All my friends would ask me…

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Telling someone you’ve seen a show on multiple occasions can provoke a variety of responses: shock, awe, horror, curiosity… I’ve seen these reaction on a regular basis over the past few months as I’ve totted up my trips to one Sunny Afternoon. Most often this is during the interval, so I end up freaking people out and they realise they have to spend over another hour sat with me… What’s most satisfying, however, is them turning to me at the end of the show and saying, “I can see why you’ve been x times!”

But something it also provokes is questions. There is a selection of FAQs that I get at the theatre, which I’ll attempt to answer here.

Are you serious?!

Never knowingly. (Sorry, I think I stole that one from the Doctor!)

How can you afford it?

Honestly, I don’t know. I have made lifestyle changes in order to free up spare cash – instead of getting the Tube or bus to work I walk (providing it’s not tipping it down!), I budget my weekly shop very tightly – and I look for bargains where I can. I may total up what I’ve spent on tickets when it’s all over, but I’m too scared to now!

Do you see other shows?

Absolutely! A surprising amount. Helped in no small part by freebies courtesy of Official Theatre & the like. I tend to review most things I see now, freebie or not, so you can check if you don’t believe me! I’ll see almost anything: plays, musicals – serious or whimsical. There have been some real duds (think Beautiful and Bend It Like Beckham) but also some proper treats (The Beaux’ Stratagem, Memphis, The Ruling Class). And I look forward to seeing more!

Were you a fan of The Kinks before?

Not especially. I mean, I knew and loved their most famous songs, but aside from that… Sunny Afternoon has changed all that though! As with many people, I ended up knowing more songs than I thought, but the musical also showcases some of Ray’s lesser known songs, which have really struck a chord with me. My Kinks album collection is growing all the time – so I am definitely a proper fan now!

You’re not old enough to know The Kinks – why did you first choose to go?

Firstly, music is with us forever – mostly this is a good thing, though I do wish things like Crazy Frog could be deleted from music history forever… So it’s there for us to find! My dad can take a lot of the credit, bringing me up with the best of 60s & 70s music. Inevitably I had a ‘pop phase’, but I soon got over that! There is lots of modern music that I love (mainly rock, of course), but I’ll always have more of an affinity for the classic stuff. I chose to see the show because I knew enough of the songs to get me interested, plus I love the 60s! No-brainer.

Do you ever get bored of it?

Most recently asked this by Amy. There are times that I sit down in the theatre and think, “What am I doing here?” – but it’s a momentary thing. As soon as the band walks onstage to start their warmup I forget any doubts! Unlike many shows it has the capacity to feel different every night, with little tweaks & such (ad libs, different intonation, etc.) constantly altering the show. But the result is the same! How could I get bored?

Do you enjoy it as much every time?

Yes! Though it may be in different ways, depending on my mood or the situation. For example, when Em put this question to me after my 101st show, I’d really connected with the emotional sections more (I think it was a bit of delayed shock from my amazing experience at the 100th) and just completely broke down halfway through ‘Days’. So much so that my head was telling me to step outside for a minute (I didn’t; I couldn’t) – and talking about it at stage door set me off again. Sorry again for crying on you, Em & George! But other nights, especially if I need a pick-me-up, I’ll be more about the cackling along with the jokes. It’s testament to Joe’s writing & the talent of the cast that I laugh genuinely & wholeheartedly every single time.

Why do you keep going?

Probably the hardest question to answer. “I can’t articulate it.”

There are so many reasons:

  • the music – Ray’s genius, on top of the thrill of experiencing top quality live music every time
  • the book – Joe’s sense of humour is obviously in tune with mine, and the script has some heartbreaking lines too
  • the cast – both on & offstage; they are crazy talented & super hardworking, plus the loveliest group of people you’d ever want to meet

This all combines together to make each trip to the show unforgettable, and a real event. This show is proof of the magic of theatre!

