Wednesday, August 20, 2008

London Life Part II: Two Different Days, Two Different Plays

Apologies that it has been so long since installment one. I'm sure the faithful have been checking regularly, bitterly disappointed not to find more excruciating detail about a trip they didn't get to take. Hmmm.... Well, maybe no one is disappointed in my tardiness except me. Nonetheless, I will continue.

The one dark period in my delightful Sunday occurred when I attempted to do some specific planning and discovered that most of the shows I most wanted to see were sold out. Since there are so many shows in London, this eventuality had not occurred to me. I couldn't get complete box office access on Sunday so Monday morning I scrambled to buy tickets, energized by the fear of being forced to see nothing but big flashy musicals. Nothing against muscials (well, maybe a little something) but I went to London to see straight theatre and especially new plays. I was temporarily terrified that the trip would be a mere shadow of my dreams.

I managed to buy the last ticket to a production of Street Scene at the Young Vic. Those who know theatre are saying "but that's not a new show! and it's a musical!" True enough, but it's Kurt Weill not Rogers and Hammerstein (or worse, Andrew Lloyd Webber) and as a rarely-produced piece of history, I thought it would have something interesting to offer. Michelle decided to come along and see if she could nab one of the "returns" tickets that come available about an hour before showtime.

The production was quite interesting. Entirely sung, it featured a cast of about 30 including many children, an orchestra of 25, and a choir of 40 that sings in only two places. Michelle and I determined it could not possibly be entirely professional, but it was fun to see a show of such scope, and the thrust staging worked really well. All in all, worth seeing but not stunning.

The most memorable part of the evening occurred before the show. Michelle and I arrived at the theatre around 6 for a 7:30 curtain to stand in line in hopes that she would get a ticket. As we hadn't eaten, Michelle scoped out the area for food and reported back that there were a couple curry shops on the street but curry wasn't likely a good idea for eating-while-in-a-queue. I agreed but as I had eaten curry while standing in line for a show at Magnetic North and had gotten in, I suggested curry might have good karma attached. (Theatre people are very superstitious, you know. Besides, I love curry.)

Michelle trudged off and returned with steaming containers and lots of extras (since she had charmed the curry seller with her lovely Canadian accent). Shortly after we couldn't resist digging in, she got her ticket. Then we discovered we would need to stand in another line as the theatre had rush seating. The second line was inside a restaurant directly and openly attached to the Young Vic lobby. We checked with a security guy to determine whether it was okay to eat curry in line and aside from wishing he could join us, he said it would be no problem. We stood in line eating our delicious curries and joking with the people around us about our apparent elevation of queing fare ("all I have is a sandwich!"). I decided it was a photo opportunity.

My curry was very hot so I set it down on the edge of the bar behind me while I snapped a couple pics of Michelle eating hers. It took only a couple moments while our new friends in line laughed with us. I turned to retrieve my curry from the bar and it was gone. Aghast, I asked the bartender if it was possible to retrieve it. "No. It's in the bin," he said. No apology. Unrepentant. It was then that I realized he had done it on purpose. The curry was too hot to hold and almost full. He could see us taking pictures. He was just being a jerk.

So please, anyone reading this, don't eat at The Cut, next to the Young Vic, on The Cut, in London. We talked to our friendly security guard at the interval (intermission to those needing translation) and he said the restaurant is not technically part of the theatre. He and all others at the Young Vic were great but that experience will always colour my impression of the evening.

The next day, I set out into town on my own to try to get a feel for the place and to see if I could get tickets to The Chalk Garden, another show that was sold out. I went to the Donmar Warehouse to enquire about returns. While the website said to arrive at 6:30, Chris, the charming Scot behind the box office, said people had been arriving as early as 4:30 or 5 the last couple days in hopes of nabbing one of limited "we have up to four on a good day" tickets.

I knew the notices (translation: reviews) were good enough that I wanted to see the show. I determined to return.

The only unpleasant time I had in London was the few hours following when I wandered around central London trying to get my bearings. I have an excellent sense of direction and I rarely have any trouble finding my way around a new city. London was different. With all these short, narrow lanes, winding in every direction, and no potential to see landmarks that might help me know which way was which, I got very disoriented. And because it is normally easy for me, I found it quite unsettling. I walked around muttering in a whiney voice: "This isn't fun. This is supposed to be fun." I wasn't lost, but I didn't know where I was. I don't like that.

I returned to the Donmar just before 4. Chris agreed to let me sit on the curb rather than stand inside the adjacent mall where the official queue would form. I sat and watched the buzz and took pictures and looked at my map and thought about where I was and eventually I began to feel grounded and centred and calm and no longer lost. It was a gift. That whole "be still" thing worked for me in a way I didn't expect. Around 5:15, another woman came and I moved inside.

To make a long story slightly shorter, Michelle arrived around 6, we got one ticket around 6:15 and another around 6:30, raced out to grab something to eat, and saw the show. It was fantastic! I wanted to see The Chalk Garden because I've known the play for a very long time, assigned scenes from it in my acting classes, and considered producing it. but I've always thought it was rather dated so I wanted to see how it would come off in a production that was so highly regarded. I still don't know that I will ever direct it because the production was magnificent and the acting flawless. Besides which, the show is very English, filled with Wildean humour and references to the aristocracy that play in that country much better than they ever could in the provinces. I'm not sure I'll ever queue for almost four hours for another show but we were very glad I did for this one.

My intention at the beginning of this post was to write about the next three shows as well. But once again, the entry is detailed and the nature of the blogbeast is that these are supposed to be short. Sigh. Maybe I'll work my way up....Last entry - one show. This entry - two shows. Next entry - three shows.

I think I can do that. Check back to find out.

1 comment:

Kaylee said...

weee wee weeeeee Love the updates.