March 31, 2007, by Peter Kirwan

The Completed Works

So, that’s it! After a year of theatregoing, and even longer of planning and buying tickets, I’ve finished the Complete Works. I’ve seen all fifty-four main productions in the Festival, as well as a smattering of Fringe productions, talks, events and happenings. I’ve spent a great deal of money, moved house twice, had one relationship end and started another, moved job so that I’m actually working alongside the RSC, turned 24 and had holidays to Switzerland and Edinburgh. The Complete Works has been the underscore to twelve important months of my life, and is probably one of my greatest achievements in terms of the difficulty in getting into sold out shows, queuing, battling shoddy weather and, of course, having to rely on public transport to get in and out of Stratford every time I want to see a play!

A quick thanks, then, to Charlotte Mathieson, Ruth Nicol, Susan Brock, Justine Williams, Emma Argles, Sharon Miles, Carol Rutter, Julia Ihnatowicz, Lewis Beer, Lia Buddle, my parents and everyone else who has helped me with transport, tickets, accommodation, interpretation, ideas, company and everything else that has made this whole thing do-able and not a complete nightmare! Also thanks to my bosses at the Arts Centre for giving me time off to get to see plays, the box office staff at the RSC for their constant patience, particularly as I come in to transfer yet ANOTHER ticket, the Front of House staff who now know me by name and have been very welcoming, the three other Complete Works-goers who I am very grateful to for showing me that I’m not the only one foolish enough to attempt this and everyone else who’s helped me out in some way.

I leave this post with ten short anecdotes just to show you some of my personal biggest dramas of the Festival, and some of the things that have tried to thwart me:

  • Trying to get to ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ in the most torrential downpour of last year. In addition to getting soaked through, both trains and buses were heavily delayed. I arrived at the theatre quarter of an hour late, bought a ticket to the next day and went straight home on coach, being delayed for over an hour by a road accident. An 8-9 hour round trip and soaked through, for absolutely no gain!
  • At a desperate time at work, having to do an 8am-11am shift, then dash to Stratford for the afternoon one-off performance of ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’, then return to campus for 6pm in order to work til midnight, as they couldn’t get any cover for that day.
  • Queuing for over TEN hours for ‘The Phoenix and the Turtle’ tickets, and promptly hugging the complete stranger who came in with an unwanted spare ticket.
  • The Yellow Earth production of ‘King Lear’ running over by over an HOUR from the advertised length, and then having a post-show discussion, meaning my poor friends were left waiting in the pub wondering where the hell I was for hours.
  • After another late train, sprinting across Stratford with my ex-girlfriend in a desperate attempt to get to the Courtyard before ‘The Taming Of The Shrew’ started. Amazingly, we just caught the start of the production, having managed a five-minute mile.
  • ‘The Phoenix and the Turtle’, again- being held at 9pm on a Sunday in November, the only way of getting out of Stratford was a taxi. I’ll leave you to imagine how much it cost to get back to Coventry……
  • The Week of Hell in September, where i saw 9 performances in seven days, while managing to still work four shifts on campus. Ouch.
  • Arriving outside the theatre on November 10th a full two hours before the doors opened, on the day when I finally got my last ticket. I got a mention in an RSC programme not long after, when they referred to “the never-before seen sight of students queuing at 7 in the morning in order to get tickets for the Cube”.
  • Being gutted at having missed most of ‘Antony and Cleopatra’, having only been able to get a standing ticket in the top gallery of the Swan. By a fluke, and the complete kindness of CAPITAL, getting to see it again in the very front row of the stalls, feet away from the cast, thanks to a random spare ticket.
  • And finally….. when I made one big ticket order of about 30 shows, someone at the RSC box office managed to pick up the wrong patron name. Meaning that all 30 tickets, paid for by me, were somehow reserved under someone else’s name. Luckily I also got printouts of all the tickets before the mistake was made, but for six months, every time I tried to make a query or change a ticket, I was told that I didn’t have a booking for that particular show. Aaah, nothing like a bit of unnecessary stress…..
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