SHOW 1 - London, Bloomsbury Theatre
Mkay, so this one was a real whirlwind, and frankly, I’ve still not recovered. The saga begins the night before with a 4-hr. drive home from Doncaster (of course, I’m on two overlapping tours which makes total sense.) Getting in at 2 a.m. because road closures.
I wake up bleary the next morning and drive my hire car into the centre of London, which is my least favourite thing ever besides parking. And then I have to park it. In the centre of London. I look up the nearest N.C.P. and drive to it - it no longer exists. Thanks, Euston re-generation project. I drive around Bloomsbury cursing my life, until I see an inauspicious dripping cavern with a parking sign above it. One hour’s stay is £14… I just… I… WHAT?!
Anyway, I’m late for my tech for the London première of my show that I’ve not done in 4 months and has new bits in it, so 3 hrs. goes on the credit card, as I’ve been told by the Bloomsbury staff that on-street parking becomes free outside the venue after 6, and I could go move it between tech and performance. The tech goes super smoothly (thanks Charlie and Caitlin) and I head back to retrieve the car from Hades’ mouth.
The drive back to the theatre is 4 mins. Or, at least, it would be IF THERE WERE NO SUDDEN ROAD CLOSURES AT RUSH HOUR. I find myself in actual gridlock after 20 mins. of twisting and turning, and somehow I’m twice as far away from the venue as I thought. It gets to 7:15 (the show’s at 8, by the way) and my tour booker texts to say he’s arrived and do I need help? I contemplate replying “Could you park a grey Astra somewhere in WC1 while I do this sodding show?” It’s like the end of Notting Hill but with no Alice Tinker to enliven the mood.
At 7:30, I spot a lone free space, grab it, and then run back to the venue which is almost a mile away. They hold doors for me. I do the absolute WORST make-up job I’ve ever committed to my face, and I’m already sweating profusely through the polyester shirt as I walk onstage to see a surprisingly good amount of people (thank God) so I relax, breathe, smile, and hit the first note on the piano.
Which is turned off.
I just… I mean… NO.
Anyway, it happened. No one died. I got home at midnight and ate an entire baking tray’s worth of chicken goujons, half a tub of vanilla ice cream, and four double vodka pineapples in my dressing gown watching clips of Alice Tinker.
SHOW 2 - London, Bloomsbury Theatre
Totally great, thanks for asking. Practically seamless. No power cuts. No sweating. Great crowd. Easy peasy.
SHOW 3 - Harrogate Theatre
So after a few days back on my OTHER tour (#superhappystory, look it up) I’m intending to drive from Manchester over to Harrogate - a cool, totally unstressful 1 hr. of driving. Right? Oh no, because of course something had to go wrong to make more HILARIOUS stories for this diary blog. Not a word of a lie - I realise the day before the show that my costume is not in the car, or my suitcase. It must be in my closet. At home. In Buckinghamshire. 200 miles away. I just… I mean…
So I take a cool 400-mile detour to pick it up, ‘cos ain’t no Harrogatians wanna miss out on these lime-green and canary-yellow fashion atrocities. But when I arrive in Yorkshire, I must admit, it’s pretty plain sailing from there all the way into the small hours of the night. Fantastic venue, good sales, nearly full, lots of laughs, warm applause, smiling faces - no idea where they all came from but love every one of them. Well worth the drive.
SHOW 4 - Norwich Playhouse
I said yes to Norwich because it’s one of my favourite venues, even though the only date they could squeeze me in was less than 24 hrs. after I was needed for Super Happy Story in… wait for it… it’s a humdinger… just gets better… in GLASGOW. Somehow, I had thought that a close-to-7 hr. drive didn’t need to be broken up overnight, and was just planning to get up at 6 a.m., drink five coffees en route, and then tech, rehearse and perform a fantastic energetic one-man-show. I gave myself a reality check in time and hastily booked a Travelodge on the A1M, ‘cos small-scale self-funded UK-touring is hardly the height of glamour, but I’m not fussy and you get 20% off the service station Costa if you show your room key. Take that, Elizabeth Taylor.
Thus I am well-rested and even enjoy something of a lie-in. Arrive in Norwich ahead of a 5 p.m. tech (which is a super tight window when your show goes up at 8 and the tech staff have never heard of your show and you have a [spoiler alert] very important light-up prop to rig from the ceiling…) so what needs to happen is I need to find a parking space that doesn’t cost my soul, and then walk my set and props to the theatre from it. This involves two perfectly manageable back-and-forth trips. Or, at least, it would be IF THE HEAVENS DON’T DECIDE TO OPEN AND DUMP THE CONTENTS OF THOR’S BATH ON YOUR HEAD INCESSANTLY FOR THE ENTIRE AFTERNOON.
For most of this section of the day, I resemble a mud-spattered farm wench out of a Thomas Hardy, lugging my hefty keyboard across the fens. You couldn’t make it up.
Luckily, once I’m in, we just about get everything done in time, and the audience are complete sweethearts. I get more post-show social media interaction than any other place so far, someone seeks out my website specifically to send me an e-mail personally vowing to drum up a bigger audience for next time, and I sell a digital album! (mafljo.bandcamp.com since you asked.)
This week, it’s a southern-coastal extravaganza of Gravesend (Nov 1), Lyme Regis (Nov 2), Southampton (Nov 3) and Exeter (Nov 4). And then it’s the northern one-two punch of Carlisle (Nov 8) and Manchester (Nov 9).
All tickets available (and believe me, there’s availability) at matthewfloydjones.co.uk/richard-close-to-you
Thank you for reading this far (if you did.)