The best thing about doing a stage show? Getting the night bus home afterwards

This might look like a normal column...

Share

I have started to augment my income as a columnist by working on the London stage in the evenings. It’s not solely about the money – I couldn’t be happier with what The Independent gives me and, in fact, when you take into account the quality of the columns, I think they’re incredibly generous. It’s just that I have an interest in the stage, and so I like to keep my hand in.

My current stage work takes place in the East of London and I’m contracted to do it more or less every night. The point is, it’s taking it out of me, and though I’ve fought hard to prevent it from happening, the additional workload is putting the squeeze on what I know is my bread and butter – the column. I’m not too proud to admit it: I am writing this at 1am on the night bus. I’ve got a bottle of Cobra in one hand, a fairly spicy KFC burger in the other, and with what’s left, I’m scrawling this into my notepad. It is barely legible and inevitably it is starting to get smeared in chicken and Indian drink.

I had wanted this column to be about how I prepare for my show. My technician said that it might be interesting to tell people how I gear up to the moment I waddle out into the lights and face down my audience. But increasingly I sense myself being dragged away from that theme. I think that inevitably this will end up being about night buses and the curious creatures you find upon them. The man across from me, for example, is bald and is eating a Jamaica Ginger Cake as if it were a banana. A young lady in front of him is carrying a goldfish bowl. She is pale and has, I assume, been given the bowl by the host of a house party, lest she become ill on her journey home. Some Spaniards are being quite rowdy to my rear.

My journey to the theatre is very different from this. My routine commences approximately an hour before I set off. I have a bath and forget about my cares (the column) and relax in my suds, before getting out and drying off on my pale green towel. Then I make some fish, usually a Tesco trout or some anchovies or bream, and have that with vegetables in front of Dragons’ Den. The whole thing is geared towards eradicating stress, readying myself emotionally to stand before people on raked seating. I’ll wash up, get dressed, jam some earphones in my lugholes and head to work. And that’s me, for an hour and half walking along a canal. And it feels great, to be honest. Serenity-wise, it’s a far cry from this.

The more I stare at what I have written, the less I feel I’m going to be able to type this up. More and more ketchup keeps dripping on it and I keep getting nudged by a 40-year-old drunkard to my right. He’s talking to himself and occasionally he prods my words and asks if it is about him. I tell him that it is not. To my left the bald nugget – using his heavy-handed system of peeling and munching – has seen off about two-thirds of his Jamaica Ginger Cake. The Spaniards are still a force. But it doesn’t matter, this is post-show.

Post-show, I can afford this. It’s OK for it to be chaotic. It’s before that I need the perfect conditions. Backstage I sit quietly, popping grapes and necking Evian until the appointed hour. Then I sling on my denim onesie, punch my dressing-room door as hard as I can, and am rolled in front of the lights. Pre-show is when everything has to be just so.

Now, my work is done (except for the column). I’m heading home. I’m counting my words now. Contractually I’ve done what I have to do, and typed up it will look like a normal column. I swig from my Cobra. I turn and start chanting with the Spaniards.

Tim Key’s show, ‘Single White Slut’,  is at the Arcola Tent, London E8, to 29 March

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A sculpture illustrating the WW1 Christmas Truce football match in Liverpool  

It's been 100 years since the Christmas Truce, but football is still changing the world

Jim Murphy and Dan Jarvis
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there