Tuesday’s SD at UV

It’s time to stop fuseling and get a proper post about the SD at UV onto my blog. This is slightly out of order, because it probably would make sense to start the UV series of posts with a review of the play. But that has to wait another day. So, without much discussion of the day and the play *before* the SD, here’s an account of how the event went down.

Turn left at this illuminated Uncle Vanya poster and you are walking towards the stage door of the Harold Pinter Theatre

After the play finished at about 10pm, I could see from my nice vantage point in the first row of the dress circle that people were rushing out of the theatre pretty quickly. Linda60 and I really took our time and very unhurriedly walked out of the theatre, bumbled a bit in front of it and then decided to look around the corner of the building to the SD. In case you are wondering – especially as Google Earth is of no help in this case due to large lorries in the pictures available – the SD of the Harold Pinter Theatre is located in Oxenden Street. So walking out of the main entrance of the theatre, you turn right and immediately right again. The stage door is about two thirds down the street and opens straight onto the pavement. The pavement itself is not too narrow, and there is no through traffic on the street, so the area is relatively safe and quiet without having to worry about passing cars.

There was already a small crowd of people gathered there, mostly near the stage door itself. The theatre had not cordoned the area off but metal barriers were leaning against the wall – for future use? The whole area was contained by parking lorries beside the pavement, but in some parts the crowd spilled over onto the street. Linda and I basically just joined a vague queue as we approached from Panton Street. We quickly started chatting with fellow fans, so much so that we actually did not even notice RA coming out. The enthusiastic “cheer” that usually greets any celeb at the SD, either passed us by or did not occur. I eventually spotted a tall guy with a grey baseball cap drawn into his face down the line. Double-take. Is that RA towering over the throng? It is! Either still standing on the steps of the SD, or just tall 😂. At roughly the same time, cast mate Anna Calder Marshall (Nana) left the theatre and squeezed herself between gathered crowd and barriers to go home. She didn’t stop, but I quickly threw a “thank you, wonderful play” into her general direction, she smiled and said thank you.

No mistaking where RA is in the crowd

Richard immediately dived into the crowd and started receiving compliments, best wishes, gifts and requests for selfies and autographs. Definite bonus in SD situations: You can always tell where Richard is – because in a crowd and even over the general excited chatter, you can see him towering over most people. Even when he bends down to scribble his name or to take selfies. I thought it was interesting how the atmosphere was noticeably happy and positive. I could hear fragments of interactions, Richard sounding friendly, happy, saying ‘thank you’, ‘glad you liked it’, ‘oh that is very kind’, answering questions etc. While the crowd remained static, it was Richard who was moving through the gathered fans to sign and to take pictures.

It also felt rather unhurried and relaxed, not least because there was no security guard accompanying him; he was out there just on his own, carrying the gifts he had been given. I did not feel that there was any worry over crowd control – neither among fans nor him. It was all very well-mannered and respectful, as fans stepped out of the way once they had had their opportunity for a quick interaction, and RA evidently made every effort to greet every fan who wanted to have his autograph or photo. I was not pushed or shoved, even when RA came closer to where I was standing along the pavement. I scrambled for the theatre programme to have it signed by him – I also had a silver sharpie at the ready (because the programme cover is predominantly dark), but once Richard is in signing mode, the man is on a conveyor belt and signs anything that is held out for him – with his black sharpie. At least I had the wherewithal to actually also say something to him. I said ‘thank you, that was a great play’. (Of course I never even looked at him, only saw him sign my programme, and as I was immediately turning away (so rude!) he said ‘thank you, glad you enjoyed it’.)

Richard signed his usual signature – not just initials. Nice!

I was already among the last quarter of the crowd to be ‘served’ by Richard. He continued posing and signing while I kicked myself over my inability to be a bit more expressive in my communications. I mean, man, come on, Guylty. Say something that he hasn’t heard before!!! But as it is, these SD encounters are fleeting. They are over in mere seconds, and unless you have made a conscious effort to *know* what you want to say beforehand, your chance to collect your thoughts passes too quickly. Given the chance, I would’ve liked to tell him how much I enjoyed him playing Astrov for laughs and that I felt he really did have comedic talent. (And as I quipped on Twitter, I could’ve said ‘Dad bod? My arse!’ – but only with half a bottle of vodka inside me 😂.)

New leather jacket, Mr A?

I’d like to emphasise again how relaxed the whole SD felt. You can see in the photo above that RA was not crushed by fans. I was standing right there behind him, about a meter away. I had the impression there was almost an invisible circle of respect around him, i.e. people were conscious that he was there on his own, without security beside him, and I did not see anyone beleaguering him or coming too close for comfort. In fact, from the (much better) photos of other fans I have seen, gentleman RA did his usual trick of bending down into the frame of the selfies to get closer to his fans. (Aside: Interesting how RA looks much more relaxed in all of this, even though the parameters are way less strict than at RDC5 last year. I suppose he is familiar with what a SD entails – and wasn’t familiar with the photo shoots at the con, hence the difference?)

As for my photos – yeah, I broke my own rules and took pictures. They are meh, of course – due to an outdated iPhone and gloomy lighting on a rainy January evening. I still don’t have the heart (and the interest) to get a selfie with me and him. And I still hesitate to take pictures from closer up. But that is also due to another thing: I find my attention at the SD often split between watching the progress of the “signing tour” and chatting with my companions. Bad fan Guylty doesn’t wear her fan hat tightly enough, i.e. I am not fully zoomed in on RA. However, I appreciate that other fans take much better pictures at the SD and share them with us.

