Dear West End Producer: ‘Should I force my way into conversations on press night?’
What is press night etiquette (and should I ever stay even if I don’t know people and force my way into conversations…)?
— Anthony (@AntWalker_Cook) May 1, 2018
Press nights are not just for the press any more – they are for good-looking people to get pissed and congratulate each other on how wonderful they are. Everyone attempts to look glam, meet important people, get a selfie with Elaine Paige and drink cheap wine before the tab runs out. They are evenings of expectation, glamour, flashbulbs and embarrassment. But, if played correctly, a press night can reap rewards of the dramatic kind.
Inevitably, a press night will be crammed full of showbiz people, even if it’s at a smaller rep theatre, studio space or site-specific piece in the middle of Farmer Giles’ field. The big names are always present – casting directors, producers, directors, musical directors, famous people’s boyfriends and Myleene Klass. They offer the chance of making good professional contacts, but must be tackled with elite precision to attain the desired results.
First of all, ensure you look nice. Some people rock up to these glitzy affairs looking like they’ve had a fight with a bin bag. Don’t. You’ll be ignored, pointed at and Christopher Biggins won’t share any nuts with you. Some drama students think it makes them look edgy and raw, but certain standards are required on a press night: if you look the part, people think you are the part, dear.
At bigger opening nights, you will be required to have an invite to get into the party. This can make it difficult, but of course there are options. You can just join the queue and proclaim that your name should be on the list. Or hang around after the show and see if someone has dropped their invite. Alternatively, if you’re really keen, pop to the guest desk before the show, distract the person handing out the invites, and quickly put one in your pocket.
This last one is risky, and may result in you being violently ejected from Theatreland, but the best things in life involve a risk, dear.
Once inside, you should avoid approaching people until 11pm, when everyone is tipsy. Leave it until 11.30pm and everyone will be drunk – this is when permission is granted for anyone to speak to anyone. Students can talk to producers, actors to casting directors and anyone to Michael and his Balls. It’s time to wine, dine and mingle, dear.
Approach the important people, introduce yourself and start with a compliment about what they’re wearing. If you’re an actor mention this only once, and if you’re asked what you’ve been up to recently (but haven’t worked for 10 years), make something up – ‘I’ve been developing a new physical theatre piece about Amber Rudd and Theresa May called Blood Sisters.’
The first rule of the ‘party after the press-night party’ is you do not talk about the ‘party after the press-night party’.
On the odd occasion, you may get invited to the ‘party after the press-night party’. This party is reserved for only the most influential, best-looking people – and if you’re fortunate enough to be invited, you must go. But remember, the first rule of the ‘party after the press-night party’ is you do not talk about the ‘party after the press-night party’. Enjoy, dear.
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