We arrived at the theatre in a state of near exhaustion, buoyed up on caffeine. Paul and I were dressed up as usual, although both feeling bedraggled after a day travelling on the underground. He was wearing a fetching bow tie and I sported a favourite cravat. The seats were expensive, as is often the case in London, and as it’s a boisterous play we’ve gone for the cheaper ones on the balcony. It’s not so bad to be away from the stage if it’s a musical but terrible in an intense drama. You miss the nuances.
The theatre was faithfully restored Art Deco with black and white leaded fittings and sweeping staircases. We wheezed our way up the stairs and picked our way through to our seats. The walk along the row was vertiginous as we were so high and we both felt we might fall. We didn’t fall.
We settled in and the women next to Paul make light conversation. They were mother and daughter from Lancashire on a trip to London. They were both Michael Ball fans (we’re not), had travelled down especially to see “Sweeney Todd” and were both celebrating significant birthdays. Neither Paul nor I responded correctly and asked what their birthdays were or politely underestimated their ages. They were clearly 70 and 50. It wasn’t worth asking: they looked 70 and 50. I didn’t care if they were 70 and 50, anyway. We both smiled politely and I marvelled that someone would come for a night out at the theatre wearing a fleece.
The play started and it was superb. A familiar excitement built in me and I knew it was going to be entertaining as the hairs rose on my skin. Incongruously, they’d updated the musical from Victorian times to the 1950s. It didn’t make sense (people weren’t deported to Australia in the 50s) but looked good. I liked that it looked good.
It was almost the interval when she started. A woman behind me began to sing along. There was a lack of timing and a slight sibilant lisp. She was a little off key. It was a little irritating but I coped. I would rather have listened to Imelda Staunton singing the part but I gritted my teeth. I had actually paid to listen to the actors singing.
The interval ended and the woman behind was talking to a man. The music began and she still continued talking to her companion. She regaled him with tales of the time she was in Sweeney Todd in am-dram. The play started and she was still talking; explaining the psychological make-up, history and motivations of the character Mrs Lovett. I thought to myself: “What! It’s a musical theatre show. It’s not Ibsen. People don’t have motivations that require analysis. She’s building her part up.” I suspected she’d had a glass of wine.
I pondered for a moment and wondered what to do. I wanted to hear the play and not her and so I did the obvious thing. I turned in my seat, stared and shushed in a gentlemanly manner. She was curled up in a balding man’s lap, talking loudly to him and she started when she saw me shushing her. She then stopped talking. I’d caught a good glimpse of her. Nearing fifty, slightly on the plump side and cheaply dressed. Her legs (across his thigh) were squeezed into silvery toned tights. It was not pleasant to see. Drink can do bad things to you.
Sadly she decided to retaliate. People can’t bear being told that they’re wrong. It’s a strange thing but whenever you point out to someone that they’re behaving badly it becomes your fault. Ten minutes in, I felt something slap my shoulder. It was the strap of her handbag. She’d decided to exact revenge on me by regularly slapping me across the back of the head with her bag. It wasn’t too annoying and I decided to cope with it. I must admit, I did once or twice try to grab the offending item but she was quick. It was a shame as I would have loved to have sent the bag tumbling onto the row in front but perhaps also for the best as I do hate a commotion. The thought of the tawdry contents of her bag spilling across people’s laps amused me. I visualised sanitary items, spare pants and fluffy mints scattering across the aisle. The intermittent slaps to the back of my head were painless and if anything added to the tension of Act Two. I decided to accept it and wait.
The play finished and she gave a final slap on my shoulder with the strap as we all applauded. We all stood to leave and she probably thought that was over. It wasn’t. Her back turned to me slightly as she made to leave the row; I rolled my tweed jacket into a weapon and swung it artfully at her huge ham of a calf. It ricocheted off her silvery tights with a satisfying whack and she started, almost enough to make her fall. I must admit, there was velocity in that whack.
I smiled at her; “I’m terribly sorry. I seem to have accidently flicked you with my tweed. Isn’t it terrible when one is accidentally flicked? Very alarming. Amazing show, though. Did you hear any of it or were you too busy talking?”
She coloured and her plump face looked beaten as she looked down at her battered court shoes and left the theatre hurriedly.
Score: Me: 1 Silvery-tights Wearing Twat: 0