Children in Need (35)

I also put a call out on Twitter & Facebook to see if anyone else had any burning questions…

Helen Q

This has changed a bit over the course of my addiction, but currently if I had to pick one it would be B13 (or CC2, if I was lucky enough to be at a table). I base my seating preference on my view of the drum solo! Of course. It’s my favourite part of the show, I need to see it properly! This does give me a range of ‘suitable’ seats (generally erring towards the left-hand side of the auditorium), so I don’t have to be too fussy when I pop into the box office.

I have now seen all of the wonderful understudies, though not in every possible role (this may not happen, but who knows?) – except Amy, who is a principal cast member as Joyce, also understudying Rasa. So I have a good choice! However, I think Nick has to be my favourite of them all. He understudies my favourite character (Mick) as well as a handful of other roles, often at the last minute (even in the middle of a show once) but always brilliantly & in his own style. His recent, unexpected, portrayal of Ray was truly marvellous. I’m so chuffed he’s picked up a West End Frame nomination for his efforts too!

So many to choose from! Especially as I do seem to end up quoting on a daily basis… I love Ray’s speech in the lead-up to ‘Waterloo Sunset’, in particular “It’s not about the words; it’s about the atmosphere”. Mick definitely has the lion’s share of funny lines, so it has to be one of his. “You look like Ava Gardner on a massive bender!” has been my favourite from day one – and probably still is, to be honest.

One of my favourite parts of the show! You do have to be positioned quite well to be able to hear what goes on, but it’s well worth it. It’s all unscripted (or “talking shit”, as Adam put it when I told him & Tam how much I enjoy it!), as it’s just a bit of a transition into the next scene – so I think each time I’ve seen the show it has been different. It is mainly about Mick & Grenville, but Pete has become more vocal or late, which only adds to the silliness! As with anything, I do have favourites… And the check-in on my 100th was probably the best: hottest day of the year, boiling theatre and Mick says “It’s freezing! Are there radiators in the rooms?” Pete also asked if there was a sauna in the hotel – we were in hysterics!

Ksenia Q

Obviously a wealth of choice here – my 40th (the night of a great atmosphere & one of my favourite drum solos), my dad’s 60th birthday treat in February, introducing Vanessa & Penne to the show a couple of weeks ago… But if I could bottle up one show in particular it would be Monday 13 April. The night after the amazing Oliviers wins! Everyone was a strange mix of elated, emotional & exhausted – and the feeling in the Pinter that night was unforgettable, even before Ray himself made a triumphant cameo in the finale.

Vanessa Q

Very early on! Not the first, as I was up in the balcony – though that did almost force me to go again to experience it properly. I think that second show was the turning point! I’d been listening to the soundtrack non-stop for two weeks, treated myself to a table seat and had my ear drums blasted – I was back three days later…

Heather Q

I now have a little (but ever-widening) community of friends in & around London (and beyond) – I’d moved to the city on my own, independent as ever, so obviously I didn’t really have anyone. Luckily this kind of thing doesn’t stop me from doing the things I love; if I hadn’t kept going to the theatre I’d have never met these wonderful people! (That includes the cast – I consider them my extended London family.) The show has introduced me to the genius of Ray’s songwriting; I’ve never related to anyone’s words quite as much as his. And I know it’s always there if I need a pick-me-up. The ultimate cure-all!

Laura Q

I’m in far too deep to stop the regular visits now! Put it this way: I’d planned to wait a week after my 100th for my 101st visit, but I ended up going twice in that period of time… Now I’ve hit ‘the big one’, I feel I can just go as & when I feel the urge (money permitting!), rather than thinking I need to stick to certain prescriptions. Having said that, I’d love to reach 150 before the cast changes – and I’ll see where I go from there, now it’s extended until April 2016. I know some people have seen The Commitments over 100 times – and shows like Les Misérables and Miss Saigon have serious serial attenders – but I guess one thing I have over these is the ridiculously short period of time in which I’ve reached my century… Not had a call from Guinness World Records just yet though!

With a hot & sweaty cast after my 100th show

Thank you for the questions! I’ve really enjoyed thinking back over my Sunny times and remembering all the lovely things that have happened to me over the past 8 months. And looking forward to the new memories that have yet to be made…

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