Friday, 19 October 2018

When is a ticket not a ticket?

I was a latecomer to the party that celebrates how a bastard orphan son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by Providence, grew up to be the hero and scholar known as Alexander Hamilton.

If you weren’t, then chances are you’re already snapping your fingers, and the words I just used have dropped a worm in your ear that will hum and tap for the rest of the day.

Possibly longer.

Yes, I love theatre. And I’ve always had an unhealthily dependent relationship with modern music — music in general. So the combination of the two, theatre and music, usually brings me a huge amount of joy. But I was unsure that a hip-hop/rap show about one of America's Founding Fathers would appeal to me.

Waiting at Checkoint-Hamilton
Yes, it won a squillion awards. But it all seemed to me to be a bit too cool and now-ish. Trying too hard.

And, yes, I enjoyed studying American History. But that was way back in 1974, when Mr Livitsanis made lessons fun. Besides, I was far more engaged by reading Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and watching Little Big Man than learning about a bunch of dead-white-guy political revolutionaries.

Consequently, with no trips to Broadway on the horizon and little likelihood of the Big H ever coming to Melbourne, I didn’t bother to listen to the soundtrack of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical.
Silly me.
Hamilton hit the West End just after I did in 2017. It opened to enormous fanfare at the not-quite-finished-being-renovated Victoria Palace — spitting distance from Victoria Station. Meghan and Harry even gave it the royal stamp of approval. And, as I had set myself the challenge of having a glass of bubbly at a show in every theatre in London during our sojourn here, I decided it was time I joined the Hamil-narrative.

But one doesn’t just buy a ticket and turn up at the theatre with Hamilton. Nothing so simple. There’s a production before the production.

You see, seats went on sale at about the same time that Robbie Williams was revealed to be something less than squeaky clean. His management team was busted putting tickets to his shows directly on resale sites at hugely inflated prices. Bastards. 
One day I’ll tell you about how pissed off I was that BTS tickets were already appearing on Viagogo et al for £500+ each while I was still on hold in the official on-line queue.

Anyway, knowing that they were about to release the hottest tickets in town, the collective mind controlling the West End Hamilton Juggernaut decided to foil any potential on-sellers, and to keep the prices down — cough…splutter…ahem… top of the range seats are £250, and to make it impossible for scalpers to gouge theatre-loving tourists who rock up on the one day they’re in London hoping to get in. 
Hamilton has fraud thwarting paperless ticketing. Here’s how it works.

1   You purchase your non-transferable seats on-line and receive a receipt by email. A warning advises that the:
a.     credit card used should be valid until after the date of the booking
b.     person whose name appears on the credit card MUST be in attendance, WITH said credit card, in order to gain entry to the theatre.
2. You wait anything up to a year for the date of the show you managed to get seats for.
3    A week prior to the performance, another email arrives, reminding you that you are going to the show. It advises you to plan to arrive at the theatre AN HOUR before the performance in order to get through the entry procedure in time for you to take your seat before the overture starts. And it reminds you to bring:
a.     your receipt
b.     the credit card used for the booking
c. official photographic proof that you are the person who made the booking!  I shit you not: licence, passport or equivalent.
Too bad if you’ve lost your card.
And what if the person who made the booking is unable to attend I hear you ask? Well, then NOBODY in the booking can enter the theatre and you will have to apply for refund with acceptable explanation/evidence of the situation.

These are our not-tickets
4   You arrive at the theatre ridiculously early so that you can join an enormously long queue personned by friendly security guards, one or more of whom will check that you have all paperwork necessary to pass checkpoint-Hamilton.

     Finally at the door, after a bag inspection and body pat-down by yet more security personnel, you offer up said paperwork for further scrutinising. If all identity, safety and receipt carrying checks are deemed to have been passed, the seat-purchasing credit card is swiped through a hand-held machine ... which then PRINTS OUT A BLOODY TICKET. Only it’s NOT a ticket. It’s called a Seat Location Slip. 

Anyway, as I sipped my well-dearned pre-show bubbly, the decor in the bar of the theatre was pleasantly diverting. Almost as enjoyable as the conversation going on beside me between a woman in her late twenties and a man who was older than me, which makes him pretty old. Resplendent in a navy-blue suit, white shirt and spotty grey bow tie, he'd been browsing the glossy programme while she bought the drinks.
As he took his glass of red from her, he asked in gloriously educated British tones, ‘So remind me again why I should care about this piece of pop-culture meets American history?’
‘Oh Dad, it’s ground-breaking. The staging is brilliant and the singing is fabulous. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen. And it has the most wonderfully culturally diverse cast.’
‘Hmmmm.’ He appeared unconvinced. ‘And how many of the chaps it’s about were “culturally diverse”?’
‘Well, none Dad. They were all white males. But that’s the point…’
… crickets…
Wine sipping.
… more crickets…

Feeling quite smug, my hesitations having been so convincingly eclipsed by his prejudging, and hoping the poor girl hadn’t wasted her money as she had just wasted her breath, I headed off clutching our not-tickets to locate PSTALL E 19 and PSTALL E 20.

And in case you’re wondering, by the time I jumped to my feet crying and applauding in equal measure at the end of the show, I had a new entry for my Top 5 fave musicals. Romance, humour, passion, rivalry, hubris, loyalty… Hamilton has all the features of a classic musical, plus so much more.

So I’m finally on the Hamilton bandwagon or chuckwagon or whatever the hell kind of wagon it is, but I’m definitely along for the ride. Indeed, I will be re-subjecting myself to the overkill paperless ticketless process as I intend to go back and see it again. 
It's worth selling that one functioning kidney.

So were you an early starter? or a doubter ilke me? What's your role in the Hamil-narrative?
And I'm sure you have a ticketing nightmare of your own to tell me about. Share the pain.

1 comment:

  1. Was relieved to hear it was worth it after all that nonsense with the ticket procedure.