I recently went to see King Lear at Theatre Royal Brighton. I live in South London and couldn’t resist a sunny afternoon trip to the south coast. I’d forgotten how much I love a Saturday matinee and if you thought they were just for the elderly then you are very much mistaken. They are the most welcoming option, if you think theatre is cold and inaccessible you have not gone to a Saturday matinee.
Matinees keep me going to the theatre in winter. I would just hibernate like a bear otherwise. I visit a lot of outer London theatres and I get easily lost so a matinee is perfect for familiarising myself with a new venue. You can have a nice breakfast, arrive at the theatre at your own leisure; how many weekday evening performances have been spoiled because somebody called you at work and made you late? If you are going to the Southbank the lovely food market is on and you can have an exciting lunch to go prior to your performance. Matinees don’t attract bizarre groups of people like evening performances do. How many nights out have been ruined by hen/stag nights (do stags go to the theatre, I hope so) or just groups of old philanthropists rocking back up to their seats late.
The bar is more civilised too, most people are weird about drinking before 5pm but not me. Once it is 12pm anything goes and there isn’t the mad rush for the bar that you would get in the evening, without having to push any elderly patrons out of the way. Let’s be blunt here, with a matinee you are getting an actor at their best. Come Saturday evening they are done with this. They hate you, they hate the play, they hate themselves and are willing for Sunday to come along for a rest and until they are back on Monday.
Once the play is over it is always a civilised time, even after an Oresteia-style 4-hour epic you know you will get a train home. It is easy to underestimate how exhausting theatre after work can be. I take the attitude that I am already up and about (Wednesday has become a theatre day because there is no Eastenders on) but I never feel as relaxed as I do at a matinee, plus you can combine it with a theatre tour or perhaps more importantly you can go see another play!
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