O, my offense is rank!

x-posted to Eating Hard Candy Alone

6 Aug 2008, 12:45, Borough of Westminster

The trip broke the bank. One day more and I’d be busking at Heathrow, scraping together the money to get my car out of long-term parking somewhere off Imperial Hwy near LAX. At least busking on the Heathrow side I’d be paid in pounds.

It’s just past noon and I’m in a franchisey-looking pub near the Tower Bridge, Wednesday, my last day here. Just coming off a week of unreality as escorted by Caz (hostess in possession of the unquestionable mostess) and mon couer N., Alexis, Kari, and some fantastic, hard-rocking good times with Sarah-Jane, a dual-citizenship dear friend from back when we were six years old.

And at the same time I’m looking to get back to LA, you know, where everybody knows my name, or at the very least where my outgoing combination of brashness and sincerity is seen as friendly (as opposed to just terribly gauche, or, you know, threateningly offensive). In LA when I’m washing my hands in the ladies’ room, next to another lady washing her hands at the adjacent sink, it goes like: I say “hey” and she says “hey” and then there’s a “how’s it going” sometimes even followed by a “I am in the process of ditching my date” or “I hope they don’t tow my car” (this is me, spitballing typical LA convo), and then we dry our hands and go our separate ways, right? Anyway it turns out if you do this in a surprisingly non-touristy subterranean wine pub near Covent Garden, the lady in the loo will look hard at the floor, not say a word, and brush past you like you might be trying to corner and kill her.

But the point of all of this, the culture-clash punchline, is Hamlet, up in Stratford-Upon-Avon, me full of glee and no idea of the appropriate way to show it.

The proper review of Hamlet will come under separate cover (if we’re lucky); this is just the context; no melancholy Dane, just the Ugly American and how it all played out.

August 4, 2008; 7:15pm, The Courtyard Theater, Stratford-Upon-Avon

We had front row seats. A mixed blessing. From a combination of nerves, my own chronic insomnia and severe jetlag, I hadn’t slept a wink the night before in the B&B. I bought a few white lilies wrapped in a paper cane bouquet. We file in to the Courtyard Theater. We have front row seats. I’m grabbing Caz like she’s made of magic.

Lights down, play starts, Tennant in the corner barely blinking and we’re all waiting for “a little more than kin and less than kind” and I’m probably actually holding my breath till it comes, but then, I can’t stop yawning.

I CAN’T STOP YAWNING. I’m offending even myself. I want to hold up a sign: “It’s jet lag! I love this play!” but instead we’re in the front row, before Tennant and Shakespeare and god and everybody, and I CAN’T STOP YAWNING.

And what’s funny is that in extreme circumstance, I could probably get away with that at the Pantages, but here, not in a million years. Gauche, brash, obnoxious. I figut yawning and shaking from the cold and nerves, all the while yawning WORSE and shaking WORSE, throughout the whole performance; I looked like nothing so much a an epileptic freezing to death in the snow.

I’m not pretty, necessarily, but I’m striking lookng even on the lamest days, high cheekbone and giant Jewish schnoz and a scar over my lip and dark-rimmed glasses, and, anyway, before the show, sitting outside the theater with Caz drinking pre-show beers — before I learned you don’t bum cigarettes in this country — I bummed a cigarette from an artsy loking university kid named Neil, who’d been in Hamlet at school — Rosencrantz — and we talked about the play and our expectations and interpretation. Again, Hamlet review proper to come in separate post, maybe, hopefully.

And, did I mention, we were in the front row, Caz and me? Caz, a model of Shakespeare-going propriety; me haking, yawning, occasionally gasping, and accidentally whispering along to “oh that this too too solid flesh” and “I have of late and wherefore I know not” (which — though this belongs in the other review — Tennant played to its perfect emo comic effect where so many other productions play it dark. Tennant’s like, REALLY, Hamlet? REALLY, here, halfway through the play you don’t know why you lost all your mirth? The line drew a laugh, from R&G onstage to the rest of us off, but again, I’m digressing) and spastic, and gripping my armrests and Caz white-knuckled, SHIVERING AND YAWNING and laughing out loud.

At intermission, as we’re queued up for the bathroom and drinking our interval-time scotch, two women said to me and Caz, “you were in the front row, right?” and to me, “I recognize your glasses.” You twigged to me because I was the one yawning, I didn’t say out loud. Internally, OH FUCK. Oh, the shame.

The show passed in a blur of bare feet and a broken sword (proper review under separate cover, if I can remember well enough to separate the actual Hamlet from the one I saw in my head for six months leading up to this show).

