabbering in a stereotypical American fashion, but he got absolutely no response. It was almost embarrassing to watch. The first man he tried to engage in conversation was actually talking on his phone, and then he asked the woman behind me if she was an educator. “No.” she said, only briefly looking up from her kindle, and that was that. Thankfully a young Scottish girl arrived and kept him entertained, and I briefly chimed in when he asked if anyone had seen Elephant Man. Just as the box office was about the open, the woman next to me got up and tried to take a photo of the marquee. She stepped backwards onto the street just as a truck was backing up, and came within inches of being hit. Everyone was screaming at her and freaking out, and she just calmly stepped onto the sidewalk like nothing happened. It was bizarre. The book she was reading was in Italian, but she had to understand some English if she was queuing to see a play. The truck driver got out and started shouting, but she ignored him. Never a dull moment in the day seat queue.

I got my front row ticket, but wasn’t sure what to do next. I usually go to the library to work, but I’m pretty sure it’s not air-conditioned, and is filled with enough hobo funk on a cool day. I ended up at a museum cafe, and it was gloriously air-conditioned and quiet. I got a lot of work done and then went to get lunch. Maybe it was my productivity, maybe it was the time spent in the AC, but when I got outside I actually thought, “This isn’t too bad!” I was silly to obsess over the weather so much. I ate lunch in the park and was not a miserable hot sack of crabbiness like I anticipated.

The play was magnificent and the acting was phenomenal. You just can’t beat front row seats (and air conditioning). Crazy California guy actually put on a jacket because he was too cold (for the record: it was most definitely not too cold).

And then I had to go outside again. The humidity and heat hit me like a Florida brick of misery. 95 degrees is butt hot. The sun was blaring, there were school groups and tourists everywhere, and I could feel the hanger brewing (no, not hungry-anger, hot-anger).

angry cartmanI had an important decision to make: how was I going to get home in the heat? Both the Tube and bus would be like a sauna, but I didn’t want to walk 3 miles in the heat. I ended up choosing the Tube since it would be quickest. Even though I work from home with only a fan to keep me cool, I am so glad I do not have to commute in the summer.

To make a long post short (TL;DR): summer is the worst, and air conditioning and day seats are the best.

A new friend for the day [seat queue]

17 Jun

american buffalo london

I made a new day seat single-serving friend today. I was queuing for American Buffalo (starring Damian Lewis and John Goodman) behind some American students. They were talking about going clubbing in London.

But if you know me, you’ll know I did not strike up a conversation with them. No, my single-serving friend was behind me. He smelled a little like the men who cluster around the computers in the public library, and I’ll admit at first whiff I thought he was an old homeless man. But he stayed in the queue, reading his newspaper, while the other 10 of us were glued to our phones. Ten minutes before the box office opened, he struck up a conversation. I can’t remember about what, but before I knew it, we were comparing West End shows and swapping day seat stories — something I know way more about than the club scene.  Our seats ended up being next to each other, so the conversation continued 4 hours later. He told me he had traveled to all 50 states and hit 91 of America’s 100 most populated cities — an impressive feat for an American, yet alone a 70-something-year-old English man. Then he gave me this bit of advice:

“If there’s one place in the world you should never go, it’s Akron, Ohio.”

This came completely out of left field — we were discussing California beforehand, and I hadn’t even told him I was from Cincinnati. He said the whole city of Akron was completely deserted during the day, and there wasn’t even a McDonald’s in the city center. I should have asked him what year he was there, as it was probably awhile ago, and I like to think downtown Akron now has a McDonald’s and perhaps even a Chipotle. It was so refreshing to talk to someone who had been to both more U.S. states and West End shows than I have.

After the show we both agreed the acting was better than the play — Damian Lewis and John Goodman were both brilliant. Then we got up and parted ways with a simple — “See you in the next day seat queue!”

Day seats, Mädchen lieben die pancakes, and interesting library people

10 Mar

Last week it hit me — how is it already March? And, perhaps more importantly, how is it already March and I haven’t seen a single play in 2015?

I decided I needed to do something about that, and queued for day seats for The Nether. It was my 24th show in London and 13th time queuing for day seats. People occasionally ask me what my favorite show is, and I never seem to have an answer. They’re all so different, it’s hard to compare. However, there are a few things that made some of my favorites, like Chimerica and 1984, stand out: impressive and surprising set design, and a theme or story that stays with me long after the curtain closes. The Nether checked both boxes and was an amazing show. It’s one you have to see for yourself — I did not do myself any favors trying to explain to Stephen how amazing a show about pedophilia was.

