Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Out of the Loop

In just one week away on holiday I forget the most basic things about London - for instance that you can't just bowl up at a theatre and expect to get in, even on a Monday night and even for the first night of a play that hasn't yet been reviewed.

'I have people queueing for returns in the shopping centre', said the box office assistant, waving towards exit right.

I don't know the form at the Donmar, not having been before. It's a victim of its own success, going by the attitude. 'Oh, how will I know if there are any returns?' Cold stare, then, 'We'll come and tell you'.

Welcome back to London, Sheila.

Still, there were only what we'd call in the North a courting couple and three gay blokes in front of me, so if someone came back with a single ticket I was in with a chance. Two other single people came behind me. Still in with a good chance. But no, just after the first bell rang the box office assistant appeared and addressed the trio: 'You were hoping for a single ticket, yes?' and as one of them left the other two went in.

'Ive got standing tickets only, now.' So the two behind me went in but I remember it's quite a long play and my legs aren't up to it. It's not age - I wasn't any good at football matches for the same reason. I can't concentrate if I'm standing up. I once asked the Shakepeare Globe people if I could bring my folding chair to the pit, but no.

I'm sorry now I didn't go to 'Ghosts' at the Arcola in Dalston, but was still feeling knackered from the long drive the day before and didn't fancy a bus ride from London Bridge. A lot of travelling puts you off for a while and we'd got stuck in traffic in St Albans on a lunch detour.

Never mind, I have my Cineworld ticket with me so I'll to the Haymarket and see a film. It doesn't start til 9pm so first I eat a pizza to pass the time, and think 'Oh well, I'd have spent the money at the Donmar if I'd had the chance. It'll be a late finish, but R's at his bridge club, so I won't be missed. The new lodger's probably glad to get a night on his own.'

I quite enjoy the trailers, as they're all new. But hang on, there's something familiar about the credits for the main film!

Oh no! I've only seen it already - the week before I left for the North.

It's a very good film the first time you see it, with an excellent performance from Sam Rockwell. He plays a space-ship employee, at the end of a three year contract, monitoring equipment for an company that's somehow getting energy from moonrocks and sending it back to earth. I say he's the only actor, but there's a voiceover from Kevin Spacey as one of those silky-toned computers who's supposed to look after astronauts welfare and keeps sidling up behind them saying 'Can I help you?

It's even better the second time, though, because it's a film with an excellent narrative, that intrigues until almost the very end, and it's satisfying to see how you could have picked up on the clues all along. It's also an opportunity to note how good an actor Sam Rockwell is in a demanding part. He's no Stanley Kowalski in terms of physique, but he spends a lot of time in his vest. So I wasn't even tempted to leave early.

R chuckled at my mistake, even though I called him just before midnight to escort me up the hill. 'Moon!' I complained, 'What kind of a totally non-descriptive title is that?

I've learned my lesson, though - leave the choice of play to my friendly neighbourhood theatre-paperer, who deals in cheap tickets for untried or tired-out plays, or book in advance. Oh, and check to see if I've already seen a film before I go in.

A Streetcar named Desire at the Donmar: http://www.donmarwarehouse.com/pl102.html

Moon: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1182345/

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