Love is in the air. So is the sound of popping champagne corks, the raucous laughter of inebriated guests and the whiff of warmed-over canapés. Yes we’ve got a wedding in the house. It’s quite common nowadays in theatres and is a bit of a win-win: a (perceived) glamorous, off-beat ceremony location for the stagey-minded and secularly-souled, and a nice little earner for the management of a building that on non-matinee days would just be sitting empty.
From a box office point-of-view, it rather joyfully breaks up the tedium of the shift sitting here watching the gift-bearing guests arriving in all their finery. As the day wears on and the post-ceremony drinks kick in (I am guessing that the bar tab for today’s event is particularly generous) it’s also highly amusing observing them leaving or nipping out for a smoke while decidedly the worse for wear. I must have seen thousands of pounds worth of millinery jammed unceremoniously up into armpits as their refreshed owners totter precariously on their spike heels across the foyer (and that’s just the men…!) and go into battle with our apparently unfathomably tricky exit doors. I’ve lost count of the number of times already today that I’ve given up bellowing “just push the metal bar! Yes, that one! That’s right, just push it!” through the window and left my perch to go and physically open the door for them.
This is how I got talking to my new ‘friend’ and unfortunately he now seems to prefer my company to that of his fellow wedding guests. It’s getting a little awkward.
It started – like so many romantic tales – with a load of pushing and shoving. I was on the phone to a ticket agency sorting out that night’s allocation when I suddenly found that I couldn’t hear the seat numbers over the tremendous racket coming from the foyer, where a smartly suited man was punctuating the frantic rattling to and fro of the door out to the street with small staccato kicks to the base of it.
“Excuse me for a moment” I yelled into the receiver, “I’ll ring you back!”
Wearily I call to him “Sir! SIR! If you push that horizontal bar instead of pulling it the door should open. Just push it!”
Bleary-eyed, he faces me and gives a wobbly wave. Then he turns back round and continues pulling on the door as though taking part in some sort of fizz-fuelled tug-of-war. I climb off my stool and trudge across the foyer towards him.
“Allow me” I say (charmingly of course) as I reach past him, gently putting pressure on the metal bar: lo, the door opens. The look of gratitude on his face suggests I’ve just bought him a house rather than helped him to get out to the street.
“YOU.” he points unsteadily “Are. FABULOUS.”
“Oh sure, I get that a lot” I demur, my arm aching from holding the door open for him at a funny angle. Finally he stops staring at me (to be fair, I think he was mostly trying to focus) and goes out, leaving me free to return to my post.
Five minutes later I’m back on the phone to the ticket agent when I hear a gentle knocking sound. I look up from my screen and out there on the street, visible through the huge glass window in the foyer door, is that man again. He has a simpering grin plastered all over his face and in one hand he has a half-full champagne flute (how did he get that out there?!) while he’s soulfully waving with the other one. I wave back and go on with my work.
Five more minutes later and I can hear that damn knocking again. I look across at the door and there he is… same grin, same wave, glass now empty and buttonhole flower wilting by the second. Again I wave back and stare fixedly at my screen… I haven’t got time for all this. I’m BUSY.
The knocking continues for a bit – I deliberately don’t look over – then subsides and is replaced with a feeble scraping noise. This stops after a couple of seconds then it’s back to the knocking. Starting to get a bit irritated, I tear my eyes away from the screen. Champagne Charlie stops knocking, and starts gesticulating wildly. I just wave… this is all becoming a bit bloody silly, quite frankly, when he stops whirling his arms about like a hammered windmill and begins pushing at the door. Ah…so THAT’s what the scraping sound was: he was trying to push the door that opens outwards, that he clearly saw me open outwards in the first place to let him out. Ah, how soon they forget. Especially when they’re drunk as skunks.
I wander over (slowly) and let him in.
“You are an angel” he wheezes.
“Famous for it” I respond, “You could have just pulled the door.”
“I wanted to come back in and talk to YOU!”
“Aw, that’s nice. Now I really must crack on. Enjoy the rest of the party.”
He stares at me apparently lost for words (in all fairness he’s not bad looking, or at least he would have looked OK if it hadn’t been for the fact that the whites of his eyes were the colour of raw steak, and said eyes were almost spinning in his head) then he grins, winks and lurches off in the direction of the Stalls bar where the party sounds as though it’s still in full swing.
I am settling back into a particularly riveting batch of work-related emails when a glass of champagne lands clumsily on the counter next to me, sloshing half of its contents over the seating plan. Thank God it’s laminated. My chum is back.
“I’ve brought you THIS.” – he waves the glass at me – “Got you a little drinkie.” (Then he burps. It’s a beautiful moment.)
“Oh…look… that’s really sweet of you but I never drink on duty…”
“‘Snot fair that we are having all the fun while you’re up here doing all this…” he gestures dismissively at the foyer in general then pointing rather viciously at the box office in particular.
“Ha! Well you know, we’ve all gotta work” I say, as breezily as possible. I really just want to be left alone to get on with my chores.
“I know!” he sighs deeply, engulfing me in a fug of fizz fumes, and semi-slumps on the counter, staring at me intently. Crikey, he’s really not going anywhere is he.
“So…” he says, “Tell me something.”
“Well…what’s your name, what do you do…?”
I show him my name badge. “There’s my name, and I’m the Box Office Manager here.”
“Lovely to meet you. I am Roger. I’m a hed-, a hedge-f, a fund, hedge fun, I’m a banker.”
“Nice to meet you too Roger, now….”
“Tell me about the history of this place…”
“This theatre? Er…well…”
“Yeaaaaaah…..come on…. come….” and with that Roger leans forward to rest his elbow on the box office counter, misjudges the distance and completely disappears from view.
I am just standing on my tiptoes to peer over the counter and see if he’s alright when a jolly woman in a floral dress comes bowling into the foyer from the direction of the wedding party.
“Roger! ROGER!!” she trills “What the hell are you doing down there? Get up! Get up at once!”
“He isn’t hurt is he? Do we need the First Aid box?” I manage before she continues…
“You silly bugger. Get up immediately!” Actually, I’m pretty sure she gives him a surreptitious kick, he’s certainly groaning about something down there.
I go round to help get him onto his feet and between us we heave Roger into a vertical position.
“I’m so sorry if he’s been a nuisance. Has he been a frightful bore, has he?!”
“No no, not at all.”
“He gets like this I’m afraid and the booze is flowing freely down there…”
“Yes so I gathered.”
“Come on YOU…” she lovingly takes his hand -he turns and shrugs with a forlorn smile, plus a much less flamboyant wave – and I assume they are going to leave with what’s left of Roger’s dignity intact; but no, they head straight back to the party.
An hour or so later it’s closing time at the nuptial bash and the guests are leaving in various stages of drunken dishevelment while the theatre staff swoop in to clear up and make the venue ready for tonight’s performance. Other box office staff have arrived by now so I am able to get on with things in the back office, safe from any further excruciating encounters with Roger and his flowery cohort. Still can’t quite work out what their relationship actually is. Either way, I suspect he will have a very sore head later on. Still, we’ve all been there. And hey, nobody died.