Tag Archives: day seats

Another day seat queue character

13 Oct

ink play londonOf the record-breaking(!) 14 shows I’ve seen in London this year, I surprisingly only got day seats for 2 of them. So I was due for a good queue.

I decided to see Ink, a new play about Rupert Murdoch and The Sun newspaper, because I feel like I don’t know enough about the London newspaper scene, and it was a transfer from the Almeida Theatre, and every Almeida West End transfer I’ve seen has been nothing short of phenomenal.

The play has been getting rave reviews, but it doesn’t seem to be extraordinarily popular, so I arrived at the theatre 30 minutes before the box office opened. There were only a handful of people queuing. I proceeded to kill time on my phone until the character arrived. Every day seat queue seems to have a character.

This one was a full-blooded New Yorker who would have been a prime contestant on a Buzzfeed “Homeless Man or Aging Hippie?” quiz. He wore a tie-dye Bob Dylan T-shirt, an “Impeach Trump” button on his hat, had a scraggly beard and walked with a cane. And he was a talker, as only Americans can be. Every once in a while queuers will strike up conversation, but most keep to their phones, books, magazines, or even use their laptop whilst standing up like the guy in front of me. But this character wanted to talk and he didn’t particularly care who wanted to listen. The Australian woman in front of him wasn’t biting, so he tried the man next to me. He was properly British, giving polite responses and appeasing the character, but I could tell he’d much rather be reading the magazine in his hand.

“So how does this work?” the character asked to no one in particular. I wanted to say, “What do you mean how does this work? Are you so New York that you just saw a line of people and decided you must queue?” (Wait, New Yorkers don’t say “queue” or even “wait in line.” They wait “on line.” And yes, that scene about New Yorkers waiting on line from The Gilmore Girls reboot is still fresh in my mind.) He lamented about how he must have an aisle seat, but doesn’t want to spend too much money. Eventually I couldn’t handle it anymore and had to jump in.

“Front row day seats are £15,” I said. And just like that I was roped in. Luckily the box office doors had just opened, but there was only one window and each transaction seemed to last 5 minutes, so I had plenty of time to hear about why I absolutely must see Bob Dylan live, what it was like to see Anthony Hopkins play King Leer at the National Theatre back in 1986, and how badly the Bengals are playing this year. By the time we got to U.S. politics, it was my turn to buy my ticket.

“See you later, Cincinnati!” the character called out after me when I left. I smiled, thinking I would never see the guy again, but sure enough there he was on the aisle, 3 seats away from me at the matinee. Though he didn’t seem to recognize me with makeup on and my hair down as I crawled over him to get to my seat, so the poor English guy next to him had to hear all about his thoughts on how Rupert Murdoch ruined the New York Post.

At the interval I jumped up to use the ladies room, but because I was sitting front row center and there was little leg room, I wasn’t able to bolt there first like I normally do. So I had to queue. There were only 4 stalls, so naturally it was a long queue. In fact, it somehow became two queues, as women poured in from both sides. An outspoken American (of course!) devised a plan.

“We will merge just like we’re on the highway,” she announced. “One person from this line, then one person from your line.” Everyone within earshot agreed, and for a while the merging technique worked surprisingly well. Until a lady from the other queue got talking with her back to us, and so no one from her queue was moving, so my queue slowly became the main queue. An American woman 5 people behind me apparently did not see this occur, and jumped in front of the woman behind me.

“I’m sorry, what are you doing?” the British woman behind me asked her politely.

“We’re merging, isn’t that what we’re doing?” The American woman said, rather hostilely.

“Yes, we were, but you were behind me. We’ve all been waiting much longer than you have.” She smiled and continued to be incredibly polite. The American woman realized her mistake, but in typical American fashion, was not about to admit it. She jumped back a few people in the queue.

“Is this OK?” she said with an attitude. The British lady smiled again. “As long as you’re behind me.”

“Whatever” the American woman muttered under her breath.

It would be hard to make up a more stereotypical exchange between the two cultures if I tried!

Besides that little bathroom kerfuffle, the show was excellent. My seat was so good I had fake money thrown at me (of course I saved one of the notes!) and was even splattered a bit with ink. (It was only when I got home that I realized it was on my face. Good thing I was wearing dark colors!) The world of London newspapers during the 1960s is a fascinating one, but watching the show made me glad I’m no longer in that industry.

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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!

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.

