The night I had been looking forward to since before Christmas had arrived. My ticket had been tucked behind the carriage clock on the mantelpiece for an absolute age and my packed bag had been sitting in the hallway since lunchtime.
I enjoyed an early supper washed down with two, or maybe three, glasses of sherry. It is so very easy for one to lose count. I sat patiently until 6 o’clock when Felicity was due to pick me up. I no longer drive due to an unfortunate misunderstanding with the constabulary several years ago which I would rather not talk about. The high pitched beep of the Ford Ka’s horn alerted me to the fact that Felicity had arrived so I emptied my glass then picked up my surprisingly heavy bag and left the cottage.
We had allowed an hour to get to the venue, just in case there were any traffic problems, although it normally only takes half an hour. Due to our increasing excitement, Felicity was even more chatty than usual and we caught up with village gossip, who had been up to town, and for what purpose, the health issues of various friends and neighbours and which sought after cleaners and gardeners were taking on new clients.
As it was still relatively early, we found a space close to the entrance and Felicity spent several minutes parking, almost clipping two cars in the process. Felicity is my closest friend but she is a distracted driver and even she would admit that parking is not her strong suit. Breathing a sigh of relief that a calamity has been averted, we walked into the cinema, ignored the concession stands full of sugary treats and presented our tickets to a taciturn young man. There is normally a policy of checking bags for contraband at this cinema but I have noticed that this is waived for an event such as tonight’s live showing of Les Liaison Dangereuses from the National Theatre. As the price of admission is higher, the audience is deemed to be more respectable and therefore considered less likely to smuggle in food and drink.
We were handed a mimeographed sheet of paper with information about the play, including a grainy photograph of Dominic West which didn’t do him justice, but as I had forgotten my reading glasses, I didn’t bother to read it. I peered at my ticket to see which screen we had been allocated, saw a large number 11 and directed Felicity to that screen, which luckily didn’t involve a long walk to the end of the corridor.
All was dark when we entered, which I thought a little unusual, but when we reached our seats in the middle of row H discovered people already sitting there. I leaned across and politely asked them to move but they rudely ignored me. I asked them louder and they told me to go away. I threatened to get the manager if they didn’t move so they finally got up and pushed their way past people at the end of the row who scowled and tutted at having their cinematic enjoyment spoiled. The couple showed me their tickets and it was then I realised my error. The reason the room was dark was because a film was already playing and a vast snowy landscape illuminated the screen, not at all the interior of an 18th century French noblewoman’s house.
Felicity and I departed with as much grace as we could muster, shut the door gratefully on angry mutterings and worse then went next door to screen 10. We found our seats without any further excitement and settled in to watch a play beamed live from the West End to a provincial cinema for our entertainment. Oh, the wonders of modern technology!
The large auditorium gradually filled up and I recognised a few of my neighbours, calling out and waving to them but they turned away and didn’t seem to notice me. Felicity and I chattered away amiably as the lights dimmed and the preamble to the main production started. We highlighted points of interest to each other and mentioned which future plays we would like to see, a Royal Shakespeare Company production of As You Like It being at the very top of my list.
The excitement was palpable when the lights were finally extinguished and Felicity pointed out a few shadowy figures moving around on the dark stage, just in case I hadn’t noticed. Chandeliers containing real candles were lit providing a lovely soft light by which we could see actresses playing cards. We marvelled at the sumptuous dresses and the daring amount of décolletage on display.
All this was a mere precursor to the main attraction and when Dominic West appeared in tight breeches my heart skipped a beat. He is my favourite of the new rash of actors with quality backgrounds who attended good schools. I have watched almost every programme he has been in, except The Wire which was about drug dealers in an urban part of America and was completely incomprehensible. Dominic’s character in the play is a charming womaniser and utterly without morals, making him completely irresistible.
The first half of the play went by in a flash. Felicity and I dug in our bags for our interval necessities – olives, antipasto, pate, bread, cheese and a hip flask of amontillado, the finest sherry of all. Felicity helpfully called out numbers from the clock in the corner of the screen which was counting down to the end of the interval. Unable to share the contents of the hip flask with Felicity, as she was the designated driver, I managed to drink all of it myself. I do find that sherry accompanies any foodstuff so perfectly.
The lights dimmed as the second half of the play started. I became somewhat confused and as Dominic’s behaviour worsened, the more angered I became. He seduced an innocent young girl and I informed him he was a cad. He made a pious woman fall in love with him then broke her heart so I gave him a piece of my mind. I was rudely shushed by the woman sitting next to me and Felicity nudged me in the ribs with her elbow. I quietened down and struggled to keep my eyes open after consuming such a delicious repast.
I awoke at the sound of applause and blinked owlishly at Felicity who was standing up and putting her coat on. “Marjorie, you fell asleep and missed the end,” she informed me. I gathered my belongings together and Felicity helped me down the steps, slowly so I wouldn’t miss my footing. I felt very tired and somewhat emotional as I concentrated on walking carefully back to the car. I folded myself in and tucked my now empty bag by my feet. My last thought as I closed my eyes was that she really is my very best friend and I don’t know what I’d do without her.