Confessions of a Box Office Manager: the ticket rush before Christmas
Our West End mole has to fend off desperate pleas from acquaintances for
They haven't moved Christmas have they? No of course they haven't. I mean, while I was staring uncomprehendingly at some tedious ticket sales report, they didn't suddenly decide to postpone it until next summer or something, did they. Again, no.
Pardon my tone of weary sarcasm (although you should be used to it by now) but, as the festive season looms and then staggers on (and on), I have been inundated by requests from acquaintances requesting, nay demanding, hard-to-get tickets for pantomimes or family friendly shows during the popular Christmas period. Other mates in the ticketing industry have been saying the same thing, and this year has been the worst I can remember. Maybe everybody has been so traumatised by Brexit and various other ongoing miseries that they were in denial about the approaching holidays, and forgot to book anything to take the family to. Now of course it is of paramount importance that Tarquin and Jemima see Dawn French and Julian Clary at the London Palladium. From the front row of the Royal Circle. On Boxing Night. And do I know anybody that works there?! When I reply with a negative they then go through their list of other options, starting with the Disney musicals and working their way down from there.
It's seldom close friends or family getting in touch though; it's the kind of people you hear from only when they want something -my mobile phone lit up like a Christmas tree the day Hamilton went on sale, for example.
Don't get me wrong, part of it is my own fault: in my youth I'm sure that, full of drunken bonhomie, I repeatedly told almost-strangers to get in contact if they needed help with getting tickets to anything, but some of them apparently don't understand the basic principles of getting on the phone or online and buying tickets in advance. They may have grasped that a puppy is not just for Christmas but they seem to have trouble applying that to a ticketing acquaintance.
When all else fails, I offer them tickets (to pay for) for the show I'm working on. That usually gets rid of them. An occasional perk of my job is being invited to see other West End productions, often when they are still in preview, but everybody in the industry knows that if you're after tickets to a show over this Christmas period then you'll be expected to pay for them, at full whack.
I am just putting down the phone from one friend of a friend who had finally managed to get hold of me, having left two voicemails and sent four texts in less than six hours, and was pretty fed up when I suggested Hackney, Richmond or Wimbledon as affordable alternatives to the Palladium premium prices she was moaning about, when it immediately rings again.
It's Roger, the company manager of our show.
"Hello darling, I'm glad it's you."
"Ah, that's nice."
"Firstly, I need to book in a couple of seats for the 27th evening. Have we got the company rate on that night?"
"I'm afraid not, the producers made me take it off the system up until January the 3rd."
"Oh balls. I'd forgotten that." (It was Roger that told ME, but I decide there's no use pointing that out now.)
"So...do they still want them...at full?"
"I'd better check, can you hold me a pair for now?"
"Of course. What name?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Guess!' I'm really not in the mood for this, I've got the January rotas to do. "Guess!"
"Yes, yes, I heard you. Um.....Well, can you give me a clue at least?"
I can feel my inner Grinch coming out. "Ok, what does it rhyme with?"
"The name Roger, what does it rhyme with?"
"It's Guess. The name is Guess."
"Ohhhhh..." Yeah, I feel a bit stupid now, to be honest.
I book those in and am about to hang up when Roger says "Just before you go, do you know anybody at the Palladium? I want to take the other half to the panto on New Year's Eve and I'm not paying those prices!"
See what I mean? I regretfully inform him that no, I can't help, and resolve to book holiday for this time next year. Despite all the crazy seat requests though, I really do love this time of year. It's a lot of work but the atmosphere in the theatre is pretty special, the staff here are terrific...and we get A LOT of food gifts. In a fortnight it'll be back to normal and I won't hear from some of my fairweather chums for another twelve months. But hey, nobody died. ￼