I was lucky enough to get Coriolanus tickets in the mad scramble yesterday. I live and work in London and the Donmar Warehouse is not far from my work, so today I walked there after I left the office and picked up my tickets!
It was interesting to see that they printed the time they were purchased on my ticket - 9.11am yesterday. Around 10 minutes later, all the tickets were sadly gone. It’s a tiny theatre though, and these tickets were always going to be in high demand.
After picking up my tickets, I had a wander round - I know the area pretty well but have never been to this particular theatre before.
Firstly, the theatre is very small and is nested in between shops, actually backing onto a small boutique shopping centre. The foyer area and box office is tiny - you could fit about 20 people in there before it would be full up. And the surrounding streets themselves are old, narrow and cobbled. In short, I don’t think staff or security are going to allow large groups of people to congregate at any time - that would just block the road.
Secondly, there is not really a designated ‘stage door’. There is a back door to the theatre, but it is not marked as a stage door and more importantly - it is a fire exit, so it must be kept clear at all times. Again, I don’t think security would allow groups of people to just hang around waiting.
This is the back of the theatre - as you can see, it’s a small road and there isn’t the space to handle large numbers of people.
Performers have been known to exit via this rear door, but they have also been known to go out the main front door or sign autographs in the foyer (both Karen Gillan and Gillian Anderson did this). Bear in mind though - the foyer is TINY. And the staff simply would not let huge numbers of people wait there for security reasons (and for the safety of the cast). It’s likely that cast may vary which exit they come out of from night to night. And who knows? There may be another ‘secret’ exit for when they really just want to get home.
Thirdly, for the big (i.e movie) stars - any ‘stage door’ interaction will be managed by security - for safety more than anything else. Large numbers of people all jostling for position is a hazard and they are not going to put the actors at risk if people get pushy.
Benedict Cumberbatch did a theatre thing last year in central London and got absolutely mobbed when he went out to sign a few things. I understand he was quite annoyed to have been pretty much physically backed into a corner against the wall by the fans. This is a picture from the Cumberbatchweb site:
A friend of mine also went to see Tom last year when he did Stories before Bedtime at the Criterion theatre in central London. If you’ve ever wondered why you don’t see more pictures of him with fans from that night, it’s because he got ‘absolutely mobbed’ by fans when he came out the stage door. This is the only photo I know of from that night - my friend says there were just too many people to allow for personal photos. And this was February 2012 - BEFORE the Avengers came out, or the Hollow Crown. Back to the days when not many people knew who he was and he had under 50,000 followers on Twitter. And he *still* got mobbed.
Check out this photo of Jude Law at the Donmar Warehouse stage (back) door when he did Hamlet - note the barriers. So in this case, it’s very much like waiting on the red carpet - if you’re at the front, you’ll likely get your thing signed, but the chances of a posed photo of yourself with the star is slim - there just isn’t the time or space.
I don’t know if they’ll have barriers up every night for Tom, but yesterday’s chaotic sales and the whole thing selling out in 20 minutes will have given the Donmar the warning they need to prepare adequate security for the cast.
Why have I posted this? Because if I know anything from my experience, it’s that building something up in your head about how a situation or event is going to ‘be’ and it’s going to happen a certain way, usually leads to disappointment. Reality is rarely how you imagine it to be, and I think fans who imagine they’re going to be having nice long chats with Tom and taking their time posing for photos are going to end up disappointed. Enjoy his performance on stage and be grateful if you do manage to meet him afterwards and get an autograph.
I’m not telling anyone how to behave here - but I have lived in London for many years, I’ve done a lot of plays and stage doors and I cannot emphasise enough how important it is not to ‘expect’ something. Worth remembering that the stage door is not part of their job - once they have performed for you on stage, they have done their work for the day. Many actors (and especially Tom) will of course sign autographs for fans afterwards, but they are in no way obliged to do this. Anything they give you after the show has ended is a bonus. Respect that.
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