I make my train journey early, allowing myself some time to walk around Kilburn, today crowded with football aficionados drinking and chanting outside the pubs. After having located the Tricycle theatre to come back in an hour, I decide to shelter myself from the sporty-atmosphere in the nearest Costa and have a nice hot chocolate while reading on my Kindle.
At three o’clock I’m already standing outside the theatre with five other people – the show starts in two hours. While we wait for the doors to open, I learn three of them – the girl wearing a Hufflepuff scarf – are actually autograph-hunters, armed with markers, photo-books and notepads, waiting for the starts to show up – if my luck had been different, I would be one of them.
I learned about the event a few days before Christmas, too late to get tickets. During the following two weeks I checked the Tricycle website several times a day just to see if the ‘sold out’ sign had miraculously disappeared. Understanding that it was not going to happen, I did something I’d never done before: I e-mailed them enquiring what I could do to get a ticket, since attending tonight would mean so much for me. Very kindly, they answered back saying that there was a waiting list I could join, and I did it, thinking it had to be so long that a major catastrophe had to occur for me to get call.
Two months had past and the 26th of February was around the corner. I had no ticket and no hopes to getting one when on Tuesday an e-mail was sent saying that some tickets were now available. I called. Too late.
Now a little more hopeful, I prepared myself. I created a shortcut on the screen of my phone with the theatre’s number and I was determined not to let go of my LG under any circumstance.
So, Wednesday and Thursday passed by and then on Friday it happened, I was texting to my sister when I got the call! Real tears of joy were running down my cheeks as I was giving the poor Tricycle worker that had to cope with me the details of my bank card. I had a ticket!
More people have now joined us in the side street of Kilburn High Road. A family of four assures they’ve come from Belgium just for this. They have no tickets but they bring flowers to the Dames and their two daughters are ready to get their autographs.
The doors open at twenty past three. We orderly go in, showing our booking confirmation e-mails and letting our bags be searched. I get my physical ticket and take a seat on one of the sofas – the show starts in one hour and half.
The hall gets crowded very soon with very different people. A girl sits next to me reading a book I can’t get the title of, next to her are a far-pregnant woman and – I’m guessing – her mother, right behind there’s a group of ladies showing each other pictures of their cute cats, last to arrive are a woman with a heavy backpack that starts scribbling notes the moment she sits down and a mysterious-looking girl carrying an old leather suitcase that takes out a sketch-book and a pencil and begins to draw a carriage from a black and white picture she holds between her fingers.
At four thirty they let us into the cinema, where the interview will take place. I’m in the first row, so are the girl with the book and the mysterious artist. I am as nervous as if it was me who was about to seat in front of all this people and talk.
A few minutes past the actual starting time they announce Jim Carter and Mr. Carson comes to the stage with his deep theatrical voice. After a short introduction and a quick show of selected scenes from some of Maggie Smith’s and Judi Dench’s screen work, the two Dames are welcomed with a big applause.
Smith seats in the middle, Dench at her left and Carter pours them some wine as he makes a Downton Abbey joke that makes us all laugh. The conversation between the three of them flows naturally and most of the anecdotes they talk about I hadn’t heard in any other interview before.
There’s a moment, through the middle of the interview, when I realize the situation is so surreal that me myself can’t believe it. I’m just a few steps from flesh-and-bones Maggie Smith and Judi Dench and it feels like if I was simply watching another one of the many interviews of them I’ve watched on YouTube, just with a wider screen.
When the Q&A starts, I can’t remember any of the questions I wished to ask; when it finishes, they auction a goody-bag with signed items that goes for over £1000 to a woman celebrating her birthday today. She also gets a picture with both Dames and Carter. Then the show is over and they are escorted out.
Outside the doors, the hunters surround the one car where they all are begging for more time. I join them, but when I get there, they don’t give more autographs. Time to go home.
On my way to the tube station I get to see their car again, stopped for a moment at the side of the street for some reason; Carter on the wheel, Smith sitting at the front and Dench at the back. If I was a different person I would knock the window, ask Ms. Smith to sign the McGonagall Funko Pop doll still-in-the-box that I have in my bag; but I don’t.
The disappointment of not being able to get a proper picture or the autograph I wanted will go away over night; but the joy of the one-in-a-life-time opportunity of seeing Dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench interviews by Jim Carter is going to stay with me for the rest of my life.