Another anecdote in my ‘Then There Was That Time’ series. All told with what I hope is some panache, but nevertheless all true.
And so we come to this very recent tale. I invite you on a journey to our capital; The City, The Big Smoke, The Square Mile, Londondondonminimum. Or as I know it; London Baby! Call it what you like, it’s a big day out for us and one that never disappoints.
(FYI; for the non-Brits, our capital’s Roman name was Londinium. I can’t spell Londinium, but through the course of trying to, I have invented and CAN spell Londondondonminimum).
Background; an early birthday surprise for my partner, to see a play. A single chance sighting of a promotional tweet and I was in. Three of our National Treasures, all favourites of ours, were lending their voices, alongside a heavily CV-ed cast. The setting was a modern theatre, the whole was a fundraiser, to aid the theatre’s work, including their charitable community programmes. It made for an expensive trip, but if you can’t spend a three-figure sum on your partner’s birthday treat, should you even be together?
The deal sealer was the lucky dip element. One actor in the play would also be a Treasure. One of several who had signed up out of the
stupidity goodness of their hearts to perform in one show each. Not only would we be in the dark as to who the Victim Du Jour was, THEY would be walking on to the stage completely unrehearsed, having the script fed to them live through an earpiece. What could possibly go wrong? Well, as it happened, quite a lot, as per the joyous hope of the directors.
So our day started ordinarily enough;
A mammoth car trip in record-breaking heat.
An hour on the Londondondonminimum Underground.
Lunch in a Crypt.
Punch-up in the tube station.
People dressed as penguins playing pat-a-cake whilst singing incredible opera, (and yet this wasn’t the most surreal part of the day).
Loitering at King’s Cross in a touristy manner.
Yada yada yada.
Soon enough it was time for our afternoon theatricals. So booked up was the show, a matinee offered us our only chance on a day we could be free. We found the theatre with ease and what a delightful place it was. Already buzzing with patrons, wining and dining alfresco in the sunshine, it was a fresh contemporary yet very intimate space. The main auditorium seating just two hundred people.
I’d handed my partner a cheat sheet on what to expect, but had redacted the teasing publication of all the names of the surprise guests, mumbling something about us not really knowing any of them as we don’t watch too much TV and don’t know today’s soap stars. Nothing could’ve been further from the truth though. And I was finding it hard to contain myself, knowing the ‘secret’ would be a pretty big reveal.
We settled into our front row circle seats and the show was introduced.
The moment came to announce our guest actor, who would be playing the part of a Police Inspector.
Please put your hands together and welcome to the stage…….
Actual Inspector Gadget.
Mr Matthew ‘Ferris Bueller’ Broderick.
Holy Moly. I knew we could expect a National Treasure, but an International Treasure made that four-figure spend all the more worth it.
I shan’t divulge details of the play per chance you get to see it. I wasn’t able to tell this story until the show finished its world premier run, for risk of spoiling someone’s experience. No fun once you’ve learnt who, from the victim candidates’ list, has already been sacrificed. Suffice to say it surpassed our expectations. It was brilliantly funny, sublimely written and acted. And the part of the Inspector? Well, they were just plain ol’ mean considering Mr Broderick had donated his skill and time. As I’m sure happened with all the celebrity volunteers during their own stints, there was many a pleading look towards the audience, eyes semaphoring ‘Help me’. And help we did, with raucous laughter and applause at every mishap. What a fantastic sport, we enjoyed every single second of it.
The cast took their ovation, including the audience members who had willingly/unwillingly also found themselves in the limelight. Time was then made for a quick Q & A session with the man who by now must’ve been thinking of abandoning his acting career to go off to the Arctic to count puffins. We learnt he was in town performing (assumingly this time for a well-deserved fee) in a production of ‘The Starry Messenger’. Two of the show’s other stars were sat directly behind us, so when it came time to leave, I took the opportunity to say how much we enjoyed Mr Broderick’s live humiliation, and – quickly Googles – Rosalind Eleazar was kind enough to say she’d pass the message on. They were performing that night and I thought they must now be in fear of, after his afternoon’s experience, their leading man deciding Londondondonminimum wasn’t for him after all and would be hot-tailing it on the first plane back to New York.
A visit to the Ladies Room and I bumped into Rosalind again, further pleasantries were exchanged (I say pleasantries, this totally professional and enchanting actress may say ‘For God’s sake Woman, can’t you see I’m just here to wash my hands). I wished them luck for their own play and then we all made like Elvis and left the building.
Outside amongst the hustle and bustle of the exiting theatre-goers, we spotted Mr Broderick fighting through the crowd, carrying his post-performance flowers, off to his next thespian commitment. I popped my brave hat on and, along with others from the audience, stole the chance to express how much we enjoyed the show and to shake his hand. An act made slightly awkward given the large gift-bagged bouquet he was juggling with his other belongings.
Me and the Birthday Boy then escaped the throng and found a clear space further down the street to take stock and for me to switch on my phone which contained the rest of the day’s plan. Ah, yes, back to the sweltering smog of the Underground.
