It’s not big, and it’s not clever, but it’s a tradition we have at the Maverick Theatre Company that dates back to the 1990’s. The first night shot! Of course, it’s not compulsory for Maverick people to have a shot after our first production, or indeed drink any alcohol, but it goes back to the early days of Maverick at the Billesley Pub in Birmingham.
Our first production was very difficult financially. (There’s a surprise! They still are!)
On one of our early first nights, Glenn Bayes, a local actor who I thought would make a good director (I was correct!) and I were standing at the bar, trying to work out if we had enough cash to buy a pint which we could split – a half pint each. It was cheaper that way.
Then, a very sartorial member of the audience came to the bar and saw us. He knew who we were because in the early days at the Billesley we always did a raffle before the production and explained to our first-time theatre attenders how it all worked.
This man was obviously impressed with us.
“What a marvellous show,” he gushed. “The acting, the intimacy of it all… what an experience. I’m a regular theatre-goer but I LOVE this concept. It’s proper art.”
We mumbled some thanks and shuffled on the spot. But then…
“I MUST buy you a drink. What do you want?”
Glenn and I looked at each other and shoved our small change back in our pockets.
“That’s very kind of you,” I said. “A pint of lager would be lovely.”
“Yes”, said Glen. “Lager for me too. Thank you very much.”
Sartorial-man looked at us.
“What! Lager? Certainly not. A quality experience needs a quality drink. Whisky. A good one. Or a Brandy? I won’t buy you anything less!”
Now me and Glen were both born and raised on a council estate – in fact the Billesley estate, where this pub was and the show had just happened. I’d had some radio experience and record industry launch parties, but we both REALLY just wanted a pint. It became an early lesson in established theatre culture!
So lovely Posh man bought us a short each. I think I had an Irish whisky and Glen had a Bourbon. And Glen, being a younger man, shotted his drink. Down in one. So I followed his example. Posh man looked on, at first puzzled, but then quickly followed our example.
“Wow! You guys! What a blast!”
We never got the pint. Financially things eventually got a bit better. But Glenn and I always joked about that night. And got each other – and our actors and crew – a shot for years afterwards on our first nights.
And there are hundreds of Maverick actors, artists, techies and friends who have suffered/enjoyed our first nights ever since. Including the lovely current TWO actors, Claire and Greg.
So if you ever want to buy me a drink, a pint will be great. Unless, of course, it’s the first night of a Maverick Theatre production…
Come and see Two At The Tabard Theatre…
Our acclaimed production runs until 29th April. It’d be great to see you. And not just in the bar afterwards. Although it’s a bit ‘dangerous’ booze-wise, as the show starts at 7.30pm, has a 15 minute interval and we’re still back in the ‘proper’ bar downstairs at The Tabard before 9pm! Cheers! Hic!
Tags: tradition drinking theatre london tabard theatre first-nights
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