I’d had a couple of drinks on the way there. I had. There is a famous pub next to The Regional Theatre (a rather inaccurately disparaging description for a national institution) that has fuelled pre-show and post-show predilections for many a year. A couple of pints before the ‘do’. And maybe during the show. I’d seen it before. And I had table plans to attend to.
My job, in short, was to ‘meet, greet and seat’. I was to stand at the flapping entrance to a marquee (no flower pots) with a clipboard and ‘placement cards’ designed to help guests remember, from meeting me through to walking the twenty metres to the amassed ‘six foot rounds for ten’, which table was theirs. We were having the starter and main prior. Dessert after.
The host was The Communications Director of a major drinks company who had been a significant sponsor of The Regional Theatre for a number of years. Shylock had therefore been asked to pose with a bottle of whiskey before bewailing his ducats and his daughter and the Merry Wives had undertaken a daytrip to a family pub on the edge of town with a ‘softplay area’ in a room on the side, prior to bewitching and hoodwinking Falstaff.
My first arrival was the Chairman of a locally-named building society who, I had heard, we were trying to cultivate for support. So instead of briefly ‘meeting, greeting and seating’ I took it upon myself to tell him and his wife all about the event that we had held for his senior managers just a week prior and how everyone seemed to enjoy the show that they had seen. I had no idea whether this was the case and my abiding memory of the occasion I was recounting was finding myself sitting at a table of what can best be described as ‘country types’ who only deigned to turn to me to ask me if I hunted. Being from a suburban 70s New Town, my frequenting of The Chase was not something I could confidently recount for the purposes of dinner party chitter chatter. I had gone home feeling angrily crushed.
That said, although my Big Boss’ PA was looking at my precocious patter with a undisguised look of dismay, the Building Society Chairman smiled, looked me in the eye and thanked me for a charming welcome. Score, I thought.
I took this social success as a cue to go and get myself a drink and use the occasion as an opportunity to introduce myself to my Chief Executive. That exchange didn’t go as well as the one with the Building Society Chairman as he used it as his moment to complain about being sat next to his wife (who the corridor conversations told me was not only not keen on these sorts of events but who was probably in the process of leaving him). I told him that I would see what I could do and promptly forgot all about it.
I spent the duration of the show scanning the cast lists, deciding which minor members of the company I was going to take pains to meet for the purposes of thinking all sorts of filthy thoughts about later, back in my cheap B&B room later.
But by the time the guests returned at the end of the performance (it was one of the longer Shakespeares) I was a little wobblier on my feet and feeling particularly bloated thanks to snaffled glasses of champagne from the catering bar and packets of crisps from the pub. The guests, however, were on a mission to play catchup and, it being a major drinks company, each table had a bottle of ‘featured product’ plonked in the centre, regardless of the way in which it may or may not have accompanied the soon-to-be-ignored dessert. The Communications Director, it turned out, was a failed thesp and was using this point in the evening to regail those members of the company who had already started to arrive with his triumphs on the amateur dramatics scene in Gloucestershire. No current or future crushes had looked like they were arriving quite yet so I deserted my position next to the entrance, which was, in honesty, starting to get a bit cold.
But what a start to my fundraising career. Racking up a bit of ‘corporate cultivation success’, some ‘upward management of the powers that be’ and cheering on the actor who was understudying the 60s icon who was making a fresh start as Lady M (but who had fallen off the back of the black-painted stage in Tech) and who was stomping on the table, furiously flicking her skirts and singing ‘Hey Big Spender’ for the benefit of The Communications Director who was holding a bottle of Branded Gin aloft in salute.
I made a relatively swift exit at midnight. Box Office Boy had tipped me off that the actor playing Fernando was going to be receiving a visit, at around 12.30am, from a certain Aussie Songstress at the door to his digs a couple of streets away. There was celebrity staking out to attend to. And after an unsuccessful and rather poorly committed-to ten minutes of standing on that cold street corner, I headed back to my cheap B&B. To think all sorts of filthy thoughts about Spear Carriers and Box Office Boy.