Ah-choo to you! Don't let the common cold stop your theatregoing - or bother others

Ah-choo to you! Don’t let the common cold stop your theatregoing – or bother others

My partner Peter had vicious man-flu for over a week so it was only a matter of time until I caught the female equivalent, a.k.a the common cold. Yesterday morning, after a no-sleep night, I “woke up” feeling terrible: heavily congested, nose streaming, cotton-wool head and aches all over.

I cancelled a 10am meeting, chugged a Lemsip, went back to bed and only managed to drag myself into an upright position again about mid-day. Work yesterday afternoon was conducted via my new office on the sofa, beneath a duvet.

But what to do about the play I was due to attend that evening, the premiere of Roy Williams’ latest, Wildefire, a state-of-the-nation look at the Metropolitan police force? I really didn’t want to miss it. And I couldn’t postpone for another performance as I’m booked up every night until a trip back to the States later this month and by the time I get back, the run will have finished….


Performers swear by Dr Theatre, who prescribes high dosages of adrenaline to combat the cold and other illnesses to ensure that the show does indeed go on. If only I, as an audience member, could get an appointment with this miracle-working clinician.

Here’s how I nursed myself for my night in the stalls:

1. Drank orange juice all afternoon.

2. Requested to have my seat moved to the aisle. In case a sneezing or coughing fit seized me, a rapid exit would be possible with minimum disruption.

Once, on the opening night of Merrily We Roll Along at the Menier Chocolate Factory, I had a coughing fit. I tried everything to muffle it, but nearly passed out from trying not to breathe. I was sat in the middle of a long row (including several famous faces) and had to make everyone stand up. Then, the only exit on my side of the auditorium was via the dressing rooms (luckily, I knew this theatre’s backways), past several actors waiting for their entrances. (Clare Foster offered me cough drops, lovely lady.)

3. Filled two water bottles – one with water, one with an Alka Seltzer Cold and Flu concoction, which I downed on arrival at Hampstead Theatre.

4. Packed my bag and every spare pocket with Balsam-infused tissues.

5. Bundled up like I was trekking in the Arctic.

Wildefire playwright Roy Williams and a bundled-up me

Wildefire playwright Roy Williams and a bundled-up me

Luckily, Wildefire was also an excellent play to see if you’re feeling poorly – short (just 1 hour 25 minutes straight through), fast and furious, with everyday tragedies befalling its characters that more than put a pathetic cold into perspective.

After surviving the performance sneeze and cough-free, I managed not to breathe too heavily on author Roy Williams when congratulating him and then wrapped myself back up and headed home for an early night. I’m still sniffling profusely but feeling much better this morning, thanks very much for asking.

And thank you, Dr Theatre. I’m booked in for my next dose tonight, East Is East at Trafalgar Studioes, and will swallow the medicine down without complaint.

Wildefire continues until 29 November 2014 at Hampstead Theatre.