Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Coriolanus at the Donmar Warehouse

By the time I realized that Coriolanus was playing at the Donmar Warehouse, all the seats had been officially sold out and the ticket draw contest had expired. Not wanting to sell a kidney in order to afford a scalped ticket and with only a few weeks left in the run, I decided to do the crazy thing and queue for day seats with SSH. Most websites were still saying "Turn up at 6 am!", but those had been posted in December, and as paranoia kicked in, we extrapolated that we needed to be there at 5 am or earlier. I'd never stood in line in the middle of the night for anything before (During the crazy Hello Kitty years we knew the manager at the McDonald's at Parkway Parade so there was no need for us to queue), so I did all the necessary research before heading out of the house at 4.20 am. The night bus was late, but it rolled around eventually, and I was almost surprised by how crowded it was at Please-Let-Me-Sleep-Some-More-o'clock in the morning. But really, London's one of those cities that don't really sleep. When I arrived at the Donmar Warehouse at 4.40 am, I was 10th in line. 


Having experienced first-hand the horrors joys of queuing for day seats, I've put together a Handy-Dandy Packing List for everyone thinking of doing the same anytime in the near future:

1. Notes (And other reading material) - If you're a student, you can really get a whole lot of work done while standing in line. Street lighting's pretty good round the Theatre District in London, so no worries about eye strain. I finished all my compulsory readings, as well as a couple of optional ones before the sun came up. SSH had her notes loaded on a Kindle, but she totally ended up ignoring them in favour of other books. Either way, bring something to keep yourself occupied.
2. Snacks - You will get the munchies. Also, they're great for sharing with others as an ice-breaker.
3. A Winning Personality (Or Just Be Civil) - It's the dead of the night, and if you had any sense at all you'd probably be in bed, but since you're camped out on a sidewalk with a load of other strangers, might as well make a go of it. There are serial queuers who wind up becoming best friends with the crowd around them (Like the bunch of girls who got there an hour before we did), but even if that's not you, a bit of small talk and a smile liberally applied here and there makes for a cozier atmosphere for everyone.
4. Warm Clothing (Especially socks - Seriously wear many layers of socks) - I forgot to wear my socks. 2 hours in, I could no longer feel my toes. Sticking them under warm water when I got home later in the day was torture. Remember to protect your extremities. 
5. Something to Sit On - Waiting for the morning paper to arrive to use as insulation for your butt may be too late. Grab a stack of Evening Standards the night before. Or make like that really resourceful lady who brought a lime green collapsible stool. (Although maybe the stool's kind of like a LVL 100 thing for really seasoned queuers. I mean, she was there from 2 in the morning.


The first and the last hours were probably the worst, but 10 am rolled round much more quickly than we were expecting it to, and next thing we knew, it was our turn to buy tickets. By this point we'd sort of made friends with the other people in line, and listened in on one of the chattier girls' entire life story. There were only 20 standing tickets in the back of the theatre available that day, and thankfully the people in the front didn't make use of the two tickets per person policy, so we managed to get what we needed. The lady in the back who'd queued for the second time in as many days also managed to eke out a space, and we were all pretty happy for her - it would have sucked to have been turned away twice. Tickets in hand, we hightailed it to school to sit by one of the many radiators and warm my toes. It began to rain only after we'd ducked into one of the school buildings, for which we will eternally count our blessings. If the massive downpour had started any earlier in the morning it would have utterly sucked. 


It was a great show that night. Coriolanus takes on a whole new dimension when you're one of the plebs craning your neck from the back row, and when you have AT as a housemate to rant about democracy with afterwards. The Donmar Warehouse is a small enough space that even from the back I think I managed to make eye contact with Tom Hiddleston a couple of times we could see the whole performance clearly, and the intimacy of the stage lent itself extremely well to Deborah Findlay's Volumnia. Completely blown away by her. 


Don't know if anything else will come up that I'd be keen to queue for, but at least I managed to tick it off my London Bucket List for a show that was worth the wait. I imagine the queues are going to get utterly insane for the final performance. 

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