The mission: What's a man to do when he can't get tickets to The Blue Room for love nor money. Beg, says Nicholas Barber

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Indy Lifestyle Online
t is 6pm, two hours before curtain-up,

and I am outside the Donmar

Warehouse in London's Covent Garden. Unfortunately, so are 12 other people and they are all queueing for returns. The Blue Room, starring Nicole Kidman and Iain Glen, is sold out for its entire run, and the man in the box office tells me that there are never more than four or five returns for each performance. Nonetheless, I join the queue. Maybe fate will smile on me.

An hour later, we have been accosted by a transvestite in a wheelchair (honestly) and an ABC news team, but only two returns have materialised. Time to leave these fools to their waiting and quest for alternative outlets. The next half-hour blurs into that crime-film sequence in which the detective haunts every low-life dive in the city, holding up a mugshot for bar tenders to shake their heads at. The difference is that I am not knocking on the doors of pool halls and brothels; I am touring the marginally more salubrious ticket-agency windows which dot the edges of Leicester Square, usually next to counters that sell stale dough triangles advertised as pizza slices.

One vendor tells me that black market Blue Room tickets are going for pounds 600 a pair. I wait in vain for him to add, "but if you only want one, you can have it for a tenner." Before the reviews, apparently, seats were available for pounds 85, but prices rocketed after the salacious newspaper appreciations of Kidman's physique got us thinking that the nation's drama critics had just been released en masse after a 10-year stretch in Parkhurst. I trudge back to the Donmar.

The queue has not budged, so I go into the foyer, where it is warmer, if nothing else. Each time someone collects a ticket from the box office, I ask if they have a spare (no one has) or if they will sell me theirs (no one will). Two women say sorry, but they have to see the play because one of them was at school with Iain Glen. We chat away and I feel justified in following them when they approach the staircase which separates the foyer from the auditorium and bar. Attendants check the women's bags for cameras. Then they check mine. I am clean. A red rope is lifted aside. I put a trembling foot on the bottom stair: one step closer to my goal. Then a security man with a walkie-talkie asks to see my ticket. "Oh, I'm not seeing the play," I say, as if he's being silly. "I am just having a drink with my friends." He looks as if he would intimidate people as a hobby if he could not do it for a living. "You'll have to wait outside," he says.

Back outside I go. I can tell the people in the queue are pleased. (At what point does a queue get so hopeless that it is not a queue, at all, just a long, thin crowd?) I have a consolatory pint in the bar next door to the theatre and spot a group of young stockbroker-types ostentatiously checking their Blue Room tickets. I offer one of them pounds 100 for his. "Yours for a grand," he grins. I wonder whether those billboard quotes that say "Kill To Get a Ticket" would count as mitigating circumstances.