Turning a venue into an airport is not the most obvious theme to choose for a high-profile event. However, last year we were asked to come up with an aftershow party to celebrate Kevin Spacey's directorship of The Old Vic Theatre and to raise funds for a new roof.
After walking around our chosen venue, Old Billingsgate Market, for the first time, it reminded me of an airport departure lounge - cold, grey, sterile and a bit soulless. It could also cater for the 800-1,000 expected guests. We decided to take advantage of this setting and came up with the idea of an airline-themed party, sponsored by private aviation company Netjets, that had a retro spin on the styling so everything became a bit more camp and stylish, reminiscent of air travel in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
As guests arrived they were "flagged down" by actors dressed as groundstaff wearing boiler suits, ear defenders and fluorescent jackets, while holding navigational paddles.
Once inside, guests handed over a "boarding pass" invitation at mock check-in desks, before heading to "baggage claim", which was the cloakroom.
They then moved through "security" where we had installed a fake metal detector and an old x-ray machine with a conveyor belt. An actor dressed as an airline security guard was briefed to occasionally stop and frisk guests to add a bit of theatre.
The walls of the main room were decorated with graphics of 1950s and 1960s airline advertisements, while airport signage including Gate 5 and Food Court hung from the ceiling. The toilets became The Mile High Club against a backdrop of lounge music.
We dressed waitresses in bright orange uniforms with oversized hats, neck scarves and white gloves, while the barmen were dressed as pilots, and busboys wore yellow inflatable life jackets. They were all briefed to address guests in a formal manner, evoking airline-speak such as "Would sir like ice with that?"
Drinks comprised champagne and cocktails in 1950s-style martini glasses, served from trolley's circling the room, while food was dispensed in individual airline-style trays. A chill-out seating area was constructed using 100 real airline seats, arranged like a cabin with a central aisle for the crew.
For entertainment we used Pam Ann, a character based on a bitter stewardess from the 1960s who takes great pleasure in storing screaming kids in the overhead locker and blocking passengers in the aisle with her trolley. She even demonstrated how to put on her own brand of lifejackets by Versace and Chanel in a spoof safety demonstration.