‘We might want to stay here for a minute.’
My partner was speaking to me, but his gaze was transfixed over my shoulder.
I replied with a simple but eloquent ‘Eh?’
‘Don’t be alarmed, or go wobbly, but Matthew Broderick and his co-star are walking directly towards us. DIRECTLY TOWARDS US.’
And here’s where the day took complete leave of its senses.
This scenario permits first name terms;
Matthew asked if I would like his flowers.
Naturally, I said ‘No.’
Thankfully, my other half is my better half for a reason, and he said ‘What she means by that is yes, she would love them.’
Do I have any proof this happened? No, of course I don’t.
Did I ask him for an autograph? No, don’t be silly.
Did I suggest one of those selfie things that the kids do? Now you’re just being ridiculous.
Why would I want a lasting reminder of the day an International Movie Star walked up to me in the street and gave me flowers?
I believe I engaged in some incoherent verbal communication. The five-figure sum I’d so far spent on this trip was paling into insignificance. I watched in a daydream as these stars of stage and screen bid farewell and walked away. My head still spinning from what had just happened, I turned to my partner and said;
‘What the chuff am I gonna do with a bag of flowers in this heat? In the middle of Londondondonminimum? For the rest of the evening? And who goes up to a stranger in the street and gives them secondhand flowers anyway? WHO DOES THAT???’
Just kidding. I did have a genuine concern I couldn’t be a good Mum to these flowers, given our continuing itinerary, but I suddenly became very protective of my unexpected gift. It had been suggested during the incoherence that I too passed them on. Nu uh. They were mine now and I was going to show them London Baby!
I wanted them to be part of a story worthy of their theatrical background. They were admired as we light-footed from tube to tube. Someone commented on their gorgeous scent, which cued me to regale the cute tale of how they came into my possession. A story which raised a ‘wow’, laughter and smile from a complete stranger.
We took the flowers for a lovely walk around the outskirts of the Tower of London and to see Tower Bridge. They then joined us for a delicious meal next to the River Thames. A cool breeze from the river helping to put the pose back into this posy. Knowing it would be the last time they saw the city, we wanted them to see ALL OF IT, so took them up to waltz among their kind in the Sky Garden at the top of the Walkie Talkie building in Fenchurch Street. This involved navigating airport-style security and the flowers in their bag were too big for the x-ray machine. But the guards let us carry them through the metal detector and we resisted the urge to divulge their provenance. Thirty-five floors up, as we watched the sun set from our bird’s eye view, we reflected on our Lunch in The Crypt, The Operatic Penguins, how ironic it was that we couldn’t find Harry Potter’s Platform 9¾, The Play, and of course The Flowers. This spontaneous act proved to be the icing on what was a cake of a day.
We still had the mammoth return journey home ahead of us. The flowers survived the underground’s heave and heat, just this one long leg to go. It gave me time to think. The ultimate fate for these beautiful blooms will be our compost heap, where they will then go on to nurture our garden, our own flowers and the vegetables we grow to feed ourselves. Before that happened, they still had some love to share…….
A friend of ours takes care of our cat whilst we are at work or away. She’s leads a difficult sheltered life and has a tough time of things for a myriad of reasons (I have her permission to share that) and we know a visit to see our cat is as good for her as it is for him. If it wasn’t for this friend, we wouldn’t have easily had the opportunity to visit Londondondonminimum and none of the above would’ve happened. So now, sitting in a vase in her home, is a share of the Broderick Bouquet. She often buys us flowers, to offer her some in return, as a thankyou, and along with the back story, well, her face went from incredulous to full sunbeam in a split second. The rest are on display in our hearth. Despite all they have already given, they whisper adventure and still smell as gorgeous as they look.
That simple gesture has sent a ripple of kindness radiating halfway across England, lighting up hearts and faces along the way. So thankyou Mr Matthew Broderick. Thankyou very much indeed.
The play in question was ‘Whodunnit (Unrehearsed)’. Although this run has now finished, it comes HIGHLY recommended if you discover an incarnation of it at a venue near you. Matthew Broderick’s appearing in ‘The Starry Messenger’ at the Wyndham’s Theatre. It’s had extraordinary reviews. It is on until August 10th if you find yourself in the West End with a free evening.
If you enjoyed this post, maybe you would like to discover other ‘Then There Was That Time’ tales. They are more commonly of misfortune and mostly found here. Some can be found here. It’s that kind of blog. If you didn’t enjoy this, then do pop you thoughts on a postcard, send it to me and I’ll shred it for my compost heap, where it belongs.
P.S. Did you get what I did with the title? DID YOU GET IT???
Actors must, understandably, tire so of being predominantly remembered for a particular character. I had to reference ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ though, as it remains one of my all time favourite feel-good films. The overall message being to live life and spread some joy, towards ourselves as well as to others, and I hope that’s a thread which runs through this post. There’s so much heartbreak in the world, let’s mend some of it.