My wife runs two of Manchester’s commercial theatres. One of the jobs in a dark theatre is regularly checking that all the things that are supposed to be on are on and all the things that are supposed to be off are off.

The venues are part of an international group and someone at central office, where people monitor these things, has noticed a huge spike in one of the theatre’s electricity usage at three o’clock on Saturday afternoons.

This Saturday my wife and her colleague checked this out. One went to the cubby hole where the meters are, the other waited on the roof for the air conditioning to kick in. You and I know that they went to the wrong places.

When my wife moved to run the Palace and the Opera House lots of people who I didn’t associate with going to the theatre said, My god I went to this or that show there you should have seen it! Lots of people who I did associate with going to the theatre said, That’s where I saw my first opera, or ballet or musical. One pantomime, Ken Dodd whacked dough out into the auditorium with a cricket bat and a lump landed on my Mum’s shoe, she was going to the loo at the time, and was very cross the mark was still there when we got home.

Now when I see the shows I am staggered at just how good everyone is, all the way from the star to the people who play all the bit parts and come on first to bow. None of them seem to be wondering whether they can be bothered to turn up today and just the sheer energy it must take, six nights and two matinees, eight premiership games a week.

I know you know this.

You’d be with me Saturday, not in the cubby hole or crouched on the roof waiting to see if the air conditioning kicked in. We’d be in row H of the stalls as a minute before three o’clock the auditorium lights glow, flicker, dim and first the safety screen then the red curtain go up, stage lights warm the cyc from the last show you saw, backdrops fly in, fly out, trucks roll on, off, the trap falls, the orchestra pit glows, the stage bathes in massive washes of colour then at the end a single spot, the curtain falls. Rapturous applause. None now of course. We imagine that. It’s just us clapping, standing. Ovation.

And the building breathing, having fun.

They miss it, up on the roof, away in the cubby hole, the air conditioning didn’t kick in, the transformers didn’t hum, the meter didn’t even flicker.




Also by Steve,