There were only three people ahead of me when I joined the queue, two of which were young German students. They spent the entire time talking in very animated German. At one point I heard the girl say “pancakes” 5 different times. Is there no German word for “pancakes?” Or maybe she just prefers the English? Either way, it was weird to hear “wedeln ja dran einfrierenden rennende PANCAKES die rase einrennendes in vor soll PANCAKES dran winden verworrene versessenes PANCAKES denn weis an da reinen PANCAKES.” (no, that is not real German so don’t try to translate it)

stewie click click bloody click pancakesAfter I got my front row center ticket for the matinee, I went over to the library with my laptop to get some work done. The computer lab of a public library, for lack of a better word, is an “interesting” place with “interesting” people. And with that, an “interesting” smell that comes from said “interesting” people. One such interesting person plopped himself next to me and proceeded to play music loudly on his phone. Then he decided to play with one of those apps that repeats what you say, so he would say a phrase in Russian (most likely obscenities), some animatronic animal would repeat the phrase back to him, and he would laugh hysterically with his friend. Keep in mind that this is going on in the computer room of the library, usually a quiet zone. Never mind the fact that we were also in central London and it was a gorgeous day — didn’t these guys have anything better to do than to play with their phones in the library? Luckily they left after 15 minutes, my guess is they were killing time before their hostel would let them check in. Still, I was surprisingly productive, reminding me that even though waking up early sucks, queuing for day seats is always worth it, especially when I can still get my work done.

The past two weeks in pictures and a corgi butt

8 Aug

There is the sprint you do at the finish line of a race, and then the sprint you do when you spot a corgi at the end of the street IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD ASAKSDFJLKADF HOW HAVE I BEEN OUT RUNNING AND WALKING SO MANY TIMES AND NEVER RUN INTO THIS MAJESTIC CREATURE?!

Ahem.

So I ran faster than I have ever run before to catch up to this little guy and slyly took a photo. In typical Renee/British fashion I was too shy to ask the owner if I could pet her corgi or perhaps steal him. The photo came out horrible because it was slyly taken, but here it is zoomed in so you can see the grainy momo and tail. (The fact that this corgi had a tail probably means he’s related to the royal corgis because the queen prefers corgis with tails. Obviously).

crappy corgi pic

And now I will proceed to use my Instagram account to remind myself what I’ve been up to lately and what I wanted to share with you.

hot buttered cherriosI am all about hot buttered Cherrios lately. It’s exactly what it sounds like — Cherrios (or in my case, cheapo Aldi brand honey hoops) cooked in melted butter until lightly toasted and hot. It’s from a 1982 Cheerios magazine ad. Chocolate Cherrios were on sale this week so I hot buttered those too. I can never go back to eating Cherrios out of the box like a normal person now.

Speaking of food, I found this bad boy on sale in the Tesco foreign food aisle:

kraft dinner london

It still cost me the equivalent of $2.50, but it was worth it. Sometimes you just need some neon powdered cheese product.

 

broken fitbit force

About a week ago I woke up in the middle of the night and my Fitbit Force was lying beside me in two pieces. I freaked out because I cannot live without it and and I can’t get a replacement because the Force was recalled, but also because I was not going to get an accurate sleep reading with it lying on top of my laptop beside me. I tried fixing it with Elmer’s glue and tape, which lasted all of seven hours, and then I pulled out the big guns — superglue. It’s been holding for a week now ::knock on wood:: My friend sent me an article David Sedaris wrote about his Fitbit obsession and I could fully relate. I’m either going to be curled up in the corner crying if this superglue doesn’t hold or walking around trying to count my steps manually. Let’s just hope it holds and the new model is released soon.

london shakespeare globe

A couple weeks ago I saw Antony and Cleopatra at the Globe. I’m still not a Shakespeare fan, but I’d rather see it live than read it, and I’d rather watch it sitting down than standing. Three hours standing in direct sunlight, no thank you.

1984 london

1984 was more my style (and my 20th show in London!). I did the day seat queue thing, but instead of running back home to eat and change and come back out, I brought my laptop with me, got some work done at the library, checked out the BP Portrait Award winners at the National Portrait Gallery, ate sushi in the park, then went to the show. It was a lovely afternoon, I may have to try it again with another show soon.