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The Green Room: Are you a fan of matinee shows?

Audiences queuing outside the Victoria Palace Theatre in London to see a matinee performance of Hamilton. Photo: Shutterstock

Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…​​​​​​​​​​

Gary Abblett is a 38-year-old jobbing actor with experience at the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, in the West End and on tour

Abi Egerman is in her 20s and has appeared at the Old Vic, the National Theatre, and in regional rep

Albert Parker is 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and TV

John Pepper is 31 and for the past 10 years has worked as an actor in regional theatres, the National and in radio, television and film

Jenny Talbot, 39, has nearly 20 years of experience in West End and touring musical theatre with forays into TV, film and plays

 

Abi I find matinees can either be atrocious or excellent, and it seems to depend on what the play happens to be. A serious, brooding Ibsen, for example, feels all shades of wrong on a Wednesday afternoon. But a comedy or a musical can be truly lovely after lunch.

Jenny When I was starting out, I used to love matinee days. I got to do the show twice! Twenty years on I’m not quite so enthusiastic…

John The only good matinee is one without an evening show.

Jon A matinee without an evening show is ace. Especially when it’s rep and some of your colleagues have an evening show. ‘Right, I’m off to the pub, good luck!’

Gary I always think the evening show after a matinee is a good show, too.

Albert I don’t mind back-to-back on a Saturday. Five and eight. It’s the thought of having to be in the theatre on a Sunday afternoon or at 3pm on a Thursday, looking out of the dressing-room window and watching an audience with an average age of 74 being bussed in from the local care homes.

John I actually like a good, long break between matinee and evening shows. Time for some food and a nap. Lovely stuff. I’ve done matinees that are so tight that the half-hour call is announced as you are coming off stage. Grim.

Jenny Yep. I’ve done that too, on a big musical. That idea didn’t last long – we were all knackered.

Jon My mum has told me stories of doing 12-show weeks at the Mermaid in the 1960s. The half would be called during the first show.

Albert I once did pantomime three shows a day on a Saturday: 2pm, 5pm and 8pm. We used to come down five minutes before the half of the next show. By the time you got to the evening, you had a very nasty feeling of déjà vu in the middle of some scenes.

John Why oh why do theatres put matinees the day after press night? Whoever organises them should be made to do it with a hangover as well.

Jon I have long had a theory that there’s some kind of Puritan streak behind that: ‘You will not all get drunk!’

John Of course we will get drunk! Have you ever fucking met actors? (Sorry, language…)

Jenny Lots of shows now are playing to their audience cleverly by adding more matinees and fewer evening performances. I think Fiddler on the Roof [in the West End] is doing this, for a target audience of people who don’t want to be out late in London.

Gary Matinees are great for the audiences who for whatever reason can’t do evenings.

Jon The West End is ramping up the Sunday shows just after the National Theatre has dropped them.

‘I did a show for which my costume was pyjamas, and the set had a huge bed on it. Matinee days were the best

Albert As an audience member – certainly not as an actor – I’m quite partial to a Sunday-afternoon matinee on a winter’s day, prior to a very nice Sunday roast out.

Jon I have to say I used to love a Sunday matinee at the NT. Get out of bed at 11am, nice breakfast, quick show, in the pub by half five. But I’m not a parent.

Albert I think the key word there is “quick show”. Fine if you’re doing a matinee of [Ray Cooney farce] Two Into One but not so good if you’re spending your Sunday afternoon in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

John Not sure I enjoy them as much as I enjoy a full Sunday off.

Jon They suit a rep system much better than a commercial run. Matinees are not so much of a problem when you’re only doing five shows a week.

Jenny Don’t get me started on Sunday shows… unless they go hand in hand with a job share then I’m not interested.

Jon Do we have any matinee-day rituals? What do you do between the shows on a two-show day, for example?

Albert I have a fish-and-chip supper with a big mug of tea and mushy peas. That might sound a little common. But it’s the thought of that that gets me through the afternoon.

John Oh yeah, it’s all about the food. It’s treat day on the food front! And the aforementioned nap. I love a dressing-room nap.

Jenny It’s getting very pricey on a London matinee break now… no more Stockpots or West End Kitchens.

Jon There’s not much glamour in last night’s lasagne microwaved in the dressing room, alas. Although to be honest it’s all about the sleep for me, too. Cram some dinner in asap, then get my head down till at least the half.

John I’d love a nap right now. It’s only just gone 10am.

Jon I did a show in Bath once for which my costume was pyjamas, and the set had a huge bed on it. Matinee days were the best.

John I did a show that had a couple of beds – sleeping on the set while the stage management team was rushing to get set up wasn’t particularly welcome.

Jenny I try to eat as early in the break as possible (second shows are always about dealing with indigestion!) and then take a nap. When I was in my 20s it was more about meeting mates and eating, socialising and flirting…

Jon This is very revealing, isn’t it? ‘What do you think of performing for the ladies and gentlemen in the afternoon?’ Actors: ‘FOOD. SLEEP.’

Albert Exactly!

Jon I do think matinees can be better shows though. Less (actor-word alert) ‘stakesy’, more relaxed.

Albert And shorter. We used to take 18 minutes off the matinees of a West End show I did.

John Christ! What on earth were the evening shows like?

Albert They had long intervals. And they had more… pauses.


Jon Dryden Taylor is an actor, writer and editor of The Green Room. If you work in theatre and would like to join in the conversation, email greenroom@thestage.co.uk

Andrzej Lukowski: Sleep no more – confessions of a matinee napper

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