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No one knows West End theatre like Roz Ball. Louise Troy finds that her undying passion for the stage and a can-do approach to business has made a real success of leading hospitality provider London Entertains
'Would you like a glass of Champagne? Go on, the bottle’s open.’ It’s quite an
opening line for an interview, especially one before lunch, but then Roz Ball is clearly a woman who knows how to foster a party mood. A former dancer and assistant theatre manager, she’s now in
charge of her own company, London Entertains, which has become the official hospitality provider for most of the West End.
In the process, it has triumphed over dozens of rivals offering what might seem like the same services – corporate entertainment packages and access to sold-out shows. And after 10 minutes with Ball, you can see why. She operates at 100 miles an hour, knows absolutely everyone, and is totally dedicated to the business she started ‘at a desk in someone else’s office’ four years ago. ‘I have my phone on constantly,’ she says. ‘And I get people ringing at 7am on a Sunday saying: “Is it too early to call and say what a great show it was last night?”.’ But surely that could get a bit annoying? ‘Oh no. I love my job. I love what I do.’
She’s also not afraid to muck in, and is well known among theatre staff for turning up early to check the bar is sufficiently well stocked and the glasses polished to perfection. While hosting a firm’s family day at the Lion King musical, she even found herself handing out wet wipes and dealing with some queasy children who’d over-indulged on the party food. Does she ever feel like a swan – serene on the surface, but furiously paddling away below the water? ‘Definitely. But, if I’m working hard, that means my guests can relax.’
Ball is one of those people so at home in their environment it’s impossible to imagine them doing anything else. She started dancing at the age of six, and appeared on ITV’s Junior Showtime before progressing to West End musicals such as Joseph. Even now, her heart belongs to glitzy big-budget productions and she almost quivers with excitement when talking about the upcoming – and at the time of our interview still top-secret – Phantom of the Opera sequel, Love Never Dies.
However, London Entertains is nothing if not in tune with its customers, and Ball is branching out all the time. Her clients reap the benefits of her impeccable contacts, so for example they can have dinner at a Theatreland restaurant before a play, and then have their puddings couriered over to enjoy during the interval. The company also has plenty on offer outside the West End. Ball recently put together a bespoke London bus tour for one lot of overseas visitors – including a trip to a historic pub and a visit to the football – while another group had a private cookery lesson in one of Gordon Ramsay’s kitchens.
And it’s not just corporate clients who get the VIP treatment. Ball looks around our interview location, the retiring room next to the Royal Box at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and says: ‘I’ve had many a young man, nervous on the phone, saying: “Can I propose in the Royal Box?” We’ll make it happen. From the big corporates to mum and dad wanting to take granny for her 90th birthday, we will do whatever it takes to make their evening special.’
London Entertains offers premium tickets and VIP hospitality at a full range of West End shows, including sold-out performances. For more information call 020 7434 7599, or visit squaremeal.co.uk/londonentertains
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Spring 2009.