Sunday, December 24, 2006

[Insert jazz hands here]

[Insert jazz hands here]

During my first shift at the WYP a woman fainted on me. In the last few months as I've ending up with people shadowing me I've told this story with abandon. Because it's a difficult one to beat (possibly only done so by the almost bomb evacution during my first shift on reception) and it does help put into perspective any problems encountered with the seating numbers.

This was undoubtedly the most dramatic thing that happened to me during these early shifts. Those weeks were full of not quite knowing my way round the maze of corridors, having a t-shirt that didn't quite fit and not quite fighting off the nagging feeling that it was wrong to be going to work when the rest of the bus queue were on their way home. I worked cloakroom lots, which I liked because of all the strange conversations it involved, and saw the second half of Twelfth Night 11 times whilst seeing the first half once. I wasn't quite as keen on this.

After those early weeks things settled down; I fell head over heels in love with My Mother Said I Never Should and working odd hours didn't bother me. I managed to try all the ice cream flavours. Somehow I didn't need to ask questions anymore. Eventually I started working with D, though he thought I wouldn't like him because of the Oxford thing. To this day he still mocks me about being a geek. Thankfully he mocks me for being a stalker more.

Then came the Christmas season and the endless performances of Alice in Wonderland. I moaned, but I loved it. I actually enjoyed spending Christmas week in a theatre, and the Boxing Day shift, with those increasingly familiar figures and increasingly excited children was rather wonderful.

Once Alice had shuffled off of the stage for the last time the intensity level changed but it was all so second nature now that it didn't matter. I became a Senior Attendant which meant I got to deal with broken headsets and dogs during the audio described performances and even got to stroke an actor or two during a touch tour. There was the emotionally incredible Trilogy Saturdays where, after nine hours of Shakespeare, I wanted to stand up and cheer.

There were latecomers, audience members who made me want to punch something, hours spent stock taking ice cream. There was vomit, malteasers stamped into the floor and a child's nose that exploded. There were shows I loved, shows I hated and a couple I just didn't understand. And then of course there was Bad Girls the Musical.

When the theatre went dark I trained on reception and managed to work out what a good 35% of the people in the building actually do. When the season started again it was with the realisation that I was no longer a newbie, something which I hadn't put my finger on before. I tried not to scare those shadowing me too much whilst trying to cultivate an air of Yoda like knowledge. In a couple of cases it worked. At least up until my penchant for the ice cream became obvious. Down to the one job I did what seemed like hundreds of shifts and worried everyone with my over-enthusiasm for spine tinglingly brilliant The Duchess of Malfi.

There was a sense in which the months from September onwards were almost a holding zone. I'd decided many months ago that I'd rather like to be Duty Manager, if only to have something concrete to answer all those enquiries as to when I was going to get a proper job. And long before it was supposed to be common knowledge that there was a job opening people started asking if I was going to apply. I didn't say it as blatantly, but of course I was. I'd settled it in my head.

So I applied. And - possibly on account of an amusing story or two - I got the job.

Two days later I did my last shift as an attendant and then returned my t-shirt. Or at least I would have if I'd remembered.

Many weeks ago, in a quite moment in the coffee shop because obviously I don't chat when I'm supposed to be working, History Boy and I had talked around applying for the job. History Boy had decided that he wouldn't because he'd miss being an attendant too much, I'd already decided that I'd be willing to give it up. It wasn't until I was knee deep in my first duty manager shift that I realised properly what he meant.

Because being an attendant at the WYP meant all that theatre, all those actors I got to heart. I got to read, to re-draft a play, once even to cry at theatre whilst being paid. It meant I could be talking about quantum mechanics and philosophical cats one minute and about reality tv and which actor missed a line the next. And I will miss that. Because now I've to retire to the office rather than the plush coffee shop sofas it's not going to be the same. This is not to say I'd take the decision back, I emphatically wouldn't as I feel the creeping familiarity and comfort enveloping me. I like shouting 'House Open'. I like writing show reports. Because I'm easily pleased I especially like having a WYP email address.

But I have loved being an attendant, I've met some fantastic people [even if some of them have made me feel old] and I know that if I had to do it again I wouldn't hesitate.

If there's a next time, though, I'd like to request a t-shirt in skinny fit if that's alright.

1 comment:

Nik said...

should the WYP want any of the attendant t-shirts back I know exactly where they are, not least because on my last trip to Leeds I nearly took them home with me...