Welcome to The Mix, an occasional pot-pourri about London theatre.
In this instalment I want to talk about matinee performances, a godsend for those of us who don’t want to travel too far in the evenings, those who want to double up shows, and vampires.
That matinee feeling
My favourites are midweek, followed by Saturdays then Sundays.
A bit of judicious planning can mean a really dedicated theatre goer may be able to see a massive fourteen shows in a week; more if morning shows for children are available.
That’s the possibility of 728 shows in a year. And yes, there are that many available, with over 250 performance spaces in London alone.
The matinee audience
Matinee audiences differ from theatre to theatre: in the West End you’ll find American, Japanese and Korean tourists, coach parties from the North of England, school parties, and senior citizens.
Elsewhere you’ll find students, resting actors, the local regulars, flexi workers and a melting pot of interesting characters.
It’s easier to chat at a matinee, I find, perhaps because there is something subversive about sitting in a dark auditorium during the day watching people pretending to be other people.
There’s a feel of the night time about it, as if afternoon audiences are all complicit in the feeling of “bunking off”.
It’s also rather nice and civilised not to have the pressure of rushing for the last bus or equivalent.
That matinee time
Times vary. I’ve been at The Yard at 1pm, Southwark Playhouse at 3.30pm, the Orange Tree at 4pm, the Etcetera Theatre at 12.30pm.
Above The Stag does early shows (matinee-ish) on a Sunday at 6.30pm. The Omnibus Theatre is often at 4pm.
Some theatres insist on 2.15pm which seems perverse. I’m not even going to mention the midnight “matinee” at the Globe.
Play your cards right, synchronise your watches, and hope the trains and buses are running, and you can have many a cultural day around London. You might even save a bit of money!
The matinee and me
I like matinees because they allow me to get to, or consider going to, corners of London like Clapham, Camden, Highgate, Islington, Hornchurch, Bromley, Honor Oak and Penge.
If I’m truthful, theatres which are strictly evenings only are a pain, and in some cases I may never visit. Much better for me to be a daytime traveller, where possible.
I appreciate some theatres cannot afford the expense of opening their spaces for daytime visitors, and that sometimes it just isn’t practical. I’ll come to you if I can (The Hope in Islington, the New Diorama in Camden are just two examples), but if you’re out in the far corners of outer London, it’s harder.
I’d like to shout out to all the theatres big and small which have been so welcoming in afternoons and early shows during this year of theatrical adventures. It’s been a blast.
I hope to visit many more of you in 2020, and to meet many more interesting people who like to spend their daytimes watching stage shenanigans (and the companies who perform for us). People like Alison and Yvonne, Julie and Mark, Howard and Gwen, Malcolm and Mark, Judy and Laura, Toby’s mum, Jenny and Sue …
What do matinees mean to you?
Have a think about your own experiences!