I'll happily admit that I'm quite proud of the Wales Millennium Centre (WMC), or The Armadillo by the Bay ©* to use an affectionate local moniker. In an age when most new buildings resemble giant out-of-the-flat pack designs it's quite pleasing to see the bronze / slate combo claiming a space on the vastly changed Cardiff Bay skyline. I'll hold off painting romantic images of it as there are plenty of photographs to let you see it for yourselves, but I will say that if you do pop along for a performance remember to turn around after you've walked away for a minute or so to catch sight of its living room lights shining out.
But the inside is what I want to tell you about.
More precisely little hints that will help you enjoy your evening / afternoon visit to The Armadillo by the Bay ©**.
Tickets / coat room. You'll find both of these at the main four-mile long reception area at the front of the building; if you've come in through the Welsh Assembly side of the building you'll need to walk straight ahead. Next up – how fit are you? I'm asking you this because there are many steps to be stepped on in order for you to get to your seats. If you're in the stalls you needn't fret too much as you've only got the one flight of steps to climb – but if you've got a lean, mean fighting machine of a bank account you may want to take either of the lifts that are situated beside the two staircases at either end of the main entrance. Don't worry if you think you're having to leave the comfort of the bar behind as you'll find bars on each of the levels – but for an interval time drink I'd pre-order as you won't have time to do anything else other than hand over your money before you head back inside.
Anyway, now that you're upstairs a few more pointers. If you're sitting in the circle, or upper circle, be aware that the floor rises gently and you may feel a slight case of landlubbers legs if you're not used to it.
If you can, try and find your way to the correct door, to save yourself being marked out for some Kung-Fu action by disgruntled audience members as you walk the length of the auditorium to reach your seat.
Unfortunately, on rare occasions in the upper circle, you may find yourself faced with people obviously used to grander surroundings, who find the concept of moving an inch beyond them as you head out to pick up your pre-ordered drink during the interval – don't, as many people do, test the pain barrier in your hernia and walk up the stairs (which can be steep if your school photographs were in black and white), but walk calmly towards the IO's (ignorant ones) and ask them to "excuse me" in your most polite voice. Generally most people are very polite – but there are one or two exceptions to every rule.
Now that you've drunk your drink you'll require the tŷ bach and off you set in search of it. This will probably save you a lot of time, so listen up people. On most levels the men's toilets are on the right hand side of the auditorium, and the women's are on the left hand side, both facing staircases. I'm not so sure about the stalls conveniences, but ask a member of staff and they'll point you in the right direction. On the ground floor the WC's are hidden behind the right hand staircase. Not exactly the most riveting bit of information, but judging by the amount of times I've been asked where the toilets are I thought I'd let you all know...
The performance has now finished (don't be surprised for there not to be huge amounts of clapping during the performance as a lot of the audience are newish to opera and unsure when an aria finishes...and if a baddie comes on stage at the curtain call he / she will be booed – you'll know if they haven't done a good job if they are merely applauded) – anyway, as I said before I interjected myself – the performance has ended and you're heading downstairs. You will, inevitably, be faced with queues on the stairs; I'm sure they tested the evacuation capabilities of the WMC using Olympic athletes. So there you are, stuck. Grumbling about how such and such a place is much better to get out of (I'd have to agree with you) – but if you're on the right hand side of the building all hope is not lost. Once you reach the mirrored floor (you'll know the one I mean) – head towards the far end of the building and you'll find a staircase that leads out into the bar at the Welsh Assembly side of the building.
End of public service announcement.
So no WNO news, but I hope some pointers that will come in handy for first time visitors to The Armadillo by the Bay ©***.
* I'll take £1.5 million.
** £1.45 million.
*** I'm not dropping below £1.45.