Confessions of a Box Office Manager: a drunken birthday bash
This week our West End mole manages to avoid a run-in with some drunken theatre revellers
Blimey, that looks a bit worrying. There are about 20 minutes of the Saturday matinee to go and a pair of the security staff heard something on their headsets that made them dive down the stairs towards the stalls. That's the fastest I've ever seen Big Ed move. (I don't know if Big Ed is his real name – it probably isn't – but he's been here at weekends for a couple of years and we've chatted about every topic under the sun without ever exchanging names, so it would feel pretty weird to ask him now...so we call him Big Ed.)
As each of us in the box office has to wear a badge, Big Ed knows all our names and uses them a lot. A LOT. Unfortunately, his badge is a generic security company one with only their logo on it plus a terrifying photo of a younger Big Ed looking like an escaped convict.
I'm just listening to the walkie-talkie for any updates on the stalls situation when the house manager suddenly appears, moving stealthily around the foyer like something from The Professionals as he heads over to the door through which Big Ed and his colleague have just disappeared. As the only straight man on the theatre management team he loves any opportunity to play the Alpha Male (he sulked for a whole month when security across the city heightened and Big Ed and his cohorts became regular fixtures). He is carrying his walkie-talkie as though it's a deadly weapon and throws me an inscrutable look when I give him an encouraging but quizzical thumbs-up from the safety of my box. He too then darts down the stalls steps and all I can hear over the radio set is the performance continuing as usual.
I'm just about to go back to checking the couple of reservations outstanding for tonight's performance when the security guards reappear, leading a pair of somewhat dishevelled audience members, hotly pursued by the house manager who is now standing with his hands on his hips and glowering with righteous indignation. It's not his butchest look.
The couple who have been taken out of the auditorium seem a bit the worse for wear and, from what I can hear, they've been asked to leave as their inebriated 'enjoyment' has been ruining the show for the people sitting around them. The man is handling it much better than the woman: he has thrust his hands deep into his pockets, is keeping his head down and repeatedly mutters "yeah, alright, fair do's" while Big Ed and the house manager calmly speak to them. She, on the other hand, is having none of it:
"You can't f***ing do this to us! This is his f***ing birthday! We ain't f***ing done nuffink" she rages, all the while swaying gently in the non-existent breeze.
"We asked you to stop singing at the interval..." says the house manager, his voice going up an octave, "but you persisted, no I'm sorry, let me finish, but you persisted, and you were disturbing everybody in your section."
"No we wasn't! They're f***ing making it up."
"Madam, with respect, the usher could hear you from the aisle."
"Yeah? YEAH?! Well, they're f***ing making it up an' all then."
"Come on now love," says the birthday boy, looking absolutely mortified.
"You shut yer marf" she rejoinders winningly, "I'm f***ing sticking up for you 'ere!" (Eh? How?)
"Madam, can I ask you please to moderate your language. You're clearly intoxicated..."
"I am NOT f***ing drunk!" She screams (drunkenly). "How can I be drunk when HE," and at this point she pokes Big Ed viciously in the chest, he doesn't even flinch. Impressive. "Took our vodka off us when we come in?!"
By this stage all of the box office and front of house staff are milling about like meerkats, desperately trying to look busy but also keen not to miss a moment of this heated exchange. I realise that I am doing the same and start staring fixedly at my computer screen.
Eventually the pair is convinced to leave. The man, bless him, shakes hands with Big Ed and the manager before he leaves, which makes me feel a bit sad. He's now got to endure the rest of his birthday. With her.
As Big Ed hands her back the confiscated vodka bottle she makes a huge show out of unscrewing the top, taking a huge swig and then spitting it onto the foyer floor at his feet. Classy. This grand gesture is somewhat marred by her subsequent inability to walk unaided out into the street. Terrible waste of vodka.
The house manager has gone a very pasty colour.
"Can you see if we've got any details for these people?" he asks, "Stalls P14 and 15."
I find their details immediately. I remember her making the booking over the phone. She'd been nice enough but turned a bit stroppy when she asked if I could arrange to have the cast sing Happy Birthday to her husband from the stage ("doesn't have to be half way through the show, the end will do") and I'd refused.
"Yep, here they are. This is the only time they've booked anything here."
"Right, good. OK, so can you make a note on their profile that they aren't allowed to come again" he says shakily, and then wanders off, presumably looking for a bucket and mop before the matinee crowd emerge.
I imagine that pair will have very sore heads tomorrow, and I am bracing myself for a slew of post-show complaints from patrons who'd been in the vicinity of row P in the Stalls. Ah, live theatre. It's enough to turn you to vodka. But hey, nobody died.