The Front Row

Posted on Mar 30, 2014

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My husband, J, bought me tickets to see stand-up comedy for Christmas. Bridget Christie was on at the Soho Theatre and we even went for supper beforehand; a proper treat for a mother of two small children.

The show was in the basement with unallocated seating so by the time I’d been for a pee and gathered my massive coat, most of the densely packed seats were taken, but there were still a couple of chairs right at the front by the stage so there we sat. It always makes me a bit nervous being that close to potential action – some people love the chance to heckle but just the thought of audience participation makes me feel a bit stressed. Lo and behold, on Bridget Christie came and immediately came up and tried to shake my hand. Only I wasn’t quite paying attention, so J had to nudge me so that she wasn’t left standing there like an idiot. As I had feared, it was all going to be a bit nerve-wracking.

She then performed ‘A Bic for Her’, which was a hilarious, intelligent and energising look at feminism. I was a little bit confused that one of her themes was that women had felt they couldn’t or shouldn’t call themselves ‘feminists’ over the last thirty years, because I genuinely hadn’t realised we were doing this. I’ve always known I was a feminist, and assumed that everyone else – men included – was too, apart from the idiots, obviously.

The show had a funny effect on me. It was about being a feminist, it had a section about Amnesty International, and there was a story about chucking mens’ magazines in the bin in Sainsburys when shopping with her two kids. I shop in Sainsburys, I’ve got two kids, I’m a feminist, and I’m married to someone who works at Amnesty. I mean, she and I have so much in common! I left with a substantial girl crush on this fabulous woman, wondering whether I should hang around in Stoke Newington every day hoping she’d invite me in for tea.

Uncharacteristically, I sent her an email a few days later. I attempted, probably without success, to minimise any obvious obsession:

‘We came to see your show at Soho Theatre last night. I was sitting right at the front, in a red dress, and was really not paying attention when you shook my hand at the beginning so apologies for being a bit slow on the uptake…. But thank you for a brilliant evening. I loved it!

My husband (who bought the tickets as my Christmas present) works for Amnesty International and you’re right – not much funny there – but a lot of hard work on equal rights. And he’d spent his day writing a submission about women’s rights in the Middle East so it was all very topical. He does expect to be thanked when he feeds the kids though, so there’s still work to be done.’

Bridget (first name terms now) replied the next day:

‘Thanks for your lovely email, it made me laugh SO MUCH. He sounds great, your old man, doing all that great work but yes, they are his children as well. So, so funny. Ha!’

This is one of the best emails I have ever had. My crush continues unabated. You should all go and see her and, please, engineer some kind of friendship.

I think the success of this little outing contributed towards me thinking it was a good idea to take my eldest son, S, to the theatre during half term. He loves books and the Unicorn Theatre had a performance of Not Now, Bernard. S is disabled, and the Unicorn Theatre is great at accommodating wheelchairs so off we went.

The special disabled space was right at the front of the stage in the equivalent of the Bridget-Christie-handshaking seat. Only even closer, and with brighter lights, and with about 60 excitable children sitting immediately behind us. Interesting.

S struggles a bit with unfamiliar environments, bright lights, loud noise and lots of noisy kids, so things were looking a bit ominous as the show began. Five minutes in there was a loud noise and he burst in to proper, intense, sad tears. My attempts to bring him back from the brink were unsuccessful and I reluctantly decided we’d have to leave.

Unfortunately our proximity to the ‘stage’ (white painted floor, brightly lit) meant this involved me carrying a long, sobbing 4 year old while carrying two coats and a bag – and pushing a wheelchair ON to the stage thereby causing maximum fuss and creating some inadvertent audience participation.

Clearly S is as worried as I am by being in the front row; perhaps it’s a genetic legacy that he can’t escape. Bet Bridget doesn’t get herself in to these situations. The saving grace was that we could quickly escape the theatre and get home – my husband and I still shudder at the memory of being trapped in an inflatable ‘In The Night Garden’ dome with about two hundred hysterical kids and an inconsolable S in a car park in Brent Cross. Never mind the patriarchy, let’s plot the overthrow of Iggle Piggle and his sodding blanket.

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