Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Final Act of Inconvenience; the Last 40 Minutes of Any West End Play Are Always Torture for One Writer. Should She Blame the Drink? No, the Theatres

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Final Act of Inconvenience; the Last 40 Minutes of Any West End Play Are Always Torture for One Writer. Should She Blame the Drink? No, the Theatres

Article excerpt

Byline: ESTHER WALKER

OK, IT'S my fault. ln the too-short interval at West End theatres I always pick booze over bogs. So, 40 minutes before the end of any play I need the loo - urgently. But, thanks to the fact that personal space in West End theatre seats is worse than a commuter train, the only way to escape is by crawling across the laps of my fellow theatregoers towards the aisle.

So there I sit in a private hell, oblivious to the play and jiggling my feet like a 50a-day smoker on a longhaul. Before the actors have straightened up from their final bows I am scrabbling for the exit, elbowing octogenarians out of the way.

You might think I shouldn't drink during the interval, but why should I, or any member of the paying public, have to sacrifice having a drink during the break because theatres' loos are not fit for purpose?

It all comes down to money, I suppose. The gross income from a bum on a stalls seat is about [pounds sterling]26; the gross income from a bum on a loo is zero. It's different at the Royal Opera House, where there are plenty of loos and many performances have several breaks, so you are never more than 45 minutes away from a drink, snack or a trip to the lav. All yours for [pounds sterling]245.

The money men in Theatreland have no financial incentive to lay on extra lavatories but it's a false economy. Most people find a trip to a West End theatre a physically joyless experience. It's not just the loos, it's those knobbly seats that make you twist about in discomfort, the sweaty, overcrowded bars, the poisonous and ruinously expensive wine. Were things a little more pleasant, perhaps the West End would have more full houses without having to resort to a constant stream of crowd-pleasing musicals.

However, it is unlikely that things will change any time soon. The reason theatres in the West End are so dingy and cramped is that they are old and most of them are listed, making structural change a logistical nightmare or impossible. …

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