Winning the Kinky Boots ticket lottery

21 Jan

As much as I love a good day seat queue, I am definitely a fan of the app TodayTix. Yesterday I entered the Kinky Boots ticket lottery with a click of a button while lying in bed, then a couple hours later I got an email that I had won! An A16 (front row center) seat for £25 without standing outside in the cold for hours? I’ll take it!

kinky boots ticket lottery
Since it was a nice sunny day (by winter’s standards), I decided to walk the 3 miles to the theatre (ulterior motive: Fitbit steps!). When I was about 15 minutes away from the theatre, I felt something wet land on my head. “Please be water,” I pleaded to myself, knowing full well that there was no reason for water to be dripping from the sky on a sunny day in a country where people don’t have many window air-conditioner units (and those who do don’t run them in January). I stepped aside and opened my phone’s front-facing camera. Sure enough there was a centimeter-long smidgen of bird poo in my hair. I got out a tissue and tried to remove it, but that’s easier said than done without water or a proper mirror. I power-walked the rest of the way to the theatre and hoped they didn’t refuse me at the door because of their strict no bird poo policy. I made a beeline for the loo and removed the poo as best I could with one-ply toilet paper, water and a comb. The whole time Rodney Ruxin from The League was in my head:

forever unclean gif.gif
My high school drama teacher used to say an actor’s job is to make the audience forget that they are sitting in uncomfortable chairs. Kinky Boots was so good it made me forget that I had remnants of bird poo in my hair. I did immediately shower when I got home though. They say getting pooped on by a bird is good luck. Maybe I’d believe that if it happened before I won the ticket lottery!

More friends for the day [seats]

8 Oct

On Tuesday afternoon on my walk home after my run I was listening to the Alison Rosen is Your New Best Friend podcast and guest Riki Lindhome was talking about her recent trip to London. She said she saw a bunch of West End shows and Gypsy was her favorite. Now I’ve seen posters and ads for Gypsy starring Imelda Staunton (aka Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter) for months now and had no desire to see it. I was not very familiar with the music or plot (something about strippers?) and I’ve realized over the years that I prefer plays to musicals. (I just did the math and only 9 of the 30 London shows I’ve seen have been musicals. Although I guess that’s kind of a lot for someone who says she doesn’t prefer them.) But for some reason the moment I heard Riki Lindhome gushing about how great the show and Imelda Staunton were, I decided right then and there I was going to go see the show as soon as possible (which meant the next day matinee).

gypsy london dolores umbridgeSo yesterday morning I went down to the Savoy Theatre and queued for day seats. Fun fact: of those 9 musicals I’ve seen in London, I only got day seats for 2 of them: Viva Forever and Wicked. There’s a reason for this. Musical day seats aren’t always available, and when they are they’re usually more expensive, more in demand and not always front row. For Gypsy I paid £25 to be in the 4th row of the grand circle (which is the nice way of saying the highest balcony section. There is even a separate entrance so the posh stalls folks don’t have to deal with us grand circle peasants). The Savoy is rather small so I still had a good view of all the action and did not get a nosebleed, however it was hard for me to fork over £25 when just last week I paid £10 to see Nicole Kidman in Photograph 51 from the second row. Still, I’m glad I went and Riki Lindhome was right — Imelda Staunton was amazing! I had no idea Dolores Umbridge could sing that well.

Although I’m an introvert who dreads the idea of small talk, I’m always glad when I talk to my fellow day seaters. Theatre people are a unique breed. I never really thought of myself as one of them, but now that I’ve got 31 London shows under my belt I can’t deny it. During the Gypsy interval the woman from Vancouver on my left and the women from the Midlands, England on my right and I had your typical theatre geek conversation that goes like this:

Have you seen InsertWestEndShowHere?

Answer 1: Yes, it’s brilliant!
Answer 2: No, but I want to. Have you?

Yes, it’s brilliant! InsertActorNameHere is brilliant!

Answer 1: PretendToUnderstandWhoSaidActorIsAndAgree
Answer 2: Oh yes, I saw him in InsertShowHere and he was brilliant!

Repeat with every single show currently playing in the West End.

I joke about it, but I actually enjoy that type of conversation. These women were probably a good 30 years older than me, but that only showed when they mentioned shows or actors from before my time. It was nice to be able to talk about something that wasn’t “What do you do?” or “How do you like London?” I wish I could have talked to the lady from the Midlands more, because I overheard her talking to the gentleman queuing next to her in the morning about living and working in China, but I was a few people back, and now that I was sitting next to her in the show couldn’t just say, “Yes, Nicole Kidman was brilliant. You know what else I bet is brilliant? Living in China, amiright?” This woman may have been way more outspoken and oversharing than your typical English woman, but there are still UK conversation etiquette rules.

Now that it’s October and with a few blinks it’ll be November and then Thanksgiving, theatre FOMO (fear of missing out — isn’t that what the kids are saying these days? I wouldn’t know since I’m basically a 60-year-old woman who lives at matinees) is kicking in full force and I’m trying to squeeze in all the shows I want to see that are closing soon. I’m really glad I caught Photograph 51 with Nicole Kidman. Not only was her acting brilliant, but the story about the discovery of the structure of DNA has been something that’s interested me since high school biology class. Although it was sad — my first thought after the show was “I have to tell Mr. W (my high school biology teacher) about this, he would love it!” and then I remembered he passed away almost a year ago. The older woman sitting next to me at the show asked me if I knew much about the story. I told her I studied it in school. She laughed and said when she was in school they barely knew what DNA and chromosomes were. It’s amazing how much science can change over 50 years.

I’m currently at 8 shows for 2015. I hit 9 last year (and in 2013), so I only need to see 1 more to tie the record, 2 to break it. I think I can manage that.

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.