Intervals. I know you have been dying to read an article about them for as long as you can remember, so I’ll put you out of your misery. Intervals are a seemingly counterproductive phenomenon- why on earth would you want to tear down the until-now suspended disbelief just so a few people can go for a piss? Well, other than the fact that actually, this is a perfectly valid reason, there are a number of purposes and benefits of having an interval.
The most obvious being, of course, to allow the audience a break; some time to, as aforementioned, wee or otherwise (no judgement- you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do). Broadway bladder is (apparently) an actual thing, with audiences on average needing to urinate every 75 minutes. An interval lets the audience breath, stretch their legs, take in the mind- bending narrative of the first half they’ve just watched, and grab some food (because apparently these days no one can last three hours without a weirdly small tub of ice cream- myself included). It seems in the modern day, however, intervals are not a luxury but a basic ‘right’ for theatre goers, after all, god forbid we don’t get to check our phones for two hours…
On top of the audience needing a break, intervals allow the cast and crew to rest themselves, change, move the set around, refresh if they’ve had a particularly taxing scene or if the play is a bit heavy- If you think sitting still in a seat longer than an hour is tough, imagine having to act for that long! Think of the accents, costumes, movement and general high energy they have to bring to set day after day.
What do theatre toilets and theatre café/bars have in common? QUEUES. Oh, the queues. I could honestly leave my seat before the lights have even come up on stage, sprint down and there would still be a bar queue of pensioners eighty-strong waiting for me. And don’t even get me started about women’s toilet queues (for those theatres that have not yet evolved to gender neutral)- I see the smug faces of men waltzing past the mile of women desperately clinging onto their crotches and crossing their legs, hoping not to wet themselves (I won’t lie and say I’ve never been to the men’s toilet out of sheer desperation. Confidence is key when pulling a stunt like that).
Now you’ve relieved yourself, naturally you might take a mooch around the heavily overpriced gift shop. If you’re pretentious you might seriously consider, or at least look like you’re considering, buying one of the paintings made by local up-and-coming artists that a five- year -old definitely wouldn’t be able to make. If someone’s birthday is coming up, you could buy them one of the normally quite artistic and abstractly designed cards, but of course that would be their only present, since it’s £17.
Gift shop well-and-truly mooched, you look at your watch, or phone screen if you’re under the age of eighty. Still time. But what to do? Your next move could be one you regret, so choose carefully. If you go to the bar, you will no doubt be asked to pay around half your accommodation fees on a small lukewarm beverage, before being practically interrogated by resident socialite boho- chic vegans on your opinion of the opening sequence. You shortly realised these were the people you heard laughing at things that weren’t even funny, just to assert that they understood the nuanced and tasteful script.
But wait; they don’t care if you enjoyed the opening sequence. They were just unsubtly setting up the opportunity to tell you about the time they met the lead actor through ‘some old drama school friends’ and got themselves invited to the Q&A panel afterwards. Oh, sorry did you also know they went to drama school? Well, they did. They’re not bitter. I promise, they’re not.