Lovely show for Bete Noire at Madame JoJo's, on a stacked bill consisting of Ophelia Bitz, Tempest Rose, Holly Penfield and me. Great crowd and top-class backstage gossiping. By the way: Bitz + Rose = the dream team of snark. Fact.
Then off I trundled to catch my train back to deepest South London. All goes fine until halfway between Waterloo East and London Bridge. The train stops. All the lights go out. And we wait there, unmoving. For the best part of an hour. Every so often a driver or guard hurries up the train looking increasingly fraught, soon joined by people in high visibility vests with flashlights wandering around outside on the tracks. It becomes apparent that there is perhaps more to this than a simple technical failiure.
And there is. Someone - we can only presume a drunk someone - decided that rather than wait for the next connecting train from Waterloo East to London Bridge, they would just walk off the end of the platform, along the trackside, and get there on foot. Horrifically and predictably, our train struck them.
And there we sit, for another hour at least, pushed hard into the bad seating with the cold realisation that those men with the flashlights outside are poking around in the undercarriage directly beneath us in search of signs of life. I'm trying to regulate my breathing as the reason for the driver's fraught expression is tragically clear. He makes the occasional announcement, his voice noticeably shaking and weak.
I sit in silence, in forced contemplation, staring deliberately at nothing. As does the woman sat in front of me. Blank faces with a little less colour than usual. Natural. But others are not the same, it seems. The guy sat accross the aisle from me plays his music loudly, drums on the seat back, whistles, sings along to his ipod. He takes a phone call "Yo", he shouts, "No, I'm still stuck on this fucking train. Probably someone's had a heart attack or topped themselves. Fuck. I've had a 12 hour shift. I wanna go home". I had him pegged as a twat from the moment I sat down, but this takes swaggering douchbaggery to a new level. For an hour at least he is like this, drumming, playing music, sighing loudly, talking to himself. I work hard to not grind my teeth.
After about two hours, an announcement - we're all to gather at the rear of the train where we'll get off and walk back along the track to Waterloo East. As we get to our feet, he starts swearing at the announcement. The woman who was sitting in front of me leans in and says, firmly, "Someone's died". This stops him in his tracks. I take the chance to back her up, and add "Which means, you're not the most important thing here, so chill". He shuts up. The woman looks at me, "Been wanting to say that for hours!", she says. "Innit", I reply. I've found a friend.
We walk along the bumpy dark track together, introduce ourselves, discover that we live closeby each other and should thus share a taxi home. Bethann works on lighting at Phantom Of The Opera and is, like pretty much every female theatre tech I've ever worked with, small, blonde, tough-looking and great. As we track-walk, she admits that this is something she's always secretly wanted to do. She's right - it's a chance to look at a part of London from a slightly unique perspective - similar to the way you see it every day, but not quite. Shame it has to be in these circumstances though. Unpleasant privilege.
People are still complaining, trying to question the simple instructions given by the police on the scene. Like they know better. Like they've done this before. At one point, for whatever good it does, I say "I think it's important to remember that we're the least important people here".
Finally we're out of the station and we get our taxi. We depressurise during the journey, chatting about how best to enhance West End shows (Our solution: Ninjas) and confirming with each other our suspicion that we were the only decent people on the whole train. Then, as the taxi pulls up outside my house, he hits the kerb and blows a tire. We look at each other with disbelieving frozen grins. We're cursed. Bethann gets another taxi and I go home.
Tonight started great and ended ok, but jesus, there was some horrid stuff in the middle.