The man stood smiling, nodding, murmuring thanks.
More hands reached out to deliver congratulatory slaps on the back.
Thank you so much.
He felt like a bobble-head as faces -both friendly and unrecognizable – swam in and out of his vision. The after party’s din rose, signaling the arrival of another cast member. A hand thrust a glass of water into his. He took a grateful sip, cooling his parched throat.
Oh thank you.
A voice called into his ear – the red haired bloke holding up his smartphone – “So you want to hear what the critics said?”
The man blinked. What, press reviews already? His stomach clinched at their mention. He wasn’t ready. No, he was but – no he wasn’t. From all the kudos around him, things had clearly gone well, but still. He opened his mouth to answer when another face swam into view. Who was he?
The bloke chuckled, launching into the many preliminary tweets. Ah yes, Twitter – no more waiting for morning after print reviews. Above the noise, the man head “astounding,” “masterful presence,” “great performance.” His eyes grew round. They liked him, they really liked him! He didn’t think his face muscles could smile or his head nod any harder. It was all good. He’d done it! He’d worked years to reach this night. He’d really arrived. He allowed himself a moment to savor it all.
But now that the verdict was in, he felt – past tired. He must have hobnobbed with everybody in the ball room and back stage at the theatre. Oh damn. Frowning, he rubbed his forehead. Well, everybody but his fans who’d been waiting at the stage door. He’d tried to get to them but the autograph hounds had pushed forward, blocking most of them. He’d had so little time. Damn it. He hoped they understood and forgave him.
Another hand at his shoulder.
Thank you so much.
He took a deep breath as exhaustion from the four hour play washed over him. He ached. The faces seemed to press closer, the din grow louder. He felt light headed and oddly unreal. Air. He needed some air.
He leaned against the hotel’s facade, breathing in the cool night air, the claustrophobic feeling receding. Despite the throng of press and people inside, the Strand was peaceful and almost empty. One or two cabs whizzed by. Nobody stood around except for him and the doorman who’d glanced his way a few times. The man nodded at him and looked away. He would stay out here for a few minutes then head back in before they came looking for him. Right now, he would just enjoy the solitude.
“Excuse me, sir.” The doorman appeared at his side. “Don’t mean to bother but I think those are for you.”
Long stemmed red roses lay carefully placed to the side of the steps. The man walked over and picked one up. What was this? Tied around the stem was a piece of paper stating “JustGiving: £10, much love.” He retrieved another. “JustGiving: £15, with love.” And another – “JustGiving: £5, all our love.” His confusion cleared. Of course, these were from the fans! Each rose must represent a donation to his charities. Stooping, he quickly retrieved every one. As his arms filled with flowers, the exhaustion fell away. He stood, a giant smile on his face.
A perfect bouquet.
Thank you, he whispered.
Congratulations to Richard Armitage and the cast and crew of The Crucible.