And then the stage door was a mob scene. Horrible, almost shameful to be part of it, but I had travelled 6000 miles and planned half a year for this, and I had flowers, dammit, and I was going to deliver them if it killed me. I grabbed a pen and scrawled YOU WERE TRANSCENDANT (which I spelled, you know, just like that, and not, as it should be, with an -ent, because that’s par for my yawning, shaking, embarassing course) on the flowers’ paper cone, drunken and bowled over by the show and the night at large.

There were probably a hundred, hundred and twenty screaming fans, pushing and shouting and waving their souvenir swords. As the early actors came out for their autograph signings the fans were generally well behaved, pushing and crushing in controlled chaos and respecting the metal semi-circular barrier that blocked off the crowd from the stage door itself. It’s FREEZING outside, me in my short sleeveless occasional dress and Caz trooping it out valiantly, and my teeth are legitimately chattering, making skull-cracking noises as my knees knock and I stand, way back at the edge of the crowd, staring through to see what’s what and who’s who.

Then the stage manager does a feint, coming out and announcing he was terribly sorry, but David had visitors and would be unable to come out to sign anything. Thanks very much and good night.

About half the crowd dispersed, grumbling, and I made my way up to the metal barrier, planning to give the flowers to the stage manager, nod a thank you for the cast and the phenomenal show, and be on my way.

Of course, instead, David came out, obviously tired and not thrilled about the screaming mob. The look on his face made something actually break in my heart. I can’t think back on it too much or it saddens me. A professional Shakespearean actor in the glow of a press night performance where at least three things went wrong on stage that they covered for valiantly, wanting to chill and bask in the glow and wait for the morning’s reviews, instead faced with a screaming, shouting, nearly VIOLENT crowd.

The running of the bulls began in force, ramming me into the barrier and smacking me in the back of the head with their programs, the cry of “DAVID! DAVID! OVER HERE!” almost threatening and thunderous.

Caz, wise and classy as ever, stayed back, keeping herself out of the fray while standing by in case I needed a picture taken or a moment immortalized. (Caz = FTW, again, for real, really)

David took a deep breath, stepped up, head down, no smile, no eye contact, and began his semicircular signing frenzy, signing program after program without looking up, as people shoved their programs and tickets and swords under his nose. The first couple rows of the crowd, my row and the crowd behind me, mainly, got to shove up and get their papers signed; the folks behind me took advantage of the fact that I was standing quietly and waiting with my flowers to shove their programs in front of my face, around my waist, over my shoulders, leaning me over the bar to get to David, who kept on signing and ignoring the press of flesh as best he could.

I waited till he was done, and he stepped back, threw up a professional but tired-eyed smile and thanked us, and I tossed my bouquet at his feet.

He picked it up, looked at me, made maybe his only eye contact of the evening, murmured “thank you,” and went back inside.

At first I took a small amount of pride; I was the only one who got eye contact, the only one with an acknowledged thank you, the only one who GAVE something as opposed to shouting and grabbing and taking. I touched his arm as he walked by. He’s even more beautiful in person. More on that in the review of the production, to follow in this LJ provided this LJer finds the words to talk about it.

The rest came later at the Dirty Duck, the actors’ pub.

Despite the freezing — no, seriously, SO SO SO cold in my wee strapless dress, SO SO cold — temperature, Caz and I stopped at the pub to find the actors who played Horatio, Ophelia, and Laertes on the patio, drinking with their friends and chatting it up with a small and respectful crowd of adult theatergoers. A much more casual atmosphere for us to chat them up and for Caz to get her program signed.

While she was flirting with Laertes — quite fit and Caz’s new Shakespearean crush — I offered to by Horatio a drink, and then the night went on like that, drinking and smoking with Horatio — Peter de Jersey (and a marvelous Horatio he was, blinded by love for Hamlet, loyal to the end, melancholy himself) — talking about my work and his work and how he wants to come to LA, and about Hamlet and Shakespeare and poetic interpretation (and all the while at this point Caz is taking one for the team and chatting with some horrid crazy fanlady who talked about her life-sized Cyberman cutout and her hideous business cards — Caz, again, CAPITAL wingman, CAPITAL. She gave me nearly an hour with Peter de Jersey, which was just the night I needed) and British custom and the US elections and manga and beer. “Tell David Tennant you met the chick who gave him flowers,” I couldn’t help but say to Peter. “And she wasn’t insane.” He laughed. “I absolutely will.”

Later Caz informed me that while I was busy with Horatio, early on, Laertes had said to her, “oh, you were in the front row, yeah, I saw you with your friend.” I saw your friend YAWNING, he didn’t say. SHE DISTRACTED ALL OF US, that FUCKING AMERICAN, he didn’t say.

