My first experience with London’s West End was a guy in a top hat yelling at me in Leicester Square. He wasn’t an actor or a promoter, he was my flat mate who in that moment was entirely outraged and horrified by me. I was living in a university flat at Kingston University where there were 6 boys and two girls; co-habiting with strangers went surprisingly smoothly apart from the time one of the boys at my cheese and this top hat yelling incident.
Three of us flatmates had taken the train into London for the day to go and see a show. We were relying on the cheap ticket sellers in the middle of Leicester Square because after spending £12 on train tickets to get into the city, not much was left in our student budgets. We stood in line trying to be cool, but actually just ending up cold, while wondering what show we would end up seeing. When we got to the front rather than asking for a particular show or genre we were those students who through fake smiles asked ‘what is the cheapest ticket?’
This is about the time my flatmate in the top hat started to get twitchy. As we continued to debate if the £25 ticket was the cheapest they had today the top hat was looking less and less jolly. We decided to walk away from those tickets, £25 being more than our student budgets could afford on top of the train ticket we had already purchased. We only got a few feet away before the top hat went off. He just could not believe we considered the tickets too expensive considering what went into producing one of these shows, the magic and the mastery of it. We blinked at him a few times and then went to Cafe Nero for a hot chocolate.
Cut to a few years later when I was actually living in London (after vowing to never live in such a boring city) and I had a day off work. I was equally skint even though I was now a fully employed adult and the reason I had annual leave to take a random day off work is because I couldn’t afford a holiday, so decided the art at the National Gallery was the next best thing. I was wondering through Leicester square when I came across that same ticket counter, on a whim I stopped by and again asked what the cheapest ticket was. This time, I could stretch the £18 for Spamalot that started in five minutes.
My god it was a magical experience. Sitting in a theatre in the West End is enough to make you feel like royalty, to transport you, and that is before the show has even started. I grew up on Monty Python (shout out to my 7th form Art Design class who ran a Monty Python based anarchy) and this show was better than this fan girl could have imagined. I kept looking around during the show, trying to catch someone’s eye just to see if they were enjoying it as much as I did. I still have some of the confetti that they shoot out at the end of the show, just to keep the performance alive.
I’ve never forgotten that power. Going to a show is still my go-to whenever I am having an ‘I hate London’ day. It is something that you would never be able to experience in New Zealand, even if we get a touring company once a year it just is not the same. And of course I have now figured out that if you book in advance you can get tickets for as low as £12.
If you are on the fence about London at the moment, or just need a little magic in your life, please go and book a show. It will fill you up with wonder.
P.s. the top hat? He was a performing arts student…
This post is in collaboration with http://www.boxoffice.co.uk/