The Stage Door: What's a Girl to Do?

Elizabeth Collins

  • United Kingdom Columnist

It's always a tense moment, leaving the theatre and passing the stage door. You've seen something not just great, but something brilliant, something sublime and incredibly affecting, and you want to direct those feelings towards those deserving of them; the cast who evoked them in the first place. Countless times I've wanted to stop and wait to greet the cast after a great performance, to tell them with actual words what my clapping in the auditorium stood for. Countless times I've hesitated with a friend, we've hurriedly discussed it and then wandered away. Once we even waited for ten awkward, clueless minutes, then realised that we had no idea about whether actors tend to make an appearance after matinees as well as evenings, or indeed, how long it generally takes for a de-costumed, civilian-once-more person to make their way out of the theatre. So I've never actually braved the stage door and I've never met a single stage hero of mine...

There's a self-consciousness about that wait which can't be denied. What exactly do we say to the talented bunch emerging when they're likely just searching for the Lucozade drip before round two of the evening performance? What are the etiquette rules for said greetings? Is it not all a little cheeky, asking for even more from the cast when they've clearly just given their all already? I see crowds clamouring for selfies when I pass other theatres on the way home, but do they say anything? How do the actors feel about it all? I'm not entirely convinced that it's a pleasure for them after eight shows each week- they deserve to make a speedy exit if they so wish, surely! I do wonder if there are some sort of agreed times, days and expectations on both sides that I'm simply unaware of? 

On the flip side, West End actors (and all actors, for that matter) work damn hard. They work anti-social hours and they deserve kind words for each of those things, in addition to their performance on stage. So what if everyone thought like me? What if the hard-working, talented folk heading home for the night after a grueling few hours would like to hear a few words of appreciation for their efforts, and folks like me were too shy to stay and say them? I hear tales of some actors being grizzly, but how much is to be believed? I'm certain that I don't want to be the one to irk the actor I'm trying to praise! Perhaps what I need is a seasoned  stage door veteran to tell a girl what to do, or perhaps waiting at the stage door simply isn't for the likes of me!

So I remain torn. I want to say wonderful things, so I do so in my reviews, tagging them on Twitter in the off chance that they might see it as they scroll through on the tube ride home. But I'm a little fish in a very big pond, so the well-deserved praise in my reviews more often than not goes unseen by the actors themselves.

Just once though, I'd like to be resolute enough to stand, wait and deliver my thanks in person. Maybe one day...just maybe.