O, my offense is rank.

So, David Tennant’s not in love with me. But the next morning, in the pouring rain, I tromped back to the flower shop in Stratford, bought a couple lovely cut orchids, and brought them (by then a soggy paper cone) across town to the Courtyard Theater. I’d written a nice long card to Peter de Jersey, thanking him for the night before, complimenting his performance and telling him to share my respect with the whole cast.

I stood at the stage door in my soggy hat at 8:30 in the morning, holding my bouquet and card, and knocked on the door. The crewmembers inside saw my flowers and approached the door suspiciously, convinced I was a rabid David Tennant fan.

“Can I leave these for Peter de Jersey?” I asked. The crew member positively beamed. “Oh, Peter!” he said. “Absolutely, I’ll be sure he gets them!”

*

So, yes. I was a little bit shamed to be a yawning theatergoer, but at the end of the day, the trip, the summer, I am more shamed to be part of that brutal wave of fans that have made life almost unnavigable for David Tennant. And while I didn’t stalk him, or grab at him, or get in his way, or scream his name, I watched it happen.

And I don’t just mean watching the crowd mob him at the stage door; I mean watching his meteoric rise to fame over the last two years (and I predicted this, in June of ’06, I predicted that with two years Tennant wouldn’t be able to walk down the street without being harassed, that he would be a household name. So, go me for getting it, but I wish I’d been wrong), and the audience’s shift from appreciating him as a whip-smart waspish actor to a cover model. From having reverence for Doctor Who to making it impossible for Tennant to go see Catherine Tate’s West End play, because the audience spent more time harassing him and actually disrupted the play, and Tennant had to get up and leave so the show could go on. Awful, awful.

I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t come back to Doctor Who after this; in fact, I’m sure he won’t; I wouldn’t. And I think we — me, I — all made this happen. So now I’m embarassed for my part of it.

I’m the girl who has always — in the slash battles, the RPS battles, the fanlib battles and the OTW battles, the cease-and-desist battles and the chan battles and the underage battles — come down on the side of the fans, come down for the rights of fans and fandom. And this is the first time I think we’ve pushed it too far, and I’ve done my part, and I feel terrible about it. We wiped the smile off of David Tennant’s face. Our loss.

*

Epilogue: After dropping off Horatio’s flower, I tromped back through the rain to get my luggage, and then to the Stratford-Upon-Avon station to get the train back to London. In the coffee shack on the platform, a kid says to me: “You were at the show last night.” Then I remember him, the Neil dude who rolled me a cigarette before the play. “Yeah, Neil, right?” “Yeah,” he says. “I was several rows up on the other side and I saw you, you were in the first row with your friend.”

“Did I make a scene?” I asked. He grinned. “I saw you yawning a couple times.”

On the train, I sat behind an American college girl and her dad, also on their way back from the show. “I’m never going to wash this hand again,” I overhear the girl say.

After introducing myself they invite me up to play poker with them in their double seat. “I heard you say you got to meet one of the stars?” I ask the girl.

“Yeah,” she says. “I was a theater major and I love Patrick Stewart, and I got to meet him after the show.”

“How’d that happen?” I ask.

“Oh,” she says. “I wrote him a letter.” I bite my tongue. “Wish I’d known that David Tennant guy was going to be in the show,” she goes on. “I’d’ve written two letters.”

*

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7 responses to “O, my offense is rank!

  1. Fantastic account of your experiences. Such a shame that you were subjected to crazy fangirldom the night you went – I went on 1st August and there were far fewer girls being much better behaved. I didn’t want to fight to the front when David was out, so hung back and got to congratulate Oliver Ford Davies on his performance as Polonius – I thought he was absolutely fantastic.

    Isn’t the Dirty Duck great?!

  2. A most interesting blog – but may I point out one problem? You believe English newspapers. The story about DT having to walk out during Catherine Tate’s play was a complete fabrication. Not a true word in it -ask anyone who was there that night. One journalist even made the foolish mistake of writing that DT talked to fans during the interval. There WAS no interval; it was a 90 minute play. Few people even noticed DT was there, but when he left he went around to the stage door with his date and another couple and the papparazi caught him when he came out again. I really hope this can help stem the bad press going around. There are other fabricated stories about DT out there at the moment. I guess there always will be as long as he’s such a popular TV actor.

  3. I’m glad you enjoyed the play, and I agree with you that the rabid fans are taking it way too far. Poor DT. It’s one thing to be appreciated for your work, but when something like that happens, it’s a real disgrace. I wouldn’t be surprised if he stopped going to the stage door after this.

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