I was the only scribble stalker waiting at the stage door of the Theatre Royal, Haymarket on a Friday night. I thought it best to get Robert Lindsay and Joanna Lumley – the leads in A Lion in Winter – going in, leaving the rest of my Friday evening for more convivial pursuits.
The stage door opens out onto a quaint central London cul-de-sac, lined with the usual inner London occupants: professional business, residential accommodation, back doors lined with the usual soiled laundry awaiting collection and replacement, and diplomatic offices. There is limited parking space. The talent are usually chauffeur driven and dropped off and picked up at the door. However, there was a small space reserved, and I knew from previous experience that Joanna likes to drive herself to and from work. She owns a very nice little smart car, just the right size I thought for the reserved park.
Time ticked by and it was now within the hour til curtain and no sign of Robert or Joanna. Had they gone in the front? I was about to enquire, when I was caught by the headlights of a speeding smart car heading to its selected space. Joanna, obviously in a rush, leapt out.
The management at the Haymarket had posted notices saying that Robert and Joanna would only sign programmes and tickets. This could be tricky, but she couldn’t be more lovely. I apologised for stopping her hasty entrance and pointed out the policy… she said “Oh no, this is special, absolutely fabulous,” thanked me and slipped in. I forgot to ask about Robert…
Then he appeared, saying goodbye to a visitor. He was in, but nearly out! Yes, indeed, after the pleasantries with his friend who left, I approached. Turned out he had food poisoning and was hoping the medication would kick in before he went on stage. Even in sickness the ailing actor was super charming and gladly signed. I never did find out if his understudy was required that evening.