Once RA had worked his way through the crowd and given everyone an opportunity to get what they wanted (*coughs* within reason) he turned and went back inside the theatre via the stage door. We were all pretty elated at that stage – as I said, the experience had been a good one, with a respectful crowd and a relaxed RA. I think the whole SD lasted about 15 minutes, from about 10.30pm to 10.45pm. Compared with other SDs I have been present at, this one was by far the nicest for me. I felt no pressure (neither from myself nor from the crowd) and Richard seemed “present” and cheerful. In comparison, the Crucible SD, although well-organised, felt a bit more intrusive because RA back then must have been exhausted from the marathon play and the heavy burden of performing death-bound Proctor, while the SD at LLL appeared rather hurried and curt and almost intimidating due to the security guards accompanying RA quite closely.

So, in conclusion, I’d like to broadcast a little thank you to Richard into the ether. When we queued at the SD, I was not at all sure whether he would make an appearance at all, just based on the assumption that the cast might gather immediately after the first preview for a lessons learned session, thus not having much time for fan meets. However, RA was out pretty quickly – which was doubly nice because the evening was drizzly and unpleasant, and he thus relieved the gathered fans from the rain. I also appreciated that he made every effort to fulfil all requests for autographs and pictures – and did so really unhurriedly, calmly and patiently. It was a fan-friendly occasion, and that really made my heart soar. You rock, Richard!




37 thoughts on “Tuesday’s SD at UV

    • A long wait means you have a great occasion to look forward to. It’s gonna be great. The play is really well staged and played in an entertaining manner. None of the ennui that Chekhov plays often have.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Ah, how lovely Guylty! Glad you had a good time and that the SD stuff seemed to be a natural and comfortable place to be 🙂 It seems our man is in a good place too at the moment, maybe that is why he doesn’t feel the need to avoid or distance, and as you say, TC was obviously draining. I am always concerned that if I do things like this it will be too intrusive – after all I am a complete stranger to him. I am going on 1st Feb, but will have Mr. Clanger in tow, so I am unlikely to have a street encounter, thank you for sharing this! xx


    • I think you are right – if he really is as comfortable and happy in his life as he has recently said, then that is also reflected in his interactions, even with fans. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience – both play and SD, and I am sure it helped that his character in this play is not quite as grave and heavy as Proctor was.
      I know what you mean re. intrusive. If you read my earlier SD experiences, I reflect quite a bit on that. However, the point is this: The SD is a tradition that is well-known, both by the theatre-going public *and* the actors. They can actually do the SD on *their* terms, leave any time, or not do it at all. They know that this is a much-loved opportunity for long-term fans and spontaneous well-wishers to express their response to a great performance by way of waiting at the SD. I don’t think the actors see the SD as intrusive per se. If they did, they could easily avoid it. RA was out there, willingly meeting his fans. I take that as a blessing.
      But yeah, SDs tend to be best approached with like-minded friends. I have seen a few Army husbands at the SD in the past, and some very sweetly taking the coveted selfie of wifey with Richie 😉 Bless them. Mr Guylty would definitely not stand for that *haha*

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, I am really loving these accounts by you and Serv, lots of lovely details! Mwah!! Looking forward to many more from you both and other lucky people.


    • Every detail counts, right? Since Serv has got the play covered, I thought I’d do the SD. Ok, well, the truth is, I am really bad at remembering everything that I wanted to write about with regards to the play. The SD – burnt into my memory *haha*. But yeah, hope some of the fun of being there, has come across in the post. I’m not trying to show off or anything – SDs are best experienced live and yourself. But for the general gist, at least an account gives a bit of an insight into the respective evening’s proceedings.


  3. I have already told my friend that I want to attempt the SD working out the timing I think we will be okay for the train unless something untoward happens, like the crowd doubles in size. Ali is a good sport and will take a photo etc
    I’ve seen some photos of the play Richard looks great even wearing a blanket lol


    • I would encourage you to give it a try. You can always stand back a little bit and just observe from a distance if you don’t want to get into the throng. With the play at 2.5h running time, you’ll be out around 10pm – possibly enough time for last trains around 11pm?
      Ehm, and I would say that Richard looks great even WITHOUT wearing a blanket *ehehehehe*


  4. Aufmerksam, wie er ist, hat er ja immerhin genau dort unterschrieben, wo man die Schrift am besten sieht 😉.

    Danke für deinen Bericht! Ich freu mich echt, dass es im Moment so viel von ihm und über ihn zu lesen und zu sehen gibt.


  5. It makes me happy to know it was such a positive experience. I imagine that part of the reason he does it is because the immediate physical feedback from his fans – that energy – gives him the satisfaction of a job well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope that that is how he sees the SD, not a duty he has to perform, or some sort of strategy to keep his fans happy, but a genuine acknowledgment of fan interest as well as an opportunity to soak up that positive energy.


  6. Pingback: Mrs Maisel, The Stranger & Uncle Vanya | The Book of Esther

  7. Sounds like such fun. I might be able to go late April. Youngest daughter is having first baby first week in April. My husband actually wants to go too, big Hinds fan. So he can do the selfie.


  8. Glad you made it to the play and met the Fella. Thanks for the useful stage door directions. It’s interesting that he didn’t have security with him, I wonder why as he has on previous occasions.


    • I was surprised, too, and apparently it has already changed. I heard someone say that there was a security guy with him the last couple of nights. Maybe on the first day they weren’t really sure what to expect? That’s what it looked like to me because the barriers were already there, except they hadn’t put them up yet. And apparently the crowd was smaller than on the following nights.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Yes, a security guy was there on Saturday he was shouting out ‘single file’ repeatedly! The barriers were up, but only for the first section, where I stood there wasn’t a barrier.
    Take a pen if you want Toby Jones’s autograph!
    CH has a legible signature, RE doesn’t lol


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