“That thing is magical, and you are never taking it off, do you understand me?
This is the tale of how a navy sports coat started a chain reaction that culminated in Tom Hiddleston being mere inches away from my face. And that’s not even the most amazing part.
Jeff had been on the hunt for a jacket for a while and since January kicked off sale season, we headed down to Seven Dials for a look around a few shops that intrigued us. He found what he was looking for and on the way back to Leicester Square tube station, we literally stumbled upon a poster for a production of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, starring Tom Hiddleston at the Donmar Warehouse.
Donmar is a small, not for profit that has a really strong reputation as a producing theatre, and can boast nearly bursting at the seams with some of the highest acclaimed actors in Britain on any given performing night. We hadn’t heard of this performance prior to coming face to face with the poster, but naturally we both were wild to go see it. In addition to Hiddleston, whom we both really like, it had Mark Gatiss (of Sherlock fame amongst a great many other things), Deborah Findlay, and the list just goes on. Seriously, read the cast bios. Everything’s represented from Restoration comedy to Game of Thrones.
We also figured we had about a snowball’s chance in hell at getting tickets (most were sold out weeks in advance), but decided to try our luck anyway. On Monday morning we doubled teamed it; Jeff stationed himself at the computer in order to try and get a couple of the few that they release online, while I got in the queue at the theatre itself in the morning to try and snag some in person.
Even arriving quite early I was at the end of the line. My hopes sank a bit, but I decided to wait it out. At one point the queue divided into those hoping for day-of tickets and those chancing their luck with the handful of tickets provided by the main sponsor, leaving me with fewer rivals but still at the end. I watched people ahead of me walking away from the booth, clearly not willing to purchase what was available, but I’d already guessed we’d be getting the “standing room only” type. By the time I trotted up to the box office window and chirruped, “What’s left?” that was indeed all that remained, and only a handful at that. I was just thrilled to get it, I actually skipped back towards the tube station texting Jeff the good news.
We worked all day and then headed out to our evening at the theatre excited to see the show. The Donmar has only 250 seats, and a significant portion of those are standing room, which actually makes it feel not unlike going to see a traditional Shakespeare performance at the Globe, except that the locations are reversed. The privileged get seating on the ground floor with the stage and first level, while the cheap seaters line the narrow balconies and looked on.
It was mere seconds to show time when an usher tapped me on the shoulder and asked if Jeff and I were there together. I answered in the affirmative, wondering if we’d done something reprehensible without being aware of it. I actually was in the process of pulling out our tickets to prove we were there legally when she continued, “We have a pair of unclaimed seats on the main floor, would you like them?”
What sort of a question is that?! Feeling a bit dazed she led us down to the main floor and seated us on the third row corner, with a completely unimpeded view of the stage that (I later discovered) also put Tom Hiddleston’s cheekbones within touching distance. His cheekbones rank right up there in my book with Vegemite’s Bandersnatch’s and Jeff’s, so you can imagine the thrill this caused, to say nothing of having a truly marvelous vantage point of the whole play.
We sat down just as they started the whole, “Please silence your mobile phones now,” spiel when I happened to glance to my left. And saw Rufus Sewell, one of our very favorite actors, sitting ten feet away from us.
And that, kittens, is how I died.
The production itself was excellent, really one of the top Shakespeare performances I’ve ever seen. The set was minimal and used to superb effect, while the performances were absolutely spot on. The themes of power, populism, and politics intertwined cleverly with the creative, and the degree and type of special effects were exactly correct. Coriolanus is ruthless, dangerous, compelling, and persuasive, and you find yourself at times siding with nearly all of the characters at one point only to question your own judgement five minutes later.
An absolutely banner night that, as far as I can tell, defied every single law of probability.