I took my seat in the third to last row of the theatre, hovering rather precariously in the balcony seats, desperately trying not too lean too far forward. The usher had informed me that the play would be performed without an interval, so I amused myself wondering how my poor little sparrow bladder was likely to cope. Such was the disinterest I was still feeling before the house lights dimmed.
"Allo, my name is Jerome", said a voice in the semi-darkness. Turning to my right, there he was - the perfect French export. Well-dressed, well-coiffed, well-accented. Gay of course, but his all round fabulousness was immediately obvious. And as always happens when I am confronted with situations like this, I immediately forgot how to speak French, and proceeded to babble about boring crap to poor Jerome, who indulged my ramblings in a manner that can only be described as decidedly un-French. Turns out Jerome is a businessman in town for a visit to London, and he's spending the week here going to as many plays and musicals as he can. I loved him. The lights dimmed, Jerome wished me a good show (as if I was the principal actor!), and we were on our way.
It was immediately obvious to me that I had done zero research into this production, save for knowing that the cast included David Hyde Pierce (Niles from Frasier) and the ever-wonderful Joanna Lumley (Patsy from AbFab). Going into the show, I thought the play was a staging of a French classic, which of course it is not - thankfully I did not mention that to Jerome earlier (phew!). For the first 15 minutes of the production, only 1 character speaks. This is the fool Valere, who is played by the amazing Mark Rylance (sadly I've never seen him in anything before, which is entirely my loss, I assure you). Valere delivers a rambling, completely nonsensical but at the same time brilliant monologue that had all the audience cringing, then laughing, and then cringing again. Up and down it went, but the audience followed along because we were all on the edge of our seats in awe of his great talent for comedy. When Joanna Lumley ultimately comes in to the production, she too commands the stage and kicks the production into a whole new gear. The supporting cast are fantastic too and the plot moves at a really quick pace. My bladder didn't even notice that we didn't get a toilet break - THAT'S how good it was.
I lost sight of Jerome when the house lights went up and the crowd rushed for the exits. Good thing is that if I decided to find him again, he's going to see Dreamboats and Petticoats tomorrow night. Naturally.