It was the first time I'd been to London, the first time I'd stepped in a West End theatre (in fact, any theatre, other than for my annual birthday trip to the panto). And it blew me away. So much so, I became a little bit obsessed, and have been hundreds of times since.
I'd seen the cast of Oliver! performing on Blue Peter and told my parents I'd love to see it 'in real life'. Living 300 miles away, there seemed little chance. A year or so later. we went on a weekend trip to glittering London. Walking past the impossibly glamorous Palladium, I recall my parents pointing it out and saying 'Let's just take a look inside' and dragging me into the marble foyer under the pretense of being ignorant tourists from up north. Clearly a stickler for the sanctity of front-of-house rules from an early age, I pulled back, aghast, but I was led further and further into the inner sanctuary of the theatre by my grinning parents until I found myself sitting on the front row of the stalls as the overture piped up, programme in hand.
That production of Oliver! was a great one, directed by future megastar Sam Mendes (whose work I have ever-since admired - his Cabaret is probably still my favourite theatre experience) and starring Robert Lyndsay as a particularly gurning Fagin, who won an Olivier for the role. A young Eddie Redmayne was in the chorus of workshop kids.
Oliver! on Blue Peter
It obviously set something off in me - an over-keen involvement in school plays, then dipping my toe into directing at uni and then managing the university theatre, I've worked in the industry ever since, and it was a major factor in my decision to base myself in London. Rarely a week goes by without one or two theatre trips. That production of Oliver! was revived a few years ago at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane; when someone offered me a ticket my face lit up, and I grinned from beginning to end.
Restricted view seat A2 in the Stalls at the Palladium is now around the £60 mark (and sadly, once you'd acquired it, you'd have